Society

23-29 Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9639 2544
www.societyrestaurant.com

Jersey Boys is currently playing in Melbourne and because I’m a huge fan of Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons, there was no way in the world that I would miss this spectacular documentary-style production. After being unsuccessful with trying to secure weekend tickets a few months ago, I ended up buying tickets for a Tuesday evening performance which Adam and I attended last night and boy, it was so FANTASTIC that it literally put the J in ‘Joi-say.’ First things first though, let’s get the food talk out of the way .

I booked dinner for 5:30pm at Societyon the top of Bourke Street Hill as it was around the corner from the Princess Theatre. Because the show was to start at 7pm, I needed to find a restaurant that opened for dinner earlier than 6pm and this was one of the few within walking distance. We arrived early at 5:15pm which was no problem for both the restaurant and us – heck, I only ate water crackers and fruit during the day because I stupidly forgot to make lunch and was too tight to buy it so you can imagine how famished I was. We were promptly seated by the window before being presented a wine list to share.

Being one of the oldest Italian restaurants in Melbourne, Society has been around for over 80 years and has gone through as many changes as Madonna. Its most recent change was in 2007 when football legend Paul Dimittina acquired this restaurant to add to his growing collection of Italian restaurants. Being in the dimly-lit and intimate restaurant definitely made me feel like I was transported to the 1920s with its old-fashioned surroundings and murals, though the hum of a modern espresso machine and the group of wogs talking about MYER shares at a nearby table did bring me back to 2009.

We started off with some drinks – a Moretti La Rossa beer for Adam ($9) and a glass of Corte Giara Pinot Grigio ($9) for myself. My wine was ‘meh’ but I really liked the sweet incense-y and slightly bitter aftertaste that Adam’s double bock beer provided. Oh, and thumbs down to the waitress who managed to spill water all over our table while pouring, and leaving it there for a good five minutes.

Complimentary ciabatta, olive oil infused with balsamic vinegar and chilli-tomato olives (which seemed to have been cured in 10 billion tonnes of salt). Thumbs down to how tight they were with the bread (one measly slice each!), the not-so-good olive oil (it was weak and the balsamic vinegar didn’t do much) and the overly salty olives that not even us two sodium fiends could stomach.

Adam’s entree: gigli con salsiccia e piselli (organic durum wheat pasta tossed with a pea and pork ragu, $19). As our entrees were being served, I realised that there were no salt and pepper shakers at our table which I thought was really weird. The waitress did come around asking if we wanted cracked pepper and while she didn’t offer any salt, this dish was fine without it. The parmesan wafer was also a nice touch too. I really liked how simple, yet bold this dish was. And so full of flavour too. A successful entree.

My entree: carpaccio di Cervo (venison carpaccio $21). Society‘s menu generally plays it safe with Italian classics but this one was one of the very few creative dishes on the menu so I decided to give it a go. Again, another successful entree. I received a plate of thinly-sliced cured venison which was given only the slightest sprinkle of white truffle salt and roasted almonds. On top of the arrangement sat a sphere of capsicum and chilli ice cream which tasted just as WTF as it sounded. It seems that since Jacques Reymond has started experimenting with unconventional ice cream flavours to use on entrees and mains, other restaurants have followed suit. Unfortunately, Society didn’t do quite so well with this one as the ice cream was too strong and too sweet, though I can understand that the reason behind the ice cream was to introduce a contrasting element to the salty, gamey and spicy taste of the cured venison.

Adam’s main: suprema di pollo al taleggio (baked chicken breast topped with eggplants and taleggio cheese, served with soft farro polenta $34). Unfortunately, Adam’s main didn’t quite live up to expectations. While it certainly wasn’t disgusting, it was definitely a let-down and not worth $34. Not only was it smaller than expected, it was bland in comparison to his pasta. And while the combination of eggplant and taleggio would have gone down nicely in other circumstances, they were too subtle to cut through the firmness of the chicken breast fillet.

