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Ela Carte picks Piqueos
Piqueos - 298 Rathdowne Street Nth Carlton – www.piqueos.com.au
Piqueos draws on cuisine from some of my favourite places in the world - Argentina and Peru. It’s been opened by a couple of young local blokes who’ve done their time working for others in some of the best restaurants in Melbourne, and have decided to go it alone.
Only operating for a couple of months so far, it still feels pretty settled in. A great shopfront in leafy Rathdowne Street, it’s got a pared back but stylish feel – including the almost compulsory inner urban exposed brick walls.
Staff are young and relaxed with a good handle on the menu and wines.
And so the food – well it starts with the “piqueos”, which literally means appetizers or starters. These are small items of which you order one at a time. It’s worth noticing that as a per piece price they can add up, $5.50 per scallop gets up there if you want a plateful. Those scallops are good though with a particularly fiery dollop of chilli sauce, the secret being the rocoto chilli they use, a Peruvian specialty with a dry, tasty kick that can take your breath away for a moment.
Croquettas were creamy and crispy at the same time (as they should be), the filling a combination of cheese and yuca – a relative of the potato that is woodier and I think tastier. Empanadas were as authentic as I’ve had, although miniscule in size, be warned – at $4.50 a pop it’s bordering on a little steep. I had the beef, olive and egg – to me the most common on my travels, but the cheese, potato and char grilled onion sounds worth a go too.
From there, it’s to the larger “raciones” and the meaty stuff off their custom made grill, the “parrilla”. Could there be anything more wrong-sounding than fried cheese? Could there, in reality, be anything more right? Provoleta was served in a cast iron dish, still hot, chewy on the outside and gooey in the middle, with an optional squeeze of lemon – gorgeous.
Mollejas were as rich and tasty as I hoped, they’re somewhat of a yardstick for me when it comes to Argentinian, these were large, rich, gooey and just smoky enough.
Slow cooked beef short ribs were fabulously chunky, this is the stuff that makes me think of an Argentinian asado, perfect with a dollop of chimmichurri.
Just three sides on offer and a couple of great sounding salads – we went with soft, chewy char grilled eggplant and sweet potato, but the red and black quinoa salad with pomegranate and radicchio sounds like a goer too.
Piqueos have perfected the alfajor for dessert, one of Argentina’s most famous sweets, this is perfectly crumbly shortbread cookie with the super sweet dulce de leche caramel filling. Seriously good.
The Picaron was a little more unusual, apparently a Peruvian dish, it consisted of a long donut made from fermented pumpkin, and purple corn jelly that was unexpectedly sweet.
This is good food, and they’ve done extremely well to produce such authentic fare – there’s no real attempt at a modern twist, or an Australian tweak – these two young Melbourne guys aren’t trying to reinvent Latin cuisine, they’re trying to do it justice – and they do.
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