Looking for Scaramouche, we hardly saw any way-finding off Avenue Road. There was only one humble old sign somewhat tucked away behind the luscious greenery.
Benvenuto Place is a quiet little corner and Scaramouche is occupying a part of the first floor of an older residential building. There was a sign on the side with a door further down the sidewalk, but an overall residential feel was very prevalent in the area. To our first glance, the apartment building even seemed a tad run down (in retrospect, we found out later that the building has a lot of cache to it with units over one million dollars).
Entering, we passed a large mirror and we walked down the stairs, welcomed by an interesting wooden light feature and by the friendly staff who all moved seamlessly our way when we started taking some photos. It was 6pm. and we were the first to arrive in the main dining room, the Pasta Bar was more popular and on a lower level to the side. There was not much of a view from there unfortunately.
Scaramouche itself greeted us with abundance of grey tones. The cushiony banquette sofa had an aged feel of luxury to it. Our waiter Marcus enhanced the feeling of being royally treated – he was very polite and knowledgeable. After making our main meal choices, we felt confident enough to outsource the wine pairing to him. He also told us the Scaramouche story behind the naming – the French opera hero with a constantly changing appearance. One of the only décor elements inside the restaurant was an aged wall graphic depicting the character in various outfits. Unfortunately the illustrated graphic wall seemed faded and didn't bring in the oomph. With the warm shades of grey all around, we thought the place was missing a few accents. Perhaps our dishes were it.
Our orders were an attempt to follow the chef's mood as we went with daily specials more than anything else. Matzutaki Mushroom, Cucumber Cold Soup, Partridge Breast Filled with Chanterelles and Swordfish with Heirloom Tomatoes…shortly after we finished our order, an assortment of fresh breads landed on our table. The filled basket included a sweeter and nutty one we particularly liked with a touch of freshly whipped butter. The restaurant was filling in quite quickly, by 7pm, we almost every table was already taken. We saw some apparently corporate gatherings, but also some family celebrations taking place. Scaramouche was definitely favoured by a more mature crowd.
Cups of mouche bouche surprised us - cantaloupe soup with tempura flakes, cream and a refresh hint of mint. Not every restaurant goes to lengths to give their guests a tiny appetizer of sorts. We greatly enjoy when this is done, almost like chef is coming down to greet you with something special he or she thought of that day. Our Cucumber Soup arrived in the meantime - it was cold and refreshing. Mon Cheri was not a fan of its puree consistency, but even he appreciated the mashed cucumber with some fresh greens and radishes to top of it. It was a beautiful dish with that light broth drizzle - there was a nice minty hint, it was a bit salty, lightly oiled with a cilantro aroma crowning the bouquet. A wine for that was a 2013 Riesling from Tawse - initially crisp, citrusy followed by a light sweetness, no intense aftertaste - very traditional German in style.
Matzutaki Mushrooms (Chef's special that day) were not far behind. Not only the ingredients here were interesting, but also the way it was all prepared with mushrooms made three different ways: thinly sliced (raw), diced and sautéed chunks. To complement, mashed cauliflower and florets took up part of the plate. Some tempura flakes gave a tad of sweetness. We had this piece of art with the great addition of Pinot Noir - 2013 Pearce-Predholmme, light nose of older fruit perhaps dried, no heavy aftertaste, lingering fumes of alcohol on the palate.
Our first main was a Partridge Breast Filled with chanterelle and herbs, wrapped and roasted in paper-thin smoked bacon. The hints of smokiness was delightful! Every little detail about the dish was taken care with a great level attention. Even the slice of corn was carefully arranged in to strategically offset the heavier smoky flavour from the other ingredients. The wine match – Rioja 2009 Crianza Muerza - only oaked for six months and aged in bottle for a year - a bit in the light side. The wine opened up the dish further, another great choice by our waiter Marcus.
For the last main we had Swordfish with Heirloom Tomatoes. The heavy looking swordfish meat was served with citrusy sauce with a hint of bacon, confit. It was once again a delight to look at the beautifully presented dish. A combination of sweet peas, slightly bitter artichoke were offset by a citrus making the dish quite refreshing. The rosemary flavour added some tension to somewhat dry meat. Cauliflower mushroom also contributed a lot to the dish with its texture and saltiness. We had 2014 Pinot Blanco from Nals Margreid to match. With its tangy acidity, it was not as memorable as the other choices.
For dessert, we chose their famous Coconut Cream Pie made with fresh coconut custard, Chantilly cream and while chocolate shavings. I liked it a quite a bit while Ma Cherie was put off by the strong coconut flavour - it reminded too much of Bounty taste. She definitely appreciated the tender texture and beautiful chocolate addition. A great dish to share!
Making the parallels with the French opera' title character, the restaurant was a hero in disguise. Unnoticeable, tucked away under a residential building out of the beaten path, but packed with energy to surprise and attack your senses with flavour. A great special occasion spot.