Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons review - terrific!
Just came back from an excellent dinner at GAS, the new Terzini place at Crown, Melbourne. I was going to leave this until I write a Melbourne report, but it was so satisfying I felt I had to spit it out first.
Firstly, they don't take reservations, so my advice would be to go earlier or later (dinner service begins at 6pm) - we went at 9pm.
Location: where one of the Warner Bros. stores were - the space is hence pretty big, and the decor is quite industrial meets retro, with 50s-style tiling all round. The salumi glass case just behind the bar area is an ace gawping opportunity.
Menu: large, very reasonably priced (mains come in approx. under $30), split into various sections - antipasti, zuppe, pasta, meats, crudo (raw), seafood, offal (yes, offal is a category), dolci etc. The style of food is casual, hearty Italian - think ragu, braised meats, veal, simple steamed fish etc.
We started with veal polpotte (pls excuse any spelling mistakes) from the antipasti cat., and "hand dive" hervy bay scallops plus sardines from the crudo section. The scallops were mind-blowingly fresh and was perfectly paired with its slightly tangy dressing + lemon juice. veal meatballs were good too, deep golden brown and piping hot from the deep fryer, v. tasty.
Mains - two of us had pastas, which were very well done, but the highlight was the stuffed pig's trotter from the offal section of the menu. It was stuffed with lamb sausage, celery, majoram etc. and cooked till the pork skin was translucent and jelly-like. It was delicious, if not a bit too salty - though it does come on a bed of veg (watercress? silverbeet?)
Dessert - portions were pretty big, so we could only fit one dessert in - it was a fresh raspberry, mascapone and vanilla tart. Perfect tart base (like a tuile - crisp, yet cookie-substantial), runny mascarpone mixed with grappa for a slight twang, and juicy berries. Simple yet totally yum!
So all in all I was very impressed (not so much by the sparse/capricious decor, but anyway, I'm not here to eat tiles), esp. for the price. Dinner for 3, incl. a glass of vino each came to A$150, which is a bargain at Crown, and for food and service of that calibre. (Service by the way was swift, though not always perfect, but never annoying).
Would love to hear if any other hounds have been!
I am afraid I was disappointed in my meal at GAS last night. I was looking forward to my dinner based on the reviews on this website as well as The Age Review. I have been living in Melbourne since July and I have eaten at ~50 restaurants in the The Age Good Food Guide across all cuisines and price ranges. I have some sort of an idea about the food that Melbourne offers. I came in at around 6 pm, was warmly welcomed, and seated at one of the counters. I thought the restaurant layout was very nicely done and it was great to have a nice view of the bread cutting station and the salumi station, as well as my fellow diners. The maitre d' took my order, helping me to choose the crab arrabiata over the sea urchin spaghettini and the lamb cacciatore over the veal shank. The arrabiata had a nice flavor to it, but was not particularly memorable. The portion size was generous, but when I asked to take about half of it home, the maitre d' gave me a funny look, but did wrap it for me. The lamb portion was very small, the lamb was overcooked (a little tough) and the flavor was, again, not particularly memorable. It came with some chicory that was OK. I had asked the maitre d' to pair a glass of wine with it and when a waiter brought the wine he did not inform me what it was. I had to ask each time to have my water re-filled. Like e_ting above, I had the mascarpone tart and I can't recommend it as highly. I thought it was just OK. I felt that the service lacked some polish--no one ever came by to ask how a particular course was going. I eat out all the time by myself and the better restaurants treat me just the same as a table of four. I did not feel treated especially well at GAS. I certainly do not feel that this restaurant deserves the 16/20 score that The Age gave it. I thought the food was good, but not at the level of a two-hat restaurant. I would like to go again to see if I, perhaps, did not order the right dishes (the menu is extensive), but I only have a month left here and I want to hit some of the restaurants that I really liked again before I leave. As far as Italian goes, that would be Da Noi where the meal I had was far superior in terms of food and service at about the same price. I am glad that the other posters had nice meals at GAS. I think it has great potential and the prices are certainly nice.
Thanks for the reference to Ruth Reichl. I was not aware that she was recently in Melbourne, but I found the brief interview Lethlean had with her in The Age. I thoroughly enjoyed her book, Garlic and Sapphires. I have not eaten at Press Club, which she liked, or Longrain which she didn't. However, my meal at Botanical has been my best in Melbourne so far. I also agree with her that food is pretty expensive here compared to the US. However, when I was here in 2002 I wasn't complaining when the US dollar was much stronger!
interesting that RR thinks food is expensive here - something to do with the dollar, as ChemWork mentioned, perhaps? having moved to HK, where anything near decent 'western' dining costs both arms and a leg, i'm hard pressed to say melb is expensive. GAS, in particular, i thought was v good value - considering it's not attempting the gastro heights of grossi, becco and the like - remember, GAS don't even take reservations! i'm thinking GAS as a good alternative to sofia's (ahem...) where i can go with budget-conscious ppl and still have decent food!
btw, i must reiterate that service wasn't perfect, but having read so much about a 'service shortage' in melb/aust in general, can't say i was expecting much of a new resto :P