Before we continue..
I must confess one thing; my culinary expeditions are strictly land oriented. This means anything in, on or around the sea I simply cannot eat. Don’t enjoy. Refuse to try. So please; if you’ve come expecting the musings of El Pescatore you will be sorely disappointed. With that said, one of the most grim days for me rolled by last weekend. Not least because a couple of thousand years ago to the day Christ gave his life, but because it’s 24 hours of not eating a great deal of anything much. Having said that, I was rather spoiled this year with my sister Belinda cooking a vegetarian feast for the day which more than satiated any cravings usually filled by a steak or 2.
Nevertheless, I decided to celebrate Christ’s impending resurrection by heading to Roberto Scheriani’s The Italian; an ode to his Northern Italian roots which forgo the tomato infused dishes of the south for the rich, delicate and oft-gamey flavours of the North. Having been here twice before and having left impressed both times (Except for the fact that you had #fakeperoni on your list last time Roberto, shame on you.) my expectations were certainly high this time around.
We arrived bang on 8:30, and were seated very promptly. Perhaps it was due to the holidays either side; but the restaurant did not seem as lively and populated as it usually is. I love the fit out of the restaurant; chic lipstick rouge couches, an incredibly high wine rack complete with oversize ladder (Hello WorkSafe) and an impressionable open kitchen. The hand slicer at the entrance simply completes the look. As an aside, my mother actually liked the slicer so much she decided to have one shipped over from Italy so she could have one too! One day we will actually slice something with it I am promised. Until then as a feature-piece it certainly oozes quality.
So, down we sat. Not entirely sure which direction I was heading for in food (Although knowing due to the fact that I had been deprived of it the day before it would most certainly revolve around meat) I decided to try the Wantirna Estate Lilly Pinot Noir 2010 ($125 approx on list). Wow, this simply completes my impressions of 2010 in the Yarra and how close to perfect most of the premium offerings I have tried have been. This style whilst not exclusively feminine like my most favored offerings of the year (Particularly from the likes of Timo Mayer – anything he touched that year turned to gold) had just about everything in perfect balance. At 13.8%, I thought the alcohol was just a touch too pronounced for what I’d prefer. The fruit however just sang, and although quite a lean style it was very enjoyable.
The forthcoming food was to be for myself: Risotto Milanese($26)/Cotoletta ($37.5), and Lydia: Zuppa di Pollo ($17)/Scotch Tagliata($43). Now, imagine the look of sheer amazement when the entrees arrived with as much zip and vigor as Charlize Theron in the titles namesake. Under 5 minutes flat with no exaggeration. Perhaps this was due to the aforementioned emptiness but it certainly took us by surprise as it almost beat the wine. Nevertheless, here they were and yet were presented impeccably.
Without further ado we set in. Initial impressions were that the bone marrow in and on top complimented the perfectly dense rice very nicely. The saffron parting a golden sheen and a delicate sensory flavour that immediately took me back to Milano. Although, something was missing. In traditional milanese cooking, the richness is due to a combination of butter and bone marrow – and it is complimented at the start and finish of preparation with Parmigiano Reggiano. This cuts right through the dense rice and gives a lovely sharp, tangy and above all salty contrast. This however was not forthcoming on the night and with it absent from the dish I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed in my starter.
The mains followed a little after 9 and my cotoletta; an oft-favourite of mine as a steak alternative sang its praises with a wonderfully delicate piece of veal that was as tender as it was flavoursome.
In Melbourne we are certianly blessed with some ripper cotolette; the likes of Cafe Di Stasio (My pick in Melbourne), Becco and Scopri all delivering a killer cutlet. The Italian is no exception. The meat was full of flavour and the seasoning and batter complimented it beautifully.
We finished off with the cornerstone of every Italian dessert and my all time favourite: Tiramisu. Again, Melbourne has been very kind offering the sort of quality you would expect in Northern Italy where it is generally accepted that the dessert originated. If I had to pick my top 3 in Melbourne, I would go in no particular order: 1. Grossi Florentino 2. Mister Bianco 3. D.O.C., Carlton. Grossi Florentino is really something special; when it is brought out the waitstaff will dust a fresh dessert plate in front of you, and swiftly carve you a slab from the mountain of Tiramisu that their assistant has carried along. Mister Bianco is much of the same, and D.O.C. excels simply because of its simplicity. Goats cheese and Pavesini seem to bravely go where no Tiramisu has gone before – away from the choc-coffee safe house and onto a more montenegro driven spectrum of bitter and sweet.
The Italian tiramisu is pretty conservative. A blend of coffee liqueur, generous dustings of cocoa and savoiardi give you the pick-me-up the name tiramisu itself literally translates to. Lost points here for little pieces of chocolate scattered inside the dessert which to me add nothing to the enjoyment of the dish and in my opinion have no place in it.
Situated in the heart of 101 Collins St, the restaurant is awash with elegance and the sense of fine dining.
Sleek glass windowed lift, open-kitchen display and a raft of hanging cured meats, all complimented by the hand slicer at the entrance. Love it.
Can’t really fault the service for being too quick can I?
Food was solid, if a little underwhelming. Then again, underwhelming for The Italian is still very good.
Only drank the one bottle, so cannot comment on the availability of #realperoni (Although as above, last time it was locally brewed). Wine selection good but I’d love to see a bit more variety in their Italian offerings.
Would I return?
Yes I will, because ultimately The Italian is as much of a Northern institution as some of my other favourites. Although, in this day and age competition is fierce so tick this one off the bucket list and move on.