20 Top Dishes You Need to Try in Melbourne 2019
What are the 20 must try dishes in Melbourne right now? Here is our selection -
Tagliolini al Nero at Tippo 00
Still a crowd favourite. Tipo 00 is a touch of class when it comes to Italian dining; greeting you like a Nonna with warm hospitality while serving up fine rustic Italian fare. This is the sort of place you seek out to spend several hours imbibing. Don't let the office contact you. Tell the Secretary to put everything on hold; you're in a meeting. The romance of Italian dining is alive and well in Melbourne.
There's nothing like sitting down to a welcoming authentic bowl of top class Italian pasta (hand made of course). It warms the soul. Melbourne does Italian fare well, but some do it better.
Two dishes stood out in the Pasta menu immediately; the Pappardelle –braised rabbit, marjoram & hazelnut (how often do you see rabbit on a menu?) and the striking Tagliolini al nero – squid ink tagliolini, squid & bottarga. We settled on the Tagliolini al Nero upon the waiter's recommendation as it's such a unique dish.
Perfectly cooked squid ink pasta with pieces of squid and compelling bottarga (salted cured fish roe) on top. We washed this rustic dish down with Sangiovese then Merlot, and longed to be able to enjoy long lunches here every week (with thoughts I may need to revive my banking career). Remember, you're in a meeting.
Limited Edition Bento Box at Ishizuka
Ishizuka has launched the ultimate bento box and a contender for hottest dish in Melbourne at $255. This is luxe through and through with the freshest of ingredients. Composed of the highest-grade Japanese produce and sourced from the fish markets of Tokyo, award-winning Melbourne kaiseki restaurant Ishizuka has launched limited edition bento boxes, with only one available daily.
Fish Mackerel Dumplings at ShanDong MaMa
World class dumplings and iconic in Melbourne. In every sense Mackerel is an expensive luxe ingredient for a dumpling. This is not a cheap filling. Being from the coastal city of Yan Thai in Shandong Province Mama has an affinity with the sea and loves to cook seafood.
My dining partner Jeffrey Merrihue CEO of global food site FoodieHub was able to cut through the dumpling with his chopsticks with ease; showcasing the lux mousse-like texture.
A bite into these dumplings is a flavour explosion. The Fish Dumplings consisted of fresh mackerel fillet mixed by hand with coriander ginger and chives, into a mousse-textured filling, wrapped in home-made thin dumpling skin. The dumpling holds together well, and is tasty without being overpowering. This is a delicate dumpling. Fish Mackerel dumplings (above) are possibly the best dumplings in the world - and we're serious! A creamy mousse like texture from the lux Mackerel (expensive ingredient) dumplings.
Jeffrey Merrihue said of the Fish Mackerel dumplings, "This boiled mackerel dumpling is so tender that you can cut it with chopsticks. This wonder from Shandong is the masterful creation from ShanDong MaMa in Melbourne." Recently Melbourne restaurant icon Andrew McConnell heaped high praise on the dumplings at ShanDong MaMa in The Weekly Review: When Andrew finds the time to pop out for dumplings, ShanDong MaMa is always high on the agenda. "This is great, street-style restaurant that does everything from scratch," he says."The skins they make for their boiled dumplings are a little bit thicker than usual and are wheat-based. To me they are just incredibly authentic. They are filled with fish paste and fresh mackerel, coriander, ginger spring onion and chives."
We tried the pan fried version of the Fish Mackerel dumplings, but felt the boiled version is superior with it's silky delicate texture.
Shandong Mama can lay claim to the best dumplings in Melbourne. Mama is a retired ex accountant from China who spent years cooking for friends in her social circle in Shandong Province. She's had the courage to start this homely restaurant with her delightful family here in Melbourne. Friends and relatives are part of the scene. Mama has a passion for healthy, delicate cuisine. It's exciting to see a Shandong Restaurant (one of the 8 major Chinese cuisines) in Melbourne.
Cotoletta alla Valdostana at Giro D'Italia
Domenico de Marco is taking all before him at Giro D'Italia in Carlton North, serving up stunning regional Italian dishes with authenticity and flair. Cotoletta alla Valdostana is a rock star dish: a fillet that's rolled thin with a rolling pin so it can be folded "like a wallet" according to Dom. Then it is infused with creamy fontina cheese and smoked ham. It's cooked to golden in butter and topped with triple-cooked potatoes. Indulgence on a plate.
