4A Bond Street
South Yarra, VIC 3141
There’s not much better than a good bowl of pasta, and these days I don’t even feel all that guilty having the occasional hefty bowl of butter-drenched carb-laden goodness. After all, there’s no harm in having the occasional indulgence, especially when I’ve been having a salad with quinoa and kale in it for lunch all week.
And so it was in that spirit that I checked out Thirty Eight Chairs, a little pasta bar just off the bustle of Chapel Street. Because as much as I adore Tipo 00, there’s just no way for me to get a table on a weeknight, given how far I work from the city.
Thirty Eight Chairs seats – you guessed it – exactly thirty eight people. It is a tiny, intimate little space filled with quaint wooden furnishings, and stuffed with a range of Italian knick knacks, cans, and bottles. It is cosy and romantic inside, but we decided to perch on one of the little tables out front, so as to enjoy the balmy summer evening.
The Reginetta Ricce al Ragu di Anatra ($32) – what a mouthful! – is the unofficial signature dish, and sure enough, you can see at least one bowl on every table. The ‘nonna-styled’ pasta is soft, sticky, and rib-hugging, perfect for soaking up the deep, rich flavours of the sauce. I was especially impressed with the ragu; the duck slow-cooked until it fell apart, its rich flavour supplemented by earthy porcini mushrooms, and thick shavings of musty pecorino. This dish encapsulates everything wonderful that comfort food has to offer, and is definitely one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had to date.
The Fettucini all’uovo con Funghi ($27.5) is a slightly more grown-up rendition of comfort food. The wide, chewy strands of fucttucini were absolutely drowned in butter, and topped with an entire harvest of mushrooms. I counted at least 5 different types – all cooked to plump, meaty perfection.
There was a dedicated dessert menu that featured all the classics, but I was enamoured with the special of Vanilla Panna Cotta ($14). This was dessert at its sleekest and sexiest, the creamy vanilla custard wobbling seductively with a texture so silky that you could sip it through your teeth. There was some apricot puree and diced mango on the side, but frankly it is a mere afterthought compared to the panna cotta.
If you do the maths, you’ll notice that our meal did not come cheap. At $35pp for one main each and a dessert to share, this is pricey, even for the quality of the food on offer. Still, I can’t pretend I didn’t enjoy my meal, and the very Italian vibe of the restaurant. Plus, Thirty Eight Chairs has the added bonus of feeling like a hidden gem you’ve discovered for yourself, and that definitely adds to the allure if you ask me.
Rating: 14/20 – nonna’s pasta.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.