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"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." – J.R.R. Tolkien

Tag Archives: Tapas

MoVida Bar de Tapas

Having finally found a reason to visit this much-lauded Melbourne restaurant, little did I anticipate that it would be a month and a half before I finally got around to writing this review. Better late than never though right? We headed in early on a Tuesday night and were a little surprised at how busy it already was. Catering to a relatively mature crowd, the restaurant was noisy but not overtly so. We were promptly seated at a table that looked a little too small for a tapas style menu (or perhaps that added to the vibe, but in any case lots of plate-juggling would occur for the rest of the night) and settled in for a night of good food and wine starting with a a glass of celebratory champagne. Pictures and remembering dishes was somewhat secondary to celebrating the occasion, so you’ll have to excuse me.

MoVida offers a mix of Tapa (small individual pieces at $3.50-$5.50 each) and Racion (plates to share at $7 for olives to $50 for aged ham). We were enthusiastic about trying every dish and felt somewhat like kids in a candy store when presented with the menu, but our stomachs probably couldn’t have stretched quite that far, and so restraint was required. Nonetheless, we still ordered a respectable number of dishes between us. Ordering in English seemed like the safest bet though because A. the waiters were obviously Australia and B. even if they were Spanish, my toddler-level Spanish would probably have offended them.

Overall, the food was very good. The flavours were unique and interesting, with little cross-over between the dishes (always good when you want to try many things). The tapa were mostly too small to share efficiently, but we gave it our best shot regardless. Now, if you’re ready, here comes the parade:

First up, the ubiquitous dish of croqueta(s). The squid ink croqueta was contained within a cuttlefish skin that was reminiscent of a sushi roll.

Croquetas de Choco en su Tinta

Slightly chewy, the bite-sized morsel was packed full of flavour and texture. Definitely one of the better renditions of the dish I’ve had.

I have a weakness for goat cheese, so the Queso Manchego was a must order.

Queso Manchego

The cheese was delicate, and the quince paste was a nice counterpoint. I just wish there was more of the quince paste. The tiny sliver was barely enough for a bite of cheese, and without the accompaniment, the cheese got boring quite quickly.

Luckily, up next, we had the lovely Cordornice – pressed quail and morcilla with apple and pickled garlic.

Codornice

Beautifully presented, it didn’t look much like quail, but it certainly tasted like it. Quail is the more interesting version of chicken, but I always find it doesn’t have the same ‘comfort’ factor. Not that comfort is a requirement of a dish such as this, but my thoughts follow an odd path sometimes. Also interesting was the morcilla, otherwise known Spanish Blood Sausage, so while this dish didn’t blow me away, at least it kept my interest levels up.

One of the must order items on the menu was the Lengua – char-grilled veal tongue with green pepper sofrito.

Lengua

I must say I found the presentation of this dish lacking, but it was certainly delicious. The veal tongue was tender and the sofrito was packed full of flavour without being too oily. Why couldn’t there have been more of it! I wouldn’t have minded eating an entire dish (well, maybe entree sized) of just this.

The last two tapas dishes were greatly contrasted, we ordered the Cordero al Chilindron (Pyrenees wet roast lamb breast with fino and paprika sauce) and the Caballa Ahumado (house cold smoked Spanish mackerel with pine nut gazpacho sorbet).

Cordero al Chilindron

Caballa Ahumado

I have no idea what a ‘wet roast’ means, but it worked for this dish. Lamb has a tendency to dry out when you roast it, but this was moist and easily cut with a fork. The fino (a variety of dry sherry) sauce added an extra hit of flavour.

We were wondering what the smoke smell that wafted by every few minutes in the restaurant was, but it wasn’t until the smoked mackerel dish arrived at our table did we realise that this was the source of the intriguing aroma. Lightly smoked, the purity of the fish really shone through. Well presented, the pine nuts lent a nice ‘crunch’ factor to this dish.

After finishing the tapas dishes, with a lot of the aforementioned plate juggling, we moved on to the larger racions. I can get a little obsessive with my greens, so of course we ordered a salad. The Valencian salad with endive, orange, palm hearts and manzanillo olives was interesting enough to be counted as a dish on its own, rather than a side dish.

Ensalada Valenciana

The special of clams with a pea sauce captured our attention, and we couldn’t go past ordering this dish.

Clams with Pea Sauce

While I’m sure there was a fancier name for this, I can’t for the life of me remember what it was (the trouble with ordering specials!). While the clams were succulent and juicy, they weren’t didn’t quite match my expectations. Perhaps that bar was set too high for seafood? Indeed, the Salpicon dish (a seafood salad of octopus, prawn, scallop and mussels) didn’t impress me either.

Salpicon

Our last main was very impressive though. The Carriellera de Buey consisted of slowly braised beef cheek in Pedro Ximenez on Cauliflower Puree.

Carrillera de Buey

I have to figure out how they made this cauliflower puree (probably with lots of butter) because it was some of the most addictive I’ve ever had. Oh, and the beef wasn’t bad either (though this line suggest that I’ve missed the point of this dish). I’d previously thought only red wines worked well in beef dishes, but I was happy to be proven wrong on this occasion.

We couldn’t wait for dessert though seeing as my companion had never had churros before. Ever. Unbelievable.

Churros

So these weren’t the best churros you can get as somewhat surprisingly, San Churros is better than a top-class Spanish restaurant, but they were a good introduction. The other dessert was much more impressive.