Meat Fruit at Dinner by Heston
Heston lovers can celebrate as Dinner by Heston has made its mark in Melbourne.
The sensory experience begins as you glide through the dark corridor, scented with woody smoke and heady leather aromas. Once inside, the fit-out is all class; think smooth timber tables, stylish circular banquets and lime green furnishings, all with that celebrated Yarra River view.
Not to be blurred with the wild magic of The Fat Duck, the food at Dinner is inspired by the historical dishes of the British Isles dating as far back as the 13 th century. Heston has researched these dishes throughout his journeys and has developed with flecks of Australian ingredients. This fascinating culinary exploration is manifest throughout the menu which references the source of origin of each dish, from which one can feel the sense of place on the plate, reincarnated with each little bite.
Service is superbly polished and the floor is graced with approachable ease. When explaining the bible of a wine list, there is real enthusiasm and an educational element from sommelier, Loic Avri. Have no doubt you will drink like a king from all corners of the globe, albeit with a hefty price tag.
World famous Meat fruit dish never disappoints and we won't spoil as to what's inside the fruit.
Sushi Steps at Sushi Bento
Located in luxury St Collins Lane, Sushi Boto hits the high notes with its Sushi Steps dish consisting of a medley of 10 dishes.
The dishes are organised from the subtlest (explained to us as lightest to heaviest) and finish with a rich grand finale, a Japanese Foie Gras Don. Allow yourself to daintily graze from New Zealand scampi, fresh oysters, hokigai surf clams, Tasman sea garfish, A+ dry aged Tasmanian salmon belly, dry aged Tasmanian salmon, fried Tasmanian scallop with shell (a highlight), wild catch fish, Yuzu ponzu salad and the ubiquitous, foie gras don. We loved them all, and the fact you could identify the produce from its location. The foie gras don was a brilliantly innovative dish with a touch of luxury.
Pyrenees Pork, Carolina Reaper chilli and Potato Stew at ISH
There may be prettier dishes at ISH but I was struck by this amazing hot stew. Carolina Reaper chilli has the same strength as pepper spray and the chefs need gloves to prepare it. If you like hot food you need to try this dish. Mouth numbing you will know you're alive but it's not just about the heat. There is nuance to this dish. You are struck by this fine stew with high quality pork and potato, then the heat hits you. I personally loved the experience. Vindaloo is for wimps.
Eggplant Buns and Toasted Breadcrumbed Eggplant at Maha
The new lunch menu at Maha shines with big flavours and playful dishes. A highlight is what Shane Delia does with eggplant. The Eggplant buns are like doughnuts with delicious eggplant filling; one of the best dishes we've eaten in 2019. Then came the Toasted Breadcrumbed Eggplant looking like skewers and we were satiated. Who said top dishes had to be meat based?
Roast Chicken at Carlton Wine Room
Half roast chicken, kohlrabi remoulade, leek, sorrel is simple as it is stunning. Tender juicy chicken (how do they retain so much juice?) with crispy skin. The kohlrabi remoulade, leek and sorrel are fabulous accompaniments.
Pouring the gravy on the chicken before our eyes was a great touch of theatre. Best roast chicken in Melbourne? Served with Iceberg salad, honey dressing along with Sweet corn, smoked ricotta, basil. What was touted as a winter warmer is still on the menu and we think it will stay for a while.
Peking Duck at Flower Drum
A Melbourne classic still powering on. Flower Drum is one of the few Melbourne restaurants that can be spoken of as an icon over decades. This year Flower Drum, founded by Gilbert Lau, celebrates the fine achievement of 40 years as a world class restaurant (30th at current Market Lane address). We've had some icons come and go over the years, and only a few are at that level today. But 40 years and at the top!
Consider it takes enormous effort and skill to stay at the top for so long. Impeccable service day after day, no matter the circumstances. Extraordinary skill in the kitchen when there may be a temptation to cut corners.
Peking Duck is the signature here and the presentation is first class. Perfectly cooked duck with crispy skin and slight pink, and the decoration of the sauce on each plate is a different animal character. Pictured here with Jeffrey Merrihue CEO of foodiehub.tv. The skilled waiters bring a portion of duck out and assemble the dish on a tray next to your table; with the glistening duck arranged inside translucent pancakes.
