Sunday, October 19, 2008

Going Home to Amiconi

Amiconi Restaurant

359 Victoria Street, North Melbourne
p. 03 9328 3710

Visually, you could be mistaken for thinking you had walked into someone’s house, waiters laze about the bar as if they were entertaining at home. Family portraits and newspaper clippings line the walls. The Italian lure of Amiconi cannot be ignored- the atmosphere is something that can only truly be manifested by years of hard work and relentless passion.

Immediately seated, the service is prompt and professional on the outside- however once comfortably settled the charade is over and you are time travelling back to Ma and Pa’s house in Napoli. Warmed olives are bought to your table, courtesy of the house. As you would bring a bottle of wine over to friends, Amiconi is BYO- a refreshing change from the bulk of many other Italian restaurants –‘$15 house’ red wine your grandfather made. No thanks.

Our waitress far exceeded our expectations not only was she attentive she was refreshingly honest. As someone that suffers acute Food Envy I find it hard to settle on one dish of choice; subsequently I only dine out with those who believe in the communal eating ethos i.e. stealing from one another’s plates. Our waitress was like minded and offered three of the best picks, and in the interim challenged the foreseeable ordering of garlic bread with a suggestion of Ciabatta alla Parma instead. Just enough to whet the appetite - we eagerly awaited our mains.

The Tagliatelle alla Carbonara provided us with a solid benchmark on which to measure Amiconi up against its Lygon Street counterparts. It was flavoursome and consoling without the need to say forty Hail Mary’s to your butt and thighs. Soft in texture and with a basic Napoli sauce enveloping it, the Gnocchi alla Mattriciana appealed to the simple palette. I personally found it a little dull, however arriving with Parmesan freshly grated on top (as opposed to the dehydrated form in a glass shaker on the table...not acceptable) accentuated the craftsmanship and love that goes into the preparation of food at Amiconi. The star main was the Tortellini ai Funghi; stuffed with savoury meat and blanked in a heady mushroom sauce it was delectable. For those inquisitive one’s savoury meat is (and I am only referencing one source here) meat that has been mixed in with spices. It was not until we asked this question that the waitress gave us that answer and truly reflected on how ridiculous it sounds. Not a place to mess with tradition I imagine savoury meat will stay on the menu for many moons to come.

The dessert menu covers the typical mainstream Italian fair; Tiramisu & Co. The ‘special’ was Chocolate Broulee, I don’t know how Italian that is but if theirs was anything to go by I would be first to adopt it as my country’s dessert. Its rich and decadent body was protected by a sugary crust, served with home-made Vanilla bean ice cream its bitterness was subtly controlled. Profiteroles came in a serving of four, fresh puffed pastry with a sweetened cream cheese like filling, dark chocolate coating them - Vanilla Bean ice cream to the side. Both dishes were accompanied with gargantuan chocolate dipped strawberries; the quintessential surprise and delight factor. Love it.

For the authentic Italian experience, side step Lygon Street and catch the 57 to North Melbourne. Amiconi will be waiting there like an old friend to welcome you with open arms.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

St Ali

St Ali _____________________________________________________________________
12- 18 Yarra Place. South Melbourne.
Ph 03 9686 2990

While this is not something I would normally preach, exposure to UV rays does have some benefits- the key one being; it assists in the body’s absorption of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is found in a variety of animal derived products such as eggs. So as I awoke to a crisp sunlit morning I thought me ‘best get me Vitamin D conversion happening while the sun still shines’. Yeah Ha
St Ali has the perfect combination of eggs and sun. Tucked away in a South Melbourne side street it is an industrial looking building both inside and out; exposed brick, roller garage doors that act as faux walls and concrete flooring sets a tone that is raw, honest and earthy.
As you approach St Ali there is a harmony that surrounds it, maybe it’s the sun streaming in, the light aroma of freshly roasted coffee or the uncluttered easy feeling decor. Whatever it was I liked it. I choose to sit by the elevated garage doors (I was now perfectly aligned with the sun for my conversion to take place...). My order was promptly taken with the waitress offering recommendations on request.
With over ten blends of coffee to choose from the concise brunch menu was appreciated. Eggs were the order of the day done poached, poached or poached. There was the standard fruit toast and Bircher options, all of healthy sizing’s and the ‘tasting plate’ which is a touch of brilliance for those who can’t make decisions; fruit toast, home poached winter fruits and a selection of toasted nuts-yum.
The roast of the day coffee-(done latte) arrived first, hot and milky. Not as strong as I was expecting for an on-premises roaster; what I would call a non-offensive coffee. Remaining on the vitamin conversion quest I opted for poached eggs on toasted pide with onion relish, haloumi and baby spinach topped with a rustic dukka. It arrived in good time and was presented well. The eggs were poached to perfection, still a bit runny with stunning bright golden yokes. On the downside, the dish was a little light on the relish which would have provided the oomph that it lacked. Overall it was not too heavy or salty however if your after a taste explosion you’ll be disappointed.
In addition to the menu there is delectable’s in the counter display including cupcakes, brownie, fresh pastries and slices. They serve the full Phoenix Organic drinks range and I shouldn’t forget to mention you can buy their coffee in take-home packs starting at $10 for 250gm of the St Ali blend.
It seems that everyone is in for a little Vitamin D action from the young families to recreational cyclists to the urban cool. In a city that prides itself on its poky laneway cafes it is nice to finally find an oasis where sunshine and eggs become one, I’ll Yeah-Ha to that!

Open: daily for breakfast and lunch
Price: brunch $8 - $13, coffee $3
Kid Friendly: Yes

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Coming out of the closet

When the highlight of your day is getting home to cook I think your heart and/or stomach is trying to tell you something. Like most, I grew up fussy, a life of fish fingers and 2 Minute Noodles was for me. I cant pin down the date but there came a day when I made a declaration 'I want to be able to eat everything!'

Life seemed to short to discriminate against certain foods and as I went on to learn in my food studies no human is actually born to forever hate brussel sprouts, anchovies or anything for that matter - we can train our taste buds and brain to enjoy any food. It just takes practice.

Like a good servant I preach to my Food Messiah daily; eating, reading, thinking and talking food (much to the nuance of boyf); Gourmet Digs acts as my sound board where I come to share what I care about- Food