Movida Next Door
1 Hosier Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9663 3038
310 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9620 1881
My mate Matt and I hadn’t seen each other in person since my graduation last December (I know, shocking isn’t it!). Understandably, he’s been busy trying to get HDs in his law course while balancing tutoring commitments and his pianist gig at his old high school’s musical production and I’ve been busy with work, bludging around and eating… plus, he lives in Craigieburn which makes it hard to catch up. We decided that we needed to chit-chat beyond MSN convos and facebook walls, so we arranged to meet up on Saturday night (yesterday). Adam and I arrived in the city early so that we can catch up some reading at Borders like the tight arses we are and do all sorts of other errands. At around 4:30ish, we felt a bit pekish so we decided to get some pre-dinner snacks while waiting for Matt. Our destination was Movida Next Door, and yep you guessed it, it’s owned by THE Movida on Hosier Lane.
I was surprised to see that all the tables were taken even at 4:30pm but we were lucky to get a table in a hidden corner where we could check out the scene (there were also some bar space available but I prefer tables to bars). Movida Next Door is quite a new establishment. In fact, it only opened a few days ago with little fanfare so I was surprised that enough people knew about it to just about fill the place up on a deary Saturday afternoon. I do, however, know that once John Leathlean or Stephen Downes do their reviews this Tuesday in their respective newspapers, it would be virtually impossible to get in – just like the original Movida.
Some of you might recall me saying how I was a little let down by my dining experience at Movida a few months ago
. Not that everything that I ate was appalling (some were good, some were just okay) but I certainly did not have the OMGMOVIDARAWWWWKKKSS feeling that everyone seems to have after dining there. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t go there again and when I found out about MND, I decided to give it a go to see if it’s any different from its mother restaurant.
The decor is pretty similar to Movida except that the space is smaller and more casual. I was happy to find that it was also less pretentious than Movida. The wait staff, although they seemed a little sloppy in the beginning, were quite friendly and down-to-earth. In short, it’s more of a bar than a restaurant so the menu isn’t as extensive as Movida and the food is simple bar food, y’know.. stuff like slices of jamon iberico, peppers stuffed with rabbit mince and lamb skewers marinated in Catalan spices .
The other huge difference was that they had an open kitchen, so we could see actually what was going on and whether any of the kitchen staff did dodgy things such as spit in our food. As you can see, there was a whole range of fresh seafood in the glass display. It was almost like being at Footscray Market – NOT.
This is not what we ordered (I think they were potatoes), but it had been sitting on the bench for quite some time so I kinda feel bad for whoever ordered it. This is what I meant when I said that the service was sloppy at the start.
We were given some complimentary pasta dura-type bread which was nice but they didn’t give us butter or olive oil to dip the bread in. Not such a big deal but frankly, I just thought that was a half-arsed effort. We both had a croqueta each ($3 each) which was filled with this lovely cheese (I think it might’ve been mahon, but I can’t remember) and jamon. It wasn’t as good as the mushroom croqueta I had at Movida but still lovely all the same.
We had a plate of home-made baby chorizo to share ($15.50) which was cooked in fino. Adam was saying how he never had sausages this textured and I had to agree. Even the chorizo that we’ve had at previous places seemed smooth and frankfurt-y in comparison. This dish was perhaps a bit too salty for me but thank God I had the bread to dim down the flavour or I probably would’ve had a heart attack.
We only ordered these two things because we wanted to save room for dinner… but it was so damn hard not to eye the fresh seafood on display and NOT order anything else. In hindsight, I would’ve ordered some scallops but they weren’t on the menu (I later realised that the “veira $4” which was written on the specials board actually meant “scallops $4” but who the fck knew that veira meant scallops?!).The total bill came to $36.00 (including a glass of light beer and sherry), which was more expensive than I thought. But then again, this was Movida we’re talking about… and because it’s MOVIDA, they can charge whatever damn price they want because they know that their restaurant(s) will always be full of people wanting in. While we had a pleasant afternoon nibbling on tapas and sipping drinks while watching Collingwood ferals walk past after their win at the G, we felt that the food wasn’t the best tapas (Basque, I think, wins hands down). I would, however, say that I’m more likely to come back to Movida Next Door than Movida in the future on the basis of hotter-looking friendlier staff, non-pretentious atmosphere and its casualness.
