150 Flinders La
Melbourne VIC 3000
In a desperate attempt to gain a bit of weight (yes, gain), I’ve been eating quite a lot of carb-heavy foods lately. Instead of bringing in beef and chicken salads, salmon steaks, and lean mince-based dishes to lunch every day, I’ve been lugging in massive BPA-free containers of stir-fries on mountains of white rice and pastas. Lots of pastas. Being a lover of Italian food (and culture, and men), you’d think that this wouldn’t be a problem for me (all the pasta I can eat? Wow-WEE!) but truth be told, I’m so over pasta! Mind you, I probably say that because I cook mediocre pasta dishes at home for dinner so that by the time lunch comes around the following day, said mediocre pasta dish is no longer mediocre but simply crapolla.
If all my pasta lunches came straight from the kitchens of Yak Bar Pasta Artigianale, however, I wouldn’t be so whiny. And I don’t think my dining partner, Dave, would whinge, either. We both went to this formerly-featureless-pub-turned-artisan-pasta-bar a few Wednesday nights ago to try their famed Vincigrassi, a traditional offal lasagne dish that’s been lauded by food critics. After downing a drink each at the bar area of the premises, we were led to the dining area towards the back of the restaurant where cloth-lined tables stood empty except for one or two that already had elderly patrons sitting on them.
We nibbled on some olives and bread while we studied the menu. Although Yak specialises in pastas (which only come in one size – they don’t come in entree/main sizes, here), there is also a small selection of non-pasta dishes such as lamb shanks, fish and veal for those who aren’t big on pasta. Bypassing the entrée menu and going straight to the mains, the two of us eventually chose two different pasta dishes – and not one of them was the famous Yak Vincigrassi. I can’t decide whether it was the offal that had put us wimps off or whether we felt that our eventual choices, at the time, sounded more appealing and ‘wow’ than the lasagne, though.
I had the bread maltagliati with prawns, fennel, saffron, tomato and white wine ($24). Maltagliati is essentially pasta sheets that have been chopped up into random shapes, or the unwanted leftover bits of pasta that usually gets discarded at the end of the pasta-making process. The lovely pieces of jaded pasta intertwined neatly with prawns so fresh that you could really taste the sea in the flesh and a subtle tomato-based sauce that was accentuated with hints of fennel, saffron and white wine. You could also tell that the sauce had been infused by prawn heads, giving it that distinctively nutty and salty edge to it. The whole thing tasted amazing, but what I really loved about the dish was the texture of the pasta – it was silky, yet coarse at the same time thanks to the breadcrumbs that were kneaded in the dough before being pressed out of the pasta machine. Delicious.
Dave had the tagliatelle with veal, mortadella and eggplant involtini poached in pomodoro ($24). For some reason, I sensed a bit of Wiener schnitzel action happening, I dunno why given that the lovely piece of veal was slow-cooked rather than crumbed. Man, I’m weird sometimes. But anyway, Dave’s dish was just as delicious as mine – the meat was so tender and buttery thanks to the slow-cooking process and the tomato sauce in which it was cooked in (why couldn’t they just say tomato instead of trying to be all fancy by saying ‘pomodoro’?! pfft) held the slippery ribbons of pasta, the mortadella and the eggplant involtini together brilliant. Effortlessly smooth.
We were pretty much full at this stage and thankful that we didn’t order an entrée each. Strangely enough, however, we both had just enough room for a dessert to share so we ordered a serving of Italian donuts stuffed with pistachio ice cream and served with baked blood orange ($12.50). I’ve never had Italian donuts, known as bomboloni, before but I guessed that they’d be similar to the Greek loukamades or the Turkish delight donuts that are famous at Maha. They were very similar to the aforementioned donuts, but not as crunchy on the outside. Nevertheless, they tasted great with the pistachio ice cream, all gritty and delicious, contrasting very nicely with the slightly sour baked blood orange .
The pasta at Yak is definitely worth gaining weight for. It’s delicious, reasonably priced and the portions, while not Sofia’s restaurant humungous, certainly fill you up. Not long after this dinner, Dave went back to try the Vincigrassi after kicking himself in the head for not trying it the first time. Apparently it was slightly on the small side and while it was wonderful, the pastas we had above represented better value for money. Great, now I feel like pasta…