130 Lygon St
Carlton VIC 3053
+61 3 9639 9383

The Winter Express Lunch promotion is currently running in some of Melbourne’s top restaurants for the next two weeks or so. For $35 per head, you get 2 courses (you usually choose from a special menu each restaurant will have for this promotion) plus wine and coffee which is good value as some of these restaurants charge $30-40 per main dish. With in mind, Adam and I decided to have lunch at one of the few places that actually opened for lunch on a Saturday, Balzari on Lygon Street.

We both loved the place – very casual but there was still this “I’m-A-Top-Restaurant-No-Undesirables-Please” aura to it. We were greeted and seated immediately, menus presented and specials recited in an efficient manner. After ordering a glass of orange juice (at $5.50 a glass, I’m just glad it was decent orange juice!), the waiter left us alone while we read the menu. And then practically half the newspaper, because they were taking quite a while to get to us, even though it wasn’t that busy. While I’m aware that it’s Saturday afternoon and while I can understand that the staff were still recovering from last night’s trashy session at Transport, Balzari is supposed to be serving simple no-fuss Italian food, so it’s not like any of their patrons are expecting Vue Du Monde bells and whistles here!

An example of “simple” Italian food. My entree was a bowl of cannellini (white) bean soup with Parmesan oil. When it comes to cooking bean soup, there really isn’t anything to do. Heck, I know my friend Phill would piss himself laughing if he knew I went to a higher-standard-than-La-Porchetta eatery to eat BEAN SOUP. Apparently peasants in Macedonia eat that stuff so I guess to a turo wog, ordering something like that at a restaurant when your mama could easily make it in her sleep would be a bit silly. Then again, I must admit that we Asians enjoy laughing at gweilos who think that lemon chicken and special fried rice are “authentic” Chinese dishes. Anyway, yes the soup may have been “simple” but it was also very tasty. Quite filling too, I was actually half full after the soup.
Adam ordered the bruschetta with chickpeas for his entree. Two perfect slices of sourdough bread were drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, baked, then sprinkled with soft chickpeas coated in a lemon and parsley dressing. There were also hints of garlic in the oil too, the flakes contrasting nicely with the tanginess of the lemon.
For my main, I ordered the pasta (I love my pasta). Three Western king prawns cooked in extra virgin olive oil, garlic and chilli rested upon a hill of penne pasta cooked exactly to my liking. Little clouds of broccoli mingled between the prawns to give it some colour and to give the diner some much needed Vitamin C. The pasta was nice enough. Very simple, yet tasty. However, not something that I can’t replicate at home. The only thing that I didn’t like about this dish was the prawns. King prawns? My arse!
Adam had the other main dish on offer, the braised ox cheek. I’m not a fan of cheek as I hate that muscly bit of tissue that comes with the meat (somewhat similar to tendon) so I had first dibs on the pasta haha (Adam and I, if possible, order different things at restaurants so that we can both have more things to try). After a few forkfuls of his dish, I thought ‘heyyyy. it wasn’t too bad!’ The ox cheeks were cooked in a rich tomato and red wine sauce and perched on top a slab of wet polenta and garnished with basil. Very sweet, very comforting, definitely an awesome winter dish (if you happened to like ox cheeks, that is).

Overall, a great Saturday lunch. The total came to $75.50, definitely not a cheapie meal but given that we’ve been to restaurants that charged us $90-100 for two courses and had less-awesome-tasting food, we somehow felt that the bill was justified. Plus, even though the service was a bit slow, all the wait staff were quite friendly and not stuck-uppish. What really impressed, however, was that the place was very different to many other Lygon Street joints which I reckon are “tacky.” Granted, I used to go to those places a lot when I was still a povo Melbourne Uni student but after a while, you just realise how uninteresting most Lygon Street fare is. Balzari, meanwhile, stands out from the crowd because it promises something special and it delivers. And of course, they don’t have a bloody spruiker out the front of the restaurant with a menu, asking you to come inside . I’d definitely come back just to try their breakfast menu because apparently they do decent breakfasts on weekends. Their eggs + chorizo (at $15-something) sounds great so that’ll be the first thing I’ll ask for when I’m here next!

I eat too much.


  1. KeLlY_Siew
    August 10, 2008

    that king prawns looks like shrimps lol

    ox cheek looks good though!

    I miss living next to lygon street~ Haven’t yet to find somewhere that’s like lygon street around my area, i suppose if i want to travel further maybe acland street will do.

  2. shanenma
    August 10, 2008

    yep – definately missing the food…

  3. peach_water
    August 10, 2008

    Love the pasta photo! looks delicious. I havn’t had pasta for so long!!! yummy.

  4. JayTrinh
    August 11, 2008

    gotta love the expensive taste lol. 
    i wonder how much was the dish of chickpea bruschetta?

  5. NeverBeBeat
    August 11, 2008

    damn that stuff looks good, minus the last one.

  6. icesabre
    August 12, 2008

    Pasta Pasta Pasta! You can never have enough Pasta! Yum yum yum!

    To the gym to the gym to the gym!!!

  7. GODandShopping
    August 13, 2008

    oh what i forgot to mention was – i once saw this girl who had the Louis Vuitton Cherry Blossoms tatooed on her back… i think it was from xanga… lol don’t you love it

  8. cloaksta
    August 14, 2008

    My mouth watered throughout this entry..just having you describe it in detail..*drool

    Enjoyed reading through, keep it up buddy..


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