Thursday, 31 May 2007

Risotto and gelato at Tutto Bene

Tutto Bene
Mid Level Southgate, Melbourne (map)
9696 3334

Tutto Bene

Mum invited me to go to the MTC production of The Pillow Man with her last Wednesday, so we wanted to dine somewhere in Southbank. I'd heard something about a Southbank restaurant called Fabric, but phone calls attempting to make a booking went unanswered. Their ultra snazzy website is still fully functional, but perhaps they have closed? Anyway, we instead opted for Tutto Bene, the risotteria in Southgate.

Melbourne skyline from Tutto Bene

While Southgate is not exactly the cutting edge in Melbourne cool - and let's face it, it never WAS the cutting edge in Melbourne cool - it does still have a damn fine view of the Melbourne skyline! This was taken from our table on the Tutto Bene balcony.

The atmosphere at Tutto Bene is quite cosy and romantic... my friend L was recently brought here on a date and loved it...

Dining at Tutto Bene

Generally I prefer to avoid Italian food when I eat out, as I am a bit of an Italian food snob (my Nonna makes the best risotto in the world). But as I hadn't been to Melbourne's only risotteria before I was definitely going to try their risotto to see if it was any good.

I chose something I would find extremely fiddly to cook myself: the risotto with blue swimmer crab, tomato and chilli. I liked it a lot - it had a great creamy consistency, the grains of rice had just enough bite to them, and the tomato and chili were subtle, really showing off the fresh crab meat.

Risotto with blue swimmer crab, tomato and chilli

Mum didn't feel like risotto so instead opted for the fish special: a fillet of Kingfish from Port Lincoln, oven roasted with a white wine reduction and served with wilted spinach, roasted capsicum and a side serve of garlicky roasted potatoes and thyme. It wasn't really a very exciting dish, but the fish was moist and fresh and quite strongly flavoured, so it made sense to serve it with a pretty mild reduction.

Over roasted Kingfish

Every time I walk past it with her, Mum points to the gelateria outside Tutto Bene and raves about how their lime gelato is the best she's ever tasted. So despite the antarctic wind sweeping through Southbank, I decided to brave a gelato. In addition to Cedro, I got Limoncello.

Gelati at Tutto Bene

Wow! These citrusey gelati had a kick like a mule (but in a good way!)... the Cedro had some other citrus fruit apart from lime in it, possibly tangerine, and tasted wonderfully sweet and sour. The Limoncello was also fantastic, tasted just like the liqueur. The addition of the cone to my requested cup of gelato was a cute touch.

Limoncello and Cedro Gelato

Oh, and by the by, we hated The Pillow Man and left at interval. What philistines we are!

Tutto Bene Gelateria

Brunch at Replete

Replete Providore
302 Barkers Rd, Hawthorn (map)
9818 4448

FSOJ at Replete

On Sunday had brunch at Replete Providore with D, an old friend I was meeting up with for the first time in six years. I'd forgotten to book, which is nearly fatal at Replete on the weekend - we had to wait for a good twenty minutes (outside in the wind because the interior is so tiny), but at least that gave us time to start swapping stories. Once we were seated, D ordered a FSOJ and the much-touted Ricotta Hotcakes. I went for the interesting-sounding smoothie of the day (coconut, strawberry and rhubarb) and the Bagna Cauda eggs.

Coconut, strawberry and rhubarb smoothie

I'm not a huge smoothie fan but it sounded like an interesting trans-seasonal concoction: I was curious to see how the summery coconut and strawberry would mix with the more wintery rhubarb. The smoothie itself was pretty nice - the rhubarb was subtle and kept the smoothie from being a tropical overload - but the slivers of shaved coconut inevitably clumped together at the bottom of the glass. D reported his orange juice as fresh and delicious (oranges coming back in season, hooray!) - bonus points for the cute little bottle it came in.

Ricotta Hotcakes at Replete

Now to the food: a lot has been written about Replete's ricotta hotcakes with lemon curd and strawberries since they won the 2005 Age Cheap Eats Guide breakfast dish of the year. But damn, they're good! They're not undercooked but still wonderfully light and fluffy in the mouth, and the tartness of the lemon curd offsets the sweet strawberries and sauce beautifully.

Bagna Cauda eggs at Replete

The Bagna Cauda eggs are (almost literally) a different kettle of fish altogether: roasted capsicum and olive stew with poached eggs on toasted Turkish pide, topped with a creamy anchovy and parsley sauce. This dish is not for the faint-hearted breakfaster! Luckily I felt up to the challenge, and it was indeed worth it: the poached eggs were nicely runny the way I like 'em, and the capsicum neutralised the saltiness of the other ingredients. Although the photo may make the dish look a little fearsome before midday, the anchovy in the sauce wasn't too overpowering! And after the hassle of getting a table in the first place, the staff were very relaxed about letting us stay there chatting for over two and a half hours: when they finally needed the table we were sitting at for a lunch reservation, they ushered us to the front bench as nicely as possible and said there was no rush in having to pay. We appreciated this greatly, seeing as we still had so much catching up to do!

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Breakfast snack at Commercial Bakery

Commercial Bakery
Rear 360 Lt Collins St, Melbourne (map)
9670 7214

Almond and chocolate danish

Had a 10am appointment in Lt Collins St this morning, so decided to have a (for me) decadent sleep-in then breakfast at the six weeks old bakery in the CBD I've been hearing whispers about, Commercial Bakery. This gorgeous little bakery is nestled at the rear of 360 Lt Collins St and adjacent to a new building being gradually unveiled (The Foundry).

Commercial Bakery

At 9:15am, the bakery cafe had a lovely atmosphere: the scent of freshly baked bread, the sprinkling of relaxed people at the polished concrete tables and Carla Bruni's new album crooning huskily in the background all softened and warmed the industrial decor of the interior.

Commercial Bakery

As I'd walked in admiring the front window display, the almond and chocolate danish had caught my eye and the decision was made. The danish had a lovely consistency: soft and almost chewy, but with a nice degree of flakiness on the outside. It was filled with a smooth rich 'pain au chocolat' chocolate, and served with a voluptous dollop of cream for the truly wicked!

Almond and chocolate danish

I hope to head back there for lunch sometime soon: the sourdough sandwich with goats curd, beetroot and onion jam sounds great. I'm intrigued also about the baguette with chicken, tuna dressing and capers: a poultry-inspired twist on vitello tonnato, perhaps?? Please let me know if you try either of these!

Bread at Commercial Bakery

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Yum Cha Posse

Stay posted also for YCP reports. The YCP (Yum Cha Posse) is an informal group of friendly youngish Melbourne people united by their love for yum cha. Every eight weeks or so I send around a group email inviting people in the YCP for yum cha, usually in Chinatown and usually on a Sunday. Sometimes only four show up, sometimes there's twenty four! If you're interested in becoming part of the YCP, let me know!

Just what Melbourne needs - another damn flogger

I was going to write 'Just what Melbourne needs - another bloody flogger', but decided that conjured up a rather gory mental image... :)

Anyway, yes, I've decided to start my own little food blog chronicling my gastronomic adventures here in Melbourne, foodie capital of Australia. Sadly, I have recently started working full time in what at first appears to be the culinary wasteland of the CBD (King St)... but I will be making valiant efforts to uncover the hidden treasures of this little pocket of the world, as well as venturing farther afield when I get the chance. Whilst I cannot hope to match the flogging prowess of tummy rumbles or adski, you've gotta start somewhere!