I had waddled by this spunky little neighbourhood nook of ebony and sandstone behind polished glass a few times, it's quite the split level stunner: copious bottles of curious wine, very European looking wait staff and a predominant clientele of those annoyingly good looking, intelligent 30 something types who look like they dressed for success and damn well got it. Cosy, cloistered, shadowy, polished, sophisticated. It's a tad posh spice, to be sure, but the vibe is so much more ginger, and not at all scary. Tatsu, who has always already tried every place you tell him you want to go to, had given Millevini two very informed thumbs up before he decided to meet Cindy and I for dinner here. It's a very Melbourne approach to eating out, the sophisticated restaurant/wine bar, which takes its cues from the more relaxed and spontaneous culture of less formal/structured dining: the focus being as much on some good drops of red and white as it is on little portions of Italian inspired loveliness. It's anything goes eating, centered on very simple and select ingredients, with a good dose of well directed class, and this is how it's done:
I wish the Millevini Lasagnette came with ears, because only then I could creep up behind it and seductively, in a slow, deep voice, winged upon the warmth of my baited breath, lean into it, closely, and with a quickened heart whisper my profession of undying love: My saucy little Lasagnette, I am going to make you a star! Oh, this dish... It is every good cheese perverts Ultimate Fantasy. Don't even try and resist this steaming little halo of oven baked beauty. Lasagne is usually like any good Daniel Day Lewis film: it's hard not to get off on it, but this takes your average run of the mill cheesetomatobakebaby to an entirely new level. Besciamelle sauce and some incendiary pesto lusciously sway between delicate sheets of perfectly textured pasta. Unlike most pesto, which tastes more of oil than it does of basil, this is a fragrant, fruity and chaotic tongue song, its high notes dart into and out of some bass-y cheese like nobodies business. If you aren't already quivering at the thought, ensconed within the folds of this GodInCheese, ready to startle you with agonizingly nutty delight, are crunchy little clusters of baked walnut. When crispy nut shadows melting cheese, it's Texture Houdini at its very best. Mmm.
Beef carpaccio is my favourite meal of all time. Millevini's comes as gorgeously tender folds of pink meat, gently caressed by whispers of parmesan and droplets of truffle oil. It's a grand carpaccio, a very clean beef, excellent quality. The parmesan is subtle, I usually like the cheese on my carpaccio to be a little sharper. It's a winning dish, regardless, so delicate and layered. Truth be told, I couldn't taste the truffle oil in this dish, I actually poured a little olive oil over it after a few bites because I don't like carpaccio that isn't heavilly drizzled. Honestly guys, if you've never tried cow carpaccio, what are you waiting for? It's the most delicious way to down a dead animal. Raw meat is enzymatically more compatible with our metabolisms, I always feel much lighter after a carpaccio than I do after a steak. I also feel a tad Hannibal Lecter right now, in a good way, I mean.
The caprese salad is your classic beauty. Sweet basiled tomatoes and golden olive oil make a perfect pillow for a luscious looking sphere of beautiful buffalo mozzarella. The cheese here is divine, very subtle and clean, fans of this dish will not be disappointed at all by Millevini's version. Delicate and refreshing, it's beautiful summer food. The Polpettine, veal meat balls that are baked in tomato, white wine and parmesan are a pleasant but unremarkable dish. The sauce could have been a little deeper, but still manages to remain wonderfully sweet and subtle, most tomato sauces are too overpowering for the dish they should only be a tempered presence in.
Grilled vegetables in balsamic vinegar were lovely, earthy and flavoursome, a lighter dish to go with the richer lasagnette and carpaccio. The balsamic used is wonderfully sweet, good balsamic doesn't taste too astringent, it's sweet as well as sharp, and is a simple enhancement to the beautifully grilled vegetables. The peppers and zucchini are luscious, but no one will ever sell me on grilled eggplant, it's like oily rubber. A divine cheese plate ordered off the specials menu was the happiest ending yours truly has enjoyed in quite a while. I don't normally eat cheese, but I have become a tad more partial to it since hanging around the Swiss Miss (Cindy) so much. This plate is drop dead gorgeous, pots of orgasmic, screaming, orange marmalade (which I don't normally even like) and dreamy, floral organic raw honey, stand at the ready by delicate slices of wonderful cheese and pear. A basket of oiled, grilled bread is the perfect partner in crime to all of these glorious goos and slices. One of the cheeses was a delicate blue, I normally hate blue cheese but this was so subtle and delicate I found myself having more than just a bite. I got quite full arranging slices of cheese with smidges of pear and marmalade and honey onto crispy little circles of oily bread. I felt very adult having so much dessert fun with no chocolate in sight!
I waddled to Millevini again the following evening with Candice, I was a little sad the food didn't seem to be quite as sharp as it was the night before, but Tatsu has been several times and reassured me the quality has been consistent for him, so that must have been an off night. Don't be deterred, this is the perfect place to come in a little group or a terrific twosome, it's loud but still romantic and a lot of fun. You know i'm no wino, so all I can really say is that the drops hail mainly from Italy, France and Australia and they all come available by the glass and the bottle. They use specifically shaped glasses for different types of wine, different reds come in different shaped goblets, which is a sign they seem to know what they're doing. Millevini can be a pricey place, some of the dishes are better value than others, but the quality of the ingredients is evident, you're paying for really quite wonderful cheeses, meats and vegetables. And the olive oil is down right drinkable, but then again, maybe you have to have Lebanese parents or be Rebecca Eggers before you'll concur with me on that one.
Be sure to palm one of their business cards on the way out, they're a very cute keepsake, much more stylish than the rotund little belly you walk out with. So Full. If 2008 doesn't end soon, my stomach might actually grow spontaneous lacrimal glands and start bawling its eyes out.
At 397 Crown Street, Give them a bell on 9357 3366 for a delicious night of funky dining, unlike Milli Vanilli, this is the real deal.