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Mikkayla reviews: Moda Kitchen and Bar (plus some bonus recommendations from your 3AW favourites!)

Ross and Russel
Article image for Mikkayla reviews: Moda Kitchen and Bar (plus some bonus recommendations from your 3AW favourites!)

Moda Kitchen and Bar
140 Victoria Street, Seddon

If someone was to ask you for a restaurant recommendation within your local area, would one immediately spring to mind? Most of us have a favourite, dependable place close to home that we wouldn’t think twice about promoting. The niiiiiiice restaurants. The ones you bring up when you have this conversation: “Oh it’s your [insignificant age] birthday this week – where shall we go for dinner?”

“Let’s go somewhere nice.”

It’s the place where you can choose to get dressed up if you want, or stick to the tried-and-true ‘jeans and a nice top’ combo. You probably don’t need a reservation but it’s lovely if you go to the effort to make one. It may be a place you visit just once or twice a year, or you could frequent it several times a month! An evening there won’t break the bank; it doesn’t require a four-hour seating, it’s an easy drive to get to from your place (or a cheap enough taxi ride), and some of you may even be greeted by name. Your local favourite is dependable, comfortable, perfect for special occasions and just…  really nice.

I recently asked a few friends for recommendations of their own trusty, tried and true local secret and picked one friend’s suggestion to check out. Residing in Seddon, they swear by a small, family-owned Italian joint they have deemed “a true gem” and whilst the inner-west is certainly not hard done by stretch of the imagination, this place truly is a diamond in the rough.

Owned and headed by Italian native and Michelin-rated Luca Lamari, this small but modern family-run eatery prides itself on dishes made from scratch using only the highest quality and locally sourced produce. The menu is small but carefully planned and the specials board changes regularly. I walk into the long, narrow room and am greeted by Lamari himself, who seems humbly-surprised to find a starved, enthusiastic lunch customer. He explains that his family usually helps him for evening service and during the quiet lunch periods, he preps. “The gnocchi will be ready soon if you want to order it!” he promises. Oh, certainly I do.

The perfect starter is the butterflied sardines topped with spicy breadcrumbs and dressed in a zingy, lemony sauce that I mop up with bits of sourdough ($12) Many a person tends to cringe at the idea of sardines for human consumption – but these tender, meaty little morsels may just be the thing to change preconceived (and generally unfounded) assumptions.

Next up is a perfectly rectangular strip of pork belly, cooked slowly until tender and finished under searing heat to achieve the perfect blistered and slightly chewy top, then served on a bed of diced potato and red cabbage tossed through seeded mustard dressing ($12). Whilst the sardines could be shared as a sort of amuse-bouche with your dining companion, I recommend you order one of these for yourself and be prepared to fend off other prying forks.

Perfect little pillows of gnocchi are presented in a silky, luscious sauce of gorgonzola, parmesan and spinach and each bite transports me to new heights of bliss ($22). Is there an Italian phrase for “sauce so good I want to drink it through a straw?” There should be. Chunks of sourdough are perfect delivery mechanisms to ensure that every drop of the dreamy salsa di panna is enjoyed and the glass of 2015 Ruggeri Argeo Prosecco ($11/$45) has been the perfect sparkling companion to all three of these dishes.

The grass-fed beef is a sight for sore eyes – a beautiful, almost-glazed hunk of eye fillet, cooked and dressed in Shiraz rosemary butter and positioned atop a mound of succulent mushrooms and wilted spinach ($40). It’s perfectly pink inside and mouth-wateringly tender. Order a side of salad and potatoes, and wash it all down with a glass of 2014 Montepulciano from Abruzzo in Italy, and in that moment, it’s hard to imagine life getting much better.

The service is spectacular – despite gearing up for the night’s reservations ahead and manning the kitchen solo, Lamari is attentive and gracious with his time. “Lockdown was hard,” he laments “But we are so lucky here. I have my health, I have my family. Yes, the snap lockdown cost us a lot of reservations over the weekend, but I’m lucky to have a big family that I could cook for and share the produce with!” In the evenings, it’s a full family affair there, with his wife and twin 17-year-old daughters taking care of the front-of-house, and his 13-year-old son keeping him company in the kitchen whilst looking after the dishes.

Such a refreshing and positive outlook on life translates through this most wonderful, wholesome meal that is clearly made by someone with passion and skill. It’s not the showiest, most extravagant or even overtly-traditional Italian food – though their international wine list is spectacular to peruse – but it certainly has left a lasting impact on me.

Moda Kitchen and Bar is open Tuesday through to Saturday for lunch (11.30am – 3pm) and dinner (5.30pm – 10pm) 

BONUS RECOMMENDATIONS: I asked some of my 3AW favourites – on air, behind the scenes and valued contributors – for their ultimate local – or near local – restaurant recommendation.

Ross Stevenson, radio host and so-so-punter: Centenove, Kew.
Russel Howcroft, radio host and advertising genius: Di Stasio Citta, Melbourne.
Mark ‘Scorcher’ Davidson, executive producer and photographer extraordinaire: Amiconi Restaurant, North Melbourne.
Damian Tardio, genius panel op and air-fryer lover: Postmistress Brunswick West.
Jon Anderson, sports guru and the best bloke you’ll ever meet: Tao Tao House, Hawthorn.
Sly of the Underworld, crime writer and relish-lover: The Black Toro, Glen Waverley.
Glenn Robbins, beloved comedian and deadset legend: The Hampton Bakery, Hampton.
Jacqui Felgate, Channel 7 newsreader and fashion icon: Elwood Bathers, Elwood.
Tom Elliott, radio host and Hawaiian shirt enthusiast : Napier Hotel, Fitzroy.
Dee Dee Dunleavy, radio host and collector of things: Jinda Thai, Abbotsford.
Sharnelle Vella, award-winning journo and social media icon: Stamford Park, Rowville.
Stephen Quartermain, Channel 10 newsreader and red wine enthusiast: Piccino, Surrey Hills.

Ross and Russel