Thursday, March 22, 2012

As sure-footed as a Himalayan bovine

Venue: Yak Bar pasta artigianale
Style: Italian
Address: 150 Flinders Lane, Melbourne [Google Maps]
Phone: (03) 9654 6699
Hours: Tue-Fri 7:00am-3:00am / Sat 5:00pm-3:00am
Prices: Starters $15.00 / Pastas $21.00 / Desserts $12.00
Bookings: Recommended

Angel hair pasta in squid ink sauce with calamari, shaved scallops

According to a review in The Age this week of shifts in Australian eating habits, the last decade has been unkind to Italian restaurateurs. Crazes such as low-carbohydrate diets and a preoccupation by the media with low GI (glycemic index) foods are unlikely to have done these restaurants any favours. Beloved by Australians, mainstays like spaghetti bolognese have had to compete with an explosion of choice on the dining scene, from food trucks to pintxos to authentic Mexican.

And while Melbourne is not without its stalwarts of the Italian culinary tradition, it has been a long time since I've been excited by an Italian restaurant. The cooking is invariably good but the price-to-portion ratio regularly strikes me as having been formulated in a Bizarro universe.

At Yak however, the mix of service, flavours, quality produce and value for money is in equilibrium.

Forest mushrooms with fresh goat's cheese and crusty foccaccia

We start with two beautifully plated appetisers of goat's cheese with wild mushrooms and foccaccia and a serve of tender calamari with salsa verde and shaved white zucchini.

Char-grilled baby calamari with salsa verde and shaved white zucchini

The mushrooms are suffused with rich, earthy flavour, enhanced by the decadence of the smooth goat's cheese. Good oil and herbs finish the dish. The calamari and zucchini is a marvel to look at and delicate to eat, with touches of citrus and saltiness.

Pizzoccheri with potato, cabbage, taleggio cheese, garlic, sage and brown butter

Mr. S orders the pizzoccheri on the grounds that neither of us know what it is. This rustic dish of buckwheat pasta and vegetables again demonstrates the kitchen's lightness of hand, with a burnt butter sauce adding just enough richness.

My angel hair pasta however is a dish I would return for alone, dressed in evil-looking squid ink sauce and finished with just-cooked calamari, shaved scallops and one tantalisingly fresh oyster.

Chocolate hazelnut tartufo

We cannot refuse dessert, given the quality of the meal so far and opt to share a rather anti-climactic looking tartufo. It is however finished off with good liqueur and hiding a heart of velvety hazelnut ice-cream.

Same as I ever was

Service is suitably attentive but unobtrusive, as in, our orders were taken promptly and our water regularly refilled, but no-one laid a guilt trip on us for not being interested in coffee, nor were we discouraged from sitting around to converse for more than an hour after we finished our dessert.

It stands to reason that a kind of complacency sets in with any food that becomes a staple. Yak however is doing great things with pasta and everything else we experienced. Order the one you've never heard of and know you're in good hands.

Yak Bar Pasta Artigianale on Urbanspoon

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