Finally, the highlight of our MND visit: Seeing a glimpse of Mr Movida himself: Frank Camorra. He rocked up at around 5pm to guide the chefs on what to do for the night as well as say where he got all the seafood from etc. I was lucky enough to be sitting right next to the kitchen so it was like having a personal cooking lesson from the man himself.
Oh, and seeing all these bogan Collingwood supporters rock up to MND in their footy gear and being denied entry was awesome too .
Even though Matt went to Nobu the previous night (lucky bastard!), he was still in the mood for Japanese so we decided to go to Hako on Flinders Lane. Hako is one of those places that look like it can be comfortable in Melbourne as well as New York City. Located just behind Collins 333, Hako’s interior resembled that of a warehouse nightclub in that it looked spacious but at the same time, it’s not a very big restaurant. Kinda like an Anti-TARDIS, if you get the Doctor Who reference.Because I begin, please forgive me for 1) the not-so-fantastic photos. The place was VERY dark. Like I said, we may as well have been in a nightclub. In fact, the only lighting we had was the puny little candle on our table. Heck, we were lucky to even see what we were eating. 2) The price of each dish. Usually, I like to write these things down but because I forgot my diary, I had no way of writing stuff though so any price that I type in this entry is only a mere estimate.
We started off with the agedashi tofu ($8-9). This is probably one of the few “cliched” items on Hako’s menu, everything else is more creative. When I go to places such as Hako, I do like to see some traditional items on the menu. For one thing, I like to be able to try a dish like agedashi and to be able to compare it to another restaurant’s version. I liked Hako‘s version of the agedashi. Five pieces of silken tofu were delicately fried in a light crispy batter and soaked in that yummy dashi sauce that I love so much. Shaved bonito flakes and spring onions were a cute little addition to the tofu.
Ebi tempura ($13.80, I think). Ahhh, the “Hairy Caterpillars.” This is what a lot of my friends rave about when they go to Hako. We were given two juicy king prawns covered with wisps of light feathery potato noodles. At other Japanese restaurants I’ve been to, the coating usually resembles that of fish and chip batter so I was glad to see something totally different this time around. I think this was my favourite dish but it was a shame that we had to share two pieces amongst the three of us!
I honestly turned blank when I tried to recall the name of this dish and its price (it was around $10-15). Basically, it was asparagus wrapped in beef coated in Japanese breadcrumbs and then fried. A generous dousing of egg sauce was added on top. It was unusual, yes, and although not the best thing on the menu, it wasn’t exactly awful either.
Sushi/Sashimi platter ($35.80). The slices of raw fish (tuna, salmon, kingfish) were fresh, firm and plump which is always a good sign but at this price, Shira Nui‘s sushi platter pwns all over it. Another thing that annoyed me slightly was that they had one dab of wasabi in between the rice and the raw fish in some of the morsels. Because I don’t like wasabi, I had to deal with the awful horseradish burning sensation in my mouth for the rest of my meal. Note to Japanese chefs: I know you might think that wasabi is God’s gift to everyone in the whole world but not everyone likes it. I, and along with thousands of people, would really appreciate it if wasabi was left on the side for people who love it so that people like me could appreciate your sushi without worrying whether that disgusting nail polish taste will burst my taste buds.
The boys were pretty content with their meal but I wasn’t entirely satisfied so I went and ordered three tuna croquttes (The specials board advertised $8.90 for two, we got three so you do the maths). Three perfectly formed balls of tuna mashed with potatoes and seaweed were accompanied by a crunchy salad with yuzu dressing. They were nice enough but I’m sorry to say that Movida wins hands-down when it comes to croquettes. Heh.
The total bill came to $80.80 for three of us, which is actually quite cheap (to put things in comparison, I’d say that Hako‘s closest competitor is Horoki which Adam and I paid almost $100 for a meal between the two of us). We all agreed that we were 70-80% full which is what we should aim for when we’re eating to prevent getting fat. We, however, also agreed that the food, while decent, wasn’t THE best Japanese in the city. Naturally, it was never going to beat top notch Japanese restaurants like Shoya or Koko, but when it comes to the taste/value-for-money ratio, places such as Shira Nui and Izakaya Chuji would be better contenders for when I feel like Japanese on a Saturday night.