26th May 2016
6 Melbourne Place
Melbourne, VIC 3000
My only knowledge of Armenia comes We Need To Talk About Kevin, a book in which the narrator – and the mother of the titular character – hails from Armenia. Rather woeful, I know, but hopefully this will soon be remedied by a visit to Sezar.
Despite the out of the way location, punters seem to have no trouble finding the little eatery at the end of the laneway. Contrary to the norm, Sezar is actually a lot smaller than I had expected it to be, though it is supplemented by an upstairs dining area. Still, that is part of its charm, and the result was warm and intimate, with a touch of old-fashioned class.
If you look at a map, then it should come as no surprise that Armenian food takes its main influences from Europe and the Middle East. But Sezar is so much more than that. The ingredients may be traditional, but the menu reads much more like a trendy fusion tapas bar. Divided conveniently up into Bzdig (small), Michag (medium), and Medz (large), we were free to mix and match to our hearts’ content, though there is always the banquet for the greedy and the indecisive.
However you want to describe the Bastourma and Egg ($10, 2pcs), traditional would not be it. As for myself, I think I’ll go with delectable. The mix of creamy quail egg, salty air-dried beef, and sweet, buttery brioche formed an indulgent palate of flavours, melded together by a smear of sweet yet pungent garlic jam.
The Spanner Crab Manti ($16, 4pcs) were also astonishingly good. The fat, slippery dumplings floated in a cool yoghurt soup, the tangy sauce pairing extremely well with the delicately briny centre of crab.
Although simple, the Cured Ocean Trout ($17) was absolutely luscious. Each piece of thickly sliced fish was rich and oily, embroidered with briny pops of roe, and a crisp and refreshing salad of apple and fennel.
I usually avoid ordering roast chicken at a restaurant, as I find it to be a trap for the unadventurous. However I had heard enough good things about the Spiced Baby Chicken ($32) that I was compelled to give it a go. And you know what? This chicken was hot, succulent, and perfectly cooked with delicate herbs so as to be buttery and melt-in-the-mouth tender. The hint of charring melded flawlessly with the bed of chewy, nutty wheat berries and sweet lemon buttermilk.
It’s not Middle Eastern without baklava, though the New Style Baklava ($14) promises to be something newer and more exciting. The sheafs of syrup-soaked pastry were replaced with thin, buttery slices of filo, sandwiching scoops of walnut toffee ice cream, and with bitter salted caramel drizzled on top for good measure. And if that’s not enough for you, the silky ice cream hid secret chunks of brittle toffee.
Somehow I had let Chris talk me into ordering two desserts, even though he was supposed to be stopping me from having too much dessert. Anyway, I couldn’t feel too bad about the Chocolate Marquise ($14), which had a texture somewhere between a mousse and a warm brownie. The dark chocolate was tempered with the floral, herbal flavour of saffron and cardamom, and a sprinkle of spiced hazelnuts completed the exotic picture. I’m afraid that this wasn’t as good as the baklava, but it was still very, very enjoyable.
I had wanted to visit Sezar the moment I came across it, and the reality was everything I had expected and more. The food was unlike anything I’ve ever had, and the staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and accommodating. It is a bit on the expensive side, but given the quality of the food, service, and ambience, I really can’t complain. Plus, I got a nifty 25% off my bill thanks to the Entertainment Book, so all up, it was more or less a perfect date night.
Rating: 16/20 – we need to talk about sezar.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.