Damn, it was in late December in 2010 (two thousand and ten), that we ate at Matteos and only do I now, decide to write about it. Dear readers, it's not that I'm losing dedication, it's just that I am having trouble stringing two coherent sentences together! Anyway, onto the actual restaurant!
It seems Matteo's lacks the publicity which some of the other restaurants in Melbourne seem to bath in. Could it be because of its inconspicuous location on Brunswick St (which I found out wasn't quite where the "shops" were, after having to walk at LEAST a km..ok maybe not quite but it was far...because I parked in the busiest part of Brunswick St!!)? Who knows.
The first thing that struck me with this restaurant was how formal it felt. The diners seemed to look like they were enjoying an "occasion" in an "occasion restaurant". The space however, is clevery divided to reduce the magnitude of the dining spaces.
My friend arrived first and was given a table by the window, only to be tantilised and then moved and be told that it was the worng table, as it had been booked "by someone else a month ago". Our dinner reservations were at 8pm and in all fairness, I did book only days before...but seriously guys...we could see that no one sat in those damn seats the entire night so they sure as hell didn't turn up! Anyway, I wasn't that angry, but my friend, she was angry enough to demand I blog about such an incident.
Anyway, onto more positive notes. We opted for the degustation which was four courses of small tastes with each course comprising of taste sized dishes of 2-3 different compositions from the a la carte. It was an interesting way to do a degustation, and most definitely made the whole process a lot faster (because sometimes 4-5 hr dinners are just a bit much with full single course degustations).
The other 'tastes' were interesting in composition, but the kingfish was definitely the hero of the first course. For example the smoked eel was incredibly strong, so if you love smoked eel it may have been the hero for you.
The next course was zucchini flower filled with fetta sitting on a watermelon slice with asian "slaw" and the other dish was a scallop with cauliflower puree with lap cheong "bacon" crumbs. The zucchini flower was as expected, excellent. Crisp and filled with smooth fetta with the additional textural elements of the watermelon and slaw. It was an interesting combination with the strident saltiness of the fetta contrasting with the sweetness of the watermelon. The scallops however, were slightly disappointing. The miso infused cauliflower puree was overseasoned and far far too salty, and trust me, I LOVE salt.. Cauliflower, imho, should not be tampered with.
Next was a baked "char-siu" pork pie on an edamame soy bean puree and seared beef sirloin. I loved the pie, but my friend didn't. Perhaps this is where Matteo's challenges the diner with perplexing combinations, which sometimes works, sometimes doesn't, and sometimes splits it right through the middle. The char siu pork pie had accents of sweetness from the char-siu with a clear savoury dominance. If you've ever had a char-siu bun, you will know what I mean. Perhaps the pairing with the beef sirloin was not ideal, as it was far more overpowering that the beef, which in all fairness was extremely tender and well cooked.
The composition of dessert was fondant, sorbet and fruit tartlet. The berry tartlet was excellent, fresh berries on a bed of ultra fine custard. What more can be said? You have chocolate, ice cream, custard and for good measure (and perhaps a health "kick", berries).
Overall, Matteo's was decent. It seemed more of an occasion restaurant than some of the other places of similar "ambition", and service was relatively effortless, perhaps a little too effortless at times, but that's minor. Definitely worth a try, but perhaps select something from the a la carte rather than the degustation to really get a good serve of something you absolutely love.
And also, park close to the resturant. I thought someone had stolen my car because I parked it in some alleyway...well, someone must've freaken moved it whilst we were at dinner..and I swear if I find out who!!!
533, Brunswick St, North Fitzroy