Anyone who’s ever been dragged along as a child to the smorgasbord eateries of ol’, such as Smorgy’s and Sizzlers, would be familiar with the gleam of greed that flashes over the eyes of patrons as they survey the masses of all-you-can-eat food heaped on so many bain-maries. It’s a glutton’s paradise. And while this buffet-style of dining is certainly great value for money, especially those on a family budget, it’s fair to say that the quality of the fare often leaves one wanting and reaching for the over-priced drinks. After all, it’s fry-and-serve, mass production.
Skip many years later and that same gleam of greed is still there. But this time, and with some luck, the look has become tempered by superior dining experiences: Asian banquets, Greek feasts, yumcha sessions and degustation menus.
It was this voracious look that remained on my face from the moment fellow EDS staffers, Tris and Gem, suggested we try MoVida’s Degustation Dinner Menu (for the purpose of research, of course) right up until the moment I was polishing off the last delicious morsel of Spanish feed.
Currently, MoVida Bar de Tapas holds prime position on Urbanspoon’s list of Best Melbourne Restaurants – you’ll find it equally listed amongst the top in many other foodie sites – and with good reason. The food is simply amazing. Imagine all those childhood memories of sweet homely cooking, sprinkled with the virginal excitement of trying something completely new, wrapped in a delectable cocoon that comes from an orgasmic dining experience. Serve on a plate.
The strength of MoVida lies in its tapas – small dishes that are served and best eaten shared – and this is where their degus is perfect. A 10-course menu, the tapas are chosen by the chef and varies each evening. Aside from dietary habits and food allergy concerns, the choices of dishes are entirely within the whim of the people who make them. It’s a gamble, but one that has delicious pay-off, just like what happened on the night we went.
Our first round of courses consisted of anchovy served on crouton with tomato sorbet, fine slices of jamon (Spanish ham) and leek and mahon fried croquettes. The anchovies were an absolute standout; the sorbet was a complete but wonderful surprise. Everyone commented on the delicate balance between the earthy saltiness of the fish and the sweet, almost popping texture of the sorbet. I couldn’t shove it down quick enough, but apparently such things should be savoured slowly. Pfft.
Anchoa – hand filleted Cantabrian artisan anchovy on crouton with smoked tomato sorbet
Jamon – Iberico imported organic Spanish Jabugo jamon. Fully acorn fed, 3 years naturally cured.
Second lot of servings included roasted scallop with jamon and potato foam, slices of mackerel served with gazpacho sorbet and smoked piquillo pepper. Again, the dishes pleased but my personal favourite was the scallop; such bursts of flavour from the foam. The peppers were handy for picking between the dishes.
Viera – roasted Spring Bay scallop with jamon and potato foam
For the third and final courses of dishes, we were served something a little more substantial: seared pieces of rabbit leg on pureed spinach, braised beef cheeks with cauliflower mash and a side of sautéed chickpeas. The trio worked well together with tastes complementing each dish, though I found the tartness of the cauliflower mash overwhelmed the moreish flavour of the beef.
Conejo – Andalucian sweet sour farmed rabbit legs with almonds on a bed of pureed spinach served with roasted French mushrooms
Carillera y Garbanzos – slowly braised beef cheek in Pedro Ximenez on cauliflower puree, served with a side of sauteed spinach with chickpeas & spices
But the best dish of all was most definitely the Cecina: air-cured thinly slices of wagyu beef, served with white truffle foam and a poached egg. Upon arriving at the table, it was met with collective oohs followed by ahhs as the wait staff demonstrated how the dish was to be served: break the egg yolk, swirl the foam and mix the beef for a mouth-watering display of white-red-yellow colours. Eaten with generous helpings of pan (bread) and you can see why this dish was awarded 2007 ‘Dish of the Year’ by The Age Food Guide.
Cecina – air cured wagyu beef thinly sliced with a truffle foam and poached egg; MoVida’s signature award-winning dish
Look, some people might consider gleams of greed – and plate licking – to be undesirable traits and usually they’d be right, but with places like MoVida, these aren’t only acceptable but most truly deserved.
MoVida Bar de Tapas is located on 1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne. There’s also MoVida Next Door (1 Hosier Lane) and the recently opened Movida Aqui and Terraza (Level 1, 500 Bourke Street). Ph (03) 9663 3038. Bookings essential.
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