Scorch reviews: Little Odessa
274 Rear Brunswick St, Fitzroy
If I were to survey one hundreds punters – Family Feud style – on words they would associate with Ukrainian food, you may very well expect answers along the lines of stodgy, heavy and dreary.
But those words are definitely not adjectives I would associate with the food at Fitzroy’s Little Odessa, a stylish new wine bar serving modern dishes inspired by the cuisines of Ukraine and other countries once hidden behind the Iron Curtain.
Opened by brother and sister pair Sofia and Stefan, Little Odessa’s menu is concise and unique – Melbourne is hardly bursting with Ukrainian restaurants – and made up of surprisingly delicate dishes, with not a chicken Kiev in sight.
Nestled behind a salmon-coloured façade off busy Brunswick Street (we walked past it first time round), Little Odessa aims to elevate Eastern Bloc dining in the estimations of trend-attuned Melburnians.
It’s not all potatoes and pickles.
The non-negotiable dish is the pierogi, fat-arsed doughy dumplings that come in two varieties: pork and apple and potato and cheddar. I loved these.
They come with a very Eastern European dollop of sour cream (above) and I couldn’t resist trying both kinds.
The gorgeously-coloured borscht, a classic beetroot soup popular in Ukraine, as well as countries like Russia and the Baltics, is made the way babushkas have made it for centuries.
Veggies are sautéed and brought to the boil, with dill and cabbage added later to give the soup a bit of crunch.
A good spoonful of obligatory sour cream is flung on top just to remind you what region you’re in.
A delicate little starter of seared sardines sleeping on a futon of Hungarian lesco (a dense sauce of capsicum, tomato and paprika) is easily washed down with a glass of Lvivske, a crisp Ukrainian pilsner.
Larger plates – such as butter milk braised pork loin with prune jam and milk poached market fish, pickled fennel jam and confit beetroot – are ample but not heavy, generously portioned dishes and efficiently priced.
Perfect for the peckish penny-pincher.
So if you experience pangs for something a little different, turn your attentions eastward and march on down to Little Odessa, located in Melbourne’s black sea, Fitzroy, the natural home of the colour-averse.