Mon Ami is a 16 seat brasserie on the corner of Nicholson St and Moor St on the western edge of Fitzroy. It has a traditional French menu and it specialises in duck. I have been meaning to eat there for a long time, and was treated to a special dinner there last Friday night when my girlfriend made a booking and told me she was taking me out for a surprise dinner. As we began walking in the right direction to go to Mon Ami I became convinced that it was our destination, and I was so pleased when I realised for certain!
We started with entrees – my girlfriend chose a salad of warm fresh asparagus, roasted beetroot and a combination of cheeses.
I chose the roe-less scallops grilled with fresh spinach and pine nuts served in a crepe, which was absolutely wonderful.
For mains we both chose duck. My girlfriend selected the double cooked breast of duck and beetroot in a balsamic and maple syrup sauce.
I selected the breast of duck grilled with pears on a garlic and pine nut paste. The combination of the intensely savoury garlic sauce with the sweet pears was fantastic. Even better was the maple syrup sauce on the other duck dish.
The service is very good and discrete. We sat for a while choosing our dishes and in that time the last serve of the special entree of blue cheese souffle was ordered by another table and I missed out on it. Next time I will order more quickly!
There are limited wine choices by the glass but what is available is well selected. To complement our entrees my girlfriend enjoyed the Coldstone pino grigio while I liked the Rascal’s Prayer sauvignon blanc. With our main courses, my girlfriend had a glass of Georges Duboeuf beaujolais and I had a Red Hill Estate pinot noir.
Mon Ami also offers a large selection of wines by the bottle that are not catalogued on the wine list. You visually browse their wine wall to select a wine. This sounds fun in theory but I found the idea a little intimidating as nothing seemed priced and diners could feel embarrassed if they have to repeatedly ask the price of wines before ordering them. As a couple, we generally prefer ordering by the glass to match our food choices so this was not a problem, but people trying to stick to a budget could find choosing unpriced bottles less than enjoyable.
We decided that we could also eat dessert without exploding but it was difficult to decide which dessert to have. The classic crÃ¨me brulee with icecream and Danish buttered almonds was my girlfriend’s choice and I got to try a bit as she could not finish the generous sized serve. The almonds were moreish and the caramel icecream added extra flavour to a lovely dish.
I had the pears poached in chilli and pickled ginger with Szechuan pepper and crème fraiche. Ginger was the predominant flavour with extra candied ginger on top, and the chilli and pepper was a subtle undertone. Fabulous.
On every count so far our expectations had been met and our desires were fulfilled. We also have a final test about gender equality and paying the bill. We have noticed several times that when a heterosexual couple eats together and the woman starts the payment process, the man usually receives the bill and receipt back from the wait staff. You can read about our previous experiences at the Builders Arms on Gertrude St and Vin in Prahran.
When it comes to paying, we generally split the bill (if using cash) or alternate in paying (if using a card). As my girlfriend had organised the evening, she was paying on her card. She asked the waiter for the bill and placed her card on the plate that was delivered to the table. It was taken away to be processed and when it was returned it was placed in front of me by the waiter saying ‘thank you sir’.
We wonder how long these antiquated assumptions about who can or should pay for dinner will persist. As a man I find it vaguely bemusing, but I know some women find it insulting. Fortunately, his was a minor irritant that does not detract from the wonderful food and service we experienced at Mon Ami, which was an indulgent experience that is as good as if not better than Madame Sousou on Brunswick St.