60 Lygon St
Brunswick, VIC 3057

After Gimlet, Etta has got to be the restaurant I’ve had the most difficulty getting into for a long while. It took a booking a month out to secure a weeknight dinner; and weekends? Forget about it. Fair enough though, as Etta has all the ingredients to become a superstar on the Melbourne dining scene – it’s a wine bar with a strong but freeform South-Eastern Asian influence, bolstered by a quality drinks list (so I’m told), and a relaxed neighbourhood vibe that nevertheless provides a little bit of glam, mostly in the form of the stunning bar en route to the main dining room. Oh and the food is, of course, delicious. Consider me charmed.

Rating: 15/20 – highly enjoyable.
Best dishes: abalone and lardo skewer (obvs), red curry rice salad – though tbh it’s all pretty tasty.

Greenlip Abalone and Lardo Skewer ($16ea)

The famous Greenlip Abalone and Lardo Skewer ($16ea) lives up to expectations, but it’s not really a surprise when the item in question consists of layers of abalone and fatty lardo, charred to bring out their aromas, and brushed in an umami-heavy abalone-infused soy. The sprinkling of pepper on top really sets it off, and the result, though not surprising, is glorious.

Fried Quail Egg, Shishito Pepper, and Sichuan Chilli Oil Skewer ($11)

The Fried Quail Egg, Shishito Pepper, and Sichuan Chilli Oil Skewer ($11), though less luxe than its surf ‘n’ turf sibling, must not be missed. A much more freeform take on the gilda, it’s a tiny, self-contained odyssey, moving from a crisp, gooey quail egg, to a fire-blistered shishito pepper, down to a creamy puck of roasted potato, and finally around to the classic tang of a pickled guindilla pepper. The puddle of Sichuan chilli crisp adds an unconventional burst of textural smokiness, and also happens to be very much on-trend.

Falco Sourdough, Smoked Brown Butter ($5)

I was initially going to skip the Falco Sourdough, Smoked Brown Butter ($5), but succumbed to peer pressure after overhearing the next table raving about it. Admittedly, the bread was good but not remarkable; what stood out was the lactic sweetness of the butter, standing out against the nutty notes. You bet every last bit was swiped up.

Smashed Crispy Duck Leg ($34)

Smashed Crispy Duck Leg ($34)

If you’re a fan of those spicy and herb-laden salads you get at Thai restaurants, you’re going to love the Smashed Crispy Duck Leg ($34). Riffing loosely off a papaya salad, the fresh green mango is tossed with plenty of Thai basil, and a flavour-packed pounded chilli. The centrepiece however is the succulent leg of duck, confited in coconut milk for tenderness and richness, and lightly smashed to maximise the crispy edges.

Grilled Marinated Pork Jowl ($52)

Contrary to the smaller dishes so far, the Grilled Marinated Pork Jowl ($52) is a hefty offering of protein. The fatty meat is marinated overnight in fish sauce and lime, then expertly grilled for a smoky aroma and decadent caramelised edges. It’s accompanied by a tangy side salad of charred lettuce and cucumbers, plenty of aromatics, and a drizzle of warm torched ginger dressing. It’s a nouveau take on a BBQ classic.

Red Curry Rice Salad ($36)

The Red Curry Rice Salad ($36) is the best I’ve had of its kind. The rice is truly crunchy (as opposed to kind of chewy and kind of tough), and is an absolute delight when paired with the tender calamari, handfuls of soft herbs, and the pungent smokiness of otak otak – a traditional Indonesian fish cake, wrapped in banana leaves and grilled.

Mango and Oolong Tea, Olive Oil Cake, and Peach Leaf Custard ($18)

Gently coerced into dessert, the Mango and Oolong Tea, Olive Oil Cake, and Peach Leaf Custard ($18) was a celebration of late summer, the fresh mango sticky-sweet against the cooling custard, and the moist, rich crumb of the olive oil cake.

Grapefruit Spritz ($15)

For a warm day, nothing beats a zesty Grapefruit Spritz ($15), the bitterness and bubbles cutting through the heat.

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  • Reply Waterfall 27/03/2024 at 10:13 am

    I know you’re a doctor but go easy on the fancy expy places… Haha

    • ming
      Reply ming 25/04/2024 at 12:40 pm

      Hahaha believe it or not we don’t earn that much at all! But most of us do ‘work hard play hard’, given they only let us out of the hospital once in a blue moon! ;)

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