My main: pappardelle porcini e fave (pappardelle with porcini mushrooms and broad beans, $27). When I first saw this, I thought ‘What the?! It’s the same size as Adam’s entree.’ Sadly, it didn’t taste quite as nice. There was nothing wrong with the pasta (cooked al dente, etc etc etc) but the whole thing just tasted weird. The porcini mushrooms felt like they were soaked for too long as they were limp and the broad beans weren’t cooked thoroughly enough as they were still hard. It is times like these where I realise that I should no longer take salt and pepper shakers provided on tables for granted.

We decided to omit dessert as it was almost time for us to go, not that we were missing out on much anyway – the dessert menu was pretty ordinary. The total bill was $119 but with the Entertainment Book discount, we brought it down to $89.25. Society is certainly not the best Italian restaurant in the city and indeed, with places like Grossi Florentino and Bottega across the road, it’s obvious which ones I would go to first before even thinking about setting foot at Society again if I feel like Italian on Bourke Street. While our entrees were good, it would really take a lot for us to return there again. Having said that though, the restaurant remains popular with diners and I could definitely see this restaurant still being relevant in another 80 year’s time.

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Jersey Boys. Wow. Just WOW.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the show after seeing their contrived performance at the Grand Final but as soon as  the curtains opened to reveal a rapper and his crew singing the first few notes of ‘Ces Soirées-Là’ (a French cover of ‘December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)’ which was a big hit in France in 2000), I knew that I was in for a great night. I loved that the production focused on not just Frankie Valli, but also Bob Gaudio, Tommy De Vito and Nick Massi in equal portions.I loved how the show focused on more storyline and music rather than bells and whistles like Wicked did (also a fantastic production, but you can’t really compare apples to oranges). I loved how each dude managed to dance around stage without a single strand of hair going astray. I loved their explosive rendition of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’, complete with horns and all. I didn’t love their skanky arrangement of ‘December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)’ that was performed at the end of Act 1, but their encore of the same song completely made up for it at the end.

Adam may have been a reluctant tag-along-er and the guys at work may have made a few gay jokes when I told them that I was seeing the show but afterwards Adam told me that he LOVED it. I was amused, though, when he told me that he had actually heard of many of the songs in the show, but didn’t know that they were ALL by the same group. Heh.

Tired, but happy little rag dolls.

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3 Comments

  1. OMG I saw Jersey Boys the other week and it was FAB! “My boyfriend’s back” LUV IT!I really like Society, It’s Chic & jazzy for an Italian restaurant. Gives me that whole american 60’s vibe and their desserts are Yum!Gosh I havent been on xanga in ages, for some odd reason I decided to log on (drained from lesson planning) and boy has it changed.I notice on your list of restaurants you’ve been too you haven’t got YU-U, flinders lane…it’s cute,cosy and modern coz of their polish floorboards. Their chef tasting menu reasonable… 40-80.Book one month in advance tho!

  2. Oh Society’s on the opposite side of G Flo eh?Hrmmmm Paul Dimattina… FOOTBALL LEGEND??? Possibly more food legend (haven’t tried any of his restaurants)…Ah I got Piselli figured out, it’s peas!Pollo = chicken…Hahaha.

  3. @ChRiStInE_Biscuittsz – Hey Chris, does this mean that you will be back on xanga?! :DApart from the entrees, I didn’t find Society all that fantastic but maybe we just went on a bad night, and I’ll take your word for it and try their desserts if we end up going there again. I REALLY want to try Yu-U but apparently they are real Nazi’s when it comes to diners taking food photos which is why I haven’t yet been. Maybe later this year.@icesabre – Yeah, opposite side and just a few steps from Spring Street.Paul Dimattina also owns several other restaurants – Di Mattina’s on Lygon Street which I went to about three years ago but can’t remember what it was like as well as Il Gambero, also on Lygon Street, which me and my friend from uni used to go to all the time (it caught on fire not too long ago so it’s out of operation at the moment). I think he also owns another restaurant in Southgate too.

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