Matteo’s: MFWF express lunch

Well now it’s April, and the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival seems like a distant memory. And thank *goodness* for that, because the few weeks of MFWF really stretched my eating pants. Metaphorically of course – those who know me personally know that I don’t wear trousers (because I’m mostly in dresses, in case you think I’m doing some weird Donald Duck thing and going bottomless). But back to MFWF – today I want to share the last express lunch I went to during the festival: Matteo’s.

That Saturday I became a third wheel and joined Hazzie and Gazman for lunch as Alastair was away that weekend. We were all early for lunch because we had been advised when booking that we only had the table for 1 hr 15 mins. This must’ve put the fear in us – we were all so early that I had enough time to join Haz and Gazman in their car for a quick instagram session before going into the restaurant (we are all addicts and we are not ashamed).

Strangely, Matteo’s has never registered on my restaurant radar despite the fact that it’s a long standing Melbourne restaurant, having opened back in 1994 (!). So I don’t know why I knew almost nothing about the place, not even the style of cuisine they served. Based solely on the name, I was expecting an Italian restaurant, but was surprised to see that the food had very definite Japanese and other Asian influences.

After our quick Instragram session, we left the car and entered the restaurant, where we were greeted with a hearty “Hello!”. Through our meal we heard this exuberant welcome issued whenever patrons arrived – very cute. The split level dining roomheld white linen covered tables that were well spaced through the room, feature walls of purple and gold flocked wallpaper, and large windows with heavy blue drapes.

As with all MFWF express lunches, we were able to choose 2 courses from a limited menu, plus a glass of wine and tea/coffee for $35. Matteo’s express lunch menu had the most options out of all the express lunches I had been to: four entrees, four mains, side dishes (an extra $7) and dessert or cheese. They also allowed an additional course for $15. All the options made it hard to narrow down what I wanted, but eventually I decided on three courses.

For entrée I chose the deep fried baby squid filled with red rice and shrimp, heirloom carrot salad, with a sea urchin butter sauce. This was a very generous portion, particularly considering it was an entree. The squid had a light coating of batter, and it still retained a soft “bite” to the meat. The filling made me think of the flavour of sticky rice – it was very pleasant.

Hazzie decided to have two entrees – her first one was the deep fried squid and her second entree was the tartare of Hiramasa kingfish, yellowfin tuna and Atlantic salmon.

After a very brief wait we received our mains. The three of us all ended up choosing different dishes. And because they were all different, we ended up swapping our plates with each other so we could snap a photo of each one… yeah, yeah, yeah, we were *those* people.

Gazman had the fish of the day, which was a rockling fillet that came with a rice noodle roll and served with a laksa sauce.

Hazzie ordered the chicken kaarage, that came with a warm bean shoot, peanut and Vietnamese mint salad, steamed coconut rice and annatto oil dressing. She said it was nice but it wasn’t as good as AGFC / Azza Gazza Fried Chicken. 😀

My main was the slow braised lamb shoulder which came with a miso-glazed eggplant stuffed with spicy lamb mince, a Tokyo turnip (daikon??) fondant and citrus pepper sauce. The meat was delicious but AAHHHHH the lamb was sitting on a bed of peas! Again! Waaah.

Sorry, moving on. This was a really nice dish – and like the squid, a really generous portion. The lamb was nicely tender and went really well with the savoury soy style sauce. I also loved the little eggplant – so cute – though I gladly passed all the peas over to Gaz. He said the peas were nice, having soaked up the sauce. Huh, whatever. He wasn’t going to fool me into eating them.

The kitchen must’ve been pumping the food out because it wasn’t long before we received dessert. Gaz and I both had the la dolce vita, a dessert plate that came with three small desserts – chilled pistachio nougat and candied fruit parfait with passionruit sauce, a warm dark chocolate fondant pudding and a berry tartlet filled with marscapone.

Interestingly, the Japanese/Asian influence in the food didn’t extend to desserts. However, I enjoyed all three of them – though my favourite was probably the berry tartlet, which came in a *very* good crispy shell.

Hazzie had their mini dark chocolate tartlet for an additional $6.

The service was incredibly prompt and efficient – as mentioned before, the kitchen must’ve been pumping out the food. We had a very limited time for our seating, and we were still able to finish three courses plus tea/coffee within our allocated time. Props to the kitchen.

Matteo’s was the best of the three express lunches I went to during MFWF. Out of all the express lunches, I felt that it was the one that gave me a truest sense of what they normally serve. Plus it also helped that all our dishes were really good and the portions were generous. On the downside, it has meant that yet another restaurant has made it on my list to return to. Sigh. That list just keeps getting longer and longer!

For more on Matteo’s express lunch this year, check out April’s post on My food trail as well as Bryan’s post on several MFWF express lunches.

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533 Brunswick St
Fitzroy North, VIC 3068
Phone: 03 9481 1177

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