Stir fried Whole Live Lobster with Chilli Sauce at Yu Kitchen
Hoji tea smoked duck breast at Wa Kenbo
Hoji tea smoked duck breast, duck neck Chorizo, soy soaked grilled Shishito, pickled quandong, Sansho pepper corn jus. This was duck done two ways with Kenji not wasting any of the produce. Succulent smoky duck breast along with the duck neck made into a chorizo made for elevated dining. Wa Kenbo is a top notch Japanese restaurant that respects tradition but also brings a modern twist and interpretation.
Menemen Turkish Baked Eggs at Babajan
Menemen Turkish Baked Eggs, Spiced Tomato, Spinach, Pistachio Dukkah with lamb shoulder. A hearty brunch dish with standout Middle Eastern flavours. You may love Turkish eggs but have you tried this version? Highly recommend the lamb shoulder as it's melt in your mouth and goes so well with the eggs. Babajan is a joyous cafe with bakery strength with imaginative dishes that are vibrant with big flavours.
Lamb Rump at Sunda Dining
Our vote for dish of the night at Sunda Dining was the Lamb rump, cashew nut, native curry. Melt in your mouth lamb with crunch of cashew and a killer curry sauce. Sunda has made a big impression in Punch Lane since it opened as a joyous and innovative restaurant.
Salted Mushrooms and Cos Lettuce at IDES
Two of the smaller dishes at IDES have proved to be popular favourites of Melbourne dinners, showing what can be done with simple quality ingredients. Salted mushrooms has the illusion of looking like pebbles or rocks; in fact the mushrooms are served on pebbles. The Cos lettuce is "heroed" with a delightful topping.
Wagyu Bowl at Calia
Wagyu Bowls have become a trendy dish in Melbourne and our favourite version is from Calia in the CBD or Chadstone.
Pasta at La Cucina Di Sandra Cooking School
The World Loves Melbourne highly rates fabulous pasta cooking classes at La Cucina Di Sandra Cooking School in Richmond, which includes an engaging class, sumptuous finger food and 3 course meal with glass of wine. It's a dinner party as much as a cooking class and a unique foodie experience in Melbourne!
La Cucina Di Sandra has proved popular with groups of friends, cooking enthusiasts, people interested in Italian cooking, and corporates. One group of corporates took a long lunch at the cooking school and left at 5.30pm! Sandra immediately engages you with her humour and personality and her passion for Italian food is infectious.
La Cucina Di Sandra is the masterstroke of Melbourne foodie Sandra Del Greco who has pursued her love of Italian cooking after being schooled in cooking in Melbourne and honing her skills on regular trips to Italy, spending time in her Zia’s kitchen. Sandra has collected hundreds of Italian recipes from family and friends in Italy, as well as growing her collection of cookbooks.
The cooking school offers a fabulous selection of classes with bookings available online through the website at www.lacucinadisandra.com.au.
Kung Pao Chicken at Spice Temple
Sardinian Fregola with lamb ragu at Giro D'Italia
OK so we are featuring two dishes from this restaurant. But it could have been more. Sardinian Fregola with lamb ragu was one of my favourite dishes on our visit to Giro D'Italia; the intense flavour packed in the ragu surprises, and we are told by Dom that he cooks the pasta in the ragu so that the pasta absorbs even more flavour. Pasta and ragu game is strong here.
Marron at Attica
Marron at Attica is a quintessential Australian dining experience. Current version is the Marron with Desert Lime XO (picture credit @isa_eats_and-wanders) and below is of version from our second visit to Attica. Super impressive with every single dish being a showcasing and triumph of native Australian cuisine. Sometimes playful, sometime humorous, and with a great deal of theatre, Ben Shewry and team take us to places that are only unique to Australia.
The menu shows the ground taken by Ben Shewry and team; it includes saltbush but takes Australian native cuisine way beyond innovative use of saltbush into a myriad and plethora of Australian native tastes, textures and thrilling combinations.
The table agreed the favourite dish of the night was the Marron. Lux Western Australian freshwater crayfish has a mesmerising texture and sweetness. The head removed, presentation was spectacular with elegant and elongated crayfish draped across the plate. Something simple showcased to perfection with understated brilliance. (Image above: Jeffrey Merrihue).
What do you expect from a World 50 Best restaurant? According to Jeffrey Merrihue, "Agree with experts this is Australia's best restaurant combining quality, freshness, expertise and theatre." Kristy the Queen of Bad Timing from Perth described it as an "epic dinner". Thanks to foodiehub.tv and Jeffrey Merrihue, as well as Attica, for a fabulous world class evening. Simply spectacular.