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Emilia reviews a ‘beautiful’ Latin restaurant that is completely gluten-free!

emilia reviews
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This is on the back of caller Julia asking me to go to a gluten-free and dairy-free restaurant. I’ve got one for you, Julia. Enter: Rufio.

Their menu is entirely gluten-free, but you wouldn’t know it and they have plenty of vegan options to tick the dairy-free box (although you wouldn’t know it). This is the gluten-free restaurant you actually want to go to with your coeliac friend.

It opened at the start of this year bringing a certain revitalisation of Carlisle Street in St Kilda that Rufio joins. The same team runs Repeat Offender in Elwood, another fantastic gluten-free Latin Restaurant I can happily vouch for. 

“What does a Latin restaurant actually serve?” I hear you ask. Think Mexican but minus tacos, take yourself a little more south to more South American flavours. They use corn a lot to substitute and keep it all gluten-free and almost everything has a smokiness as head chef, Simon Winson, flame-grills a lot of the dishes on an open-fire grill. 

If that’s not all getting you over the line, their large bar, wine list and extensive cocktail list will. Choose your margarita fighter; classic, Italian, spicy, hibiscus, tommy or frozen. I didn’t get to try them all to report back but I challenge someone else to. 

Here’s what you have to get:

The Arepa (which is essentially a cornmeal pancake with mozzarella inside) topped with smoked eggplant, miso tofu and chipotle mayo is not just a vegetarian meal to be scoffed at. Take this one seriously, definitely one of those ones where you can taste the smokiness.

We tried the tamale (which is made of masa, a dough made from nixtamalized corn, which is steamed on a banana leaf) with chorizo and smoked Oaxaca cheese. I mostly tried this so I could say I tried the hot tamales, and honestly the love of it stopped at the name. Not my favourite of the dishes. 

Speaking of favourite dishes though… the Rufio fried chicken ribs with moreish pasilla salt topped with hibiscus escabeche and chipotle mayo on the side to dip. Definitely my favourite starter. Could’ve had a whole plate to myself, happily would!

Don’t miss the tostadas: we loved the lobster and braised beef cheek. The heirloom tomato was also good but loaded with tomatoes

For mains:

Winning with the spicy peanut sauce on the bottom and anything with crackling on the side is always going to be a crowd favourite let alone, glazed pork belly and pineapple. 

Another star of the show was the stuffed chicken breast on a bed of pumpkin truffle risotto, congo crisp and red chimichurri.

For your vegetarian friend: Jackfruit enchiladas, black bean, tomatillo salsa, wild rice, sour cashew cream.

As for a lot of gluten-free specialty restaurants, the prices were a little more expensive than you might happily be able to part with now. To combat that, focus on the mains and one or two of the starters that take your fancy. DM me if you try all the margs!


188 Carlisle St

St Kilda 

emilia reviews