Monday, June 04, 2007

Australia Day 6: Melbourne, Cecconi's Cantina and Restaurant Two

As the weekend drew near, I took the opportunity to meet up with a dear friend M. who was leaving Melbourne to move up to Asia, at a restaurant in town. The Bortolotto family, whose Italian restaurants have pleased Melbournite stomachs for decades, moved from the Crown complex into a smart basement restaurant in the CBD area, taking chef Harry Lilai as part of the business. The place is smart and comfortable, in cosy shades of brown and brightened with mirrors, with a visible kitchen from the bar area.

The style of cooking is hearty, a lot of regional specialties and robust flavours. The classics, like carpaccio and osso bucco are well represented. The wine list is also excellent and perhaps explains the convival atmosphere!

Both the dishes were specials of the day: first, the San Danielle ham served with olives and artichoke. I was so hungry at lunch that I ate the entire little saucer of olives but it was also because they were huge, juicy and tender! The ham was good, fresh and slippery and it's probably one of the few places outside of Europe that serves real San Danielle but I did feel both the ham and the artichoke were too oily.

My main was a risotto with exactly 12g of shaved truffle. The risotto was very interesting - each grain of rice felt like it had been cooked slightly less than al dente, such that you could differentiate each bead in your mouth. This is classically Italian, in fact, Milanese, but I'm not sure if I prefer this way of cooking to the slightly softer, more homogenous mix of parmesan and grain. I did enjoy it though I have to say there was not a lot of truffle flavour and I knew upon sight that I would not be able to finish the rice; sure enough, I wound up hunting down the individual shreds of truffle but it was still a throughly enjoyable risotto, just not the best I've had.

The restaurant's breaded veal looked very good, as did their varieties of
oxtail. The pastas are generally $26-28 while the mains are $32-38. We were extremely full after the meal but sucked it up to share a very good pavlova.

I entirely recommend this restaurant, while it may not have been my favourite, it's not often that you find a place both corporate and casual and this place managed to achieve that mix without being unfriendly or seeming like they try too hard.

Cecconi's Cantina
61 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel: 03 96630222
Lunch Mon-Fri, dinner Mon-Sat

Ambience: 3/5
Service: 4/5
Food: 3.5/5
Location: 5/5

Restaurant Two

The tree-lined main street of Toorak Road has some great shops and restaurants though and one that I intend to try at some point is Restaurant Two. Restaurant One was a few kilometers down Toorak Road and the second venture is larger, with big street-front windows, perfect for a quick drink or coffee.

Toorak is the posh area in Melbourne, where houses go on the block for north of $8mn and the rich kid stigma is inevitable and inescapable. As my friend commented "it's their suburb in the city".

The menu is smallish, supplemented by daily specials and the pasta ($18-30)and roast dishes ($29-35) are meant to be excellent. Two recommended dishes were a roast duck and the panfried calf's liver with onion blasamic jam. They also have a pizza oven and perhaps most importantly, are open for lunch and dinner daily.

Restaurant Two
Como Centre
299 Toorak Road,
South Yarra, Melbourne
Tel: 03 98262277

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