Poached Figs with Vanilla Ice-Cream

Alas the curse of the specials hits again. I’m fairly sure this was a poached fig cake/pudding with vanilla ice-cream. Almost nudging the side of ‘too-sweet’, it was warm and decadent and the perfect way to end the evening. You can’t lose with the combination of pudding and ice-cream. Don’t even try to argue that with me.

Somehow during the course of the night, we also finished a glorious bottle of red. At the recommendation of the sommelier, we went with the 2008 Palacios Remondo ‘Propiedad’, a mix of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Graciano. I loved it for the rich berry and vanilla flavours, but M didn’t quite like how hard-hitting it was. Surprisingly, it matched most of the food quite well.

Overall, MoVida serves delicious but simple fare (for a top-class restaurant), good service, and a lively atmosphere in wonderful company made it a great night. While I can’t pick a particular highlight, neither can I pick a particular disappointment. Do yourself a favour and book here when you’re in the mood for great dining, minus pretentiousness.

MoVida Bar de Tapas
1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne
Daily: Noon-Late

MoVida Bar de Tapas on Urbanspoon

Basque Tapas and Wine

Having been in a Spanish mood recently, I went with a couple of friends to Basque Tapas and Wine on a rainy Saturday afternoon. I was running late, so I left the menu choices in the hands of my very capable dining companions.

As we had booked using an internet deal, I was told that choices were limited to a special menu that was still extensive none-the-less. So what did they choose? Four tapas and two paella dishes with four serves of red wine sangria (with apples, pears, Cointreau, vodka, gin and lemonade)! I was almost an hour late (shame on me) but the tapas dishes had just been served when I arrived.

Up first, Pimientos del piquillo rellenos de arroz negro y calamares (Piquillo peppers stuffed with squid and black ink rice).

Pimientos del piquillo rellenos de arroz negro y calamares

Looks and sounds quite interesting right? Well it was, but it was also quite tasty. I can’t say that I tasted much of the squid as the peppers were quite overpowering, but there was no doubt that it was good. Patatas bravas (crispy potatoes sprinkled with pimienton served with aioli and Brava sauce) on the other hand tasted exactly as expected. The potatoes were served hot and were crispy and well seasoned. I don’t think they would have tasted good cold, but then again, they didn’t last that long.

Patatas Bravas

The best tapas dish by far though was the Brandada de espinacas y alcachofas (oven roasted artichoke hearts and spinach pate) with toasted bread topped with olive oil. Deliciously creamy!

Brandada de espinacas y alcachofas

The last tapas dish confused me somewhat as I wasn’t there when my friends ordered, and doesn’t seem to be in the online menu. It seemed to be pork ribs in an Asian sauce and while the sauce was very well made, the pork was a touch on the tough side.

Pork ribs

This was all accompanied by a salad that had just a little too much olive oil. I prefer much fresher salads and would usually pick an Asian salad over a Mediterranean salad, but each to their own.

Ensalada verde

The main course was the paella (of course). We had ordered a serve of Paella Mariscos (paella of seafood with clams, mussels, calamari, fish, prawns, capsicum and saffron rice) for two, and a serve of Paella Valenciana (paella of wild rabbit, chicken, mushrooms, vegetables and saffron rice) for two. What we got was…

Paella Mariscos

…a serve of the Paella Mariscos for four. Good as the dish was more than satisfactory. Not so good when one of my companions doesn’t eat seafood. After much negotiating with the waiter, we ended up with a take-away container of the Paella Valenciana.

If hadn’t had the voucher, I don’t think that the meal would have been worth the price, and the service wasn’t the best. For how much we did pay though, the meal was satisfactory. It may be a good while before I head back there again though.

Basque Tapas and Wine
159 Chapel Street, Prahran/Windsor
Mon-Thu 10am-11pm, Fri-Sun 8am-1am

Basque Tapas & Wine on Urbanspoon

Naked for Satan

This much reviewed (and loved) tapas bar on Brunswick St was an impulse stop during a lazy, miserably overcast Sunday. I had high hopes for this place, having popped my head in briefly on a Saturday night a few weeks ago. It was too busy then to get a seat, so we’d decided to drink elsewhere, but it seems that Sunday lunches are far from popular. Perhaps there’s a reason for this.

Naked for Satan

Naked for Satan serves up a variety of pintxos (the Basque word for tapas) for $2 each (or 50c on Monday/Tuesday nights, and some weekday lunches). It’s a neat little concept where everyone saves up the toothpicks from each one, then pays at the end of the meal depending on how many toothpicks they’ve collected.

Pintxos Selection

It’s harder than you’d think to decide on what to fill your plate with given their extensive collection. Having an absolute weakness for cheese most of my selections ended up being those with strong flavoured cheeses. The eggplant chip pintxos was the highlight, with just the right amount of crispness and saltiness served on a large slice of crunchy baguette bread. Okay, perhaps there was a little too much bread all around, but it was probably for the best as it filled me up and stopped me going back for too much food (which can be a costly mistake).

Pintxos Eaten

More Pintxos Eaten

I was a little disappointed at the lack of desserts, but that’s probably something they save for dinner times. I was also annoyed at the waiters (well, one waiter in particular) that barged through the door (we were sitting outside) to offer us more food. I’m one of those people who like being able to select what I eat, without anyone pressuring me. I appreciate the attempt to feed me and understand that selling the old plates frees up space for new varieties, but just let me decide whether I want to eat or not please. Still, I loved the decor and the atmosphere, and wouldn’t mind drinking away a few hours on another lazy Sunday. Just don’t try to convince me to come here for lunch or dinner.

Naked for Satan
285 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Sun-Tue 12pm-12am, Wed-Sat 12pm-1am

Naked For Satan on Urbanspoon

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