Published on May 13th, 2011 | by ladyparker0
Review: Magic at MoVida: A Paragon of Spanish Cuisine (Melbourne, AUS)
Summary: MoVida has the formula right. Fantastically themed, outstanding food and inspiring surroundings - it's a must-do in Melbourne.
“MoVida takes you places you’ve never been before.”
“The best Spanish food I’ve ever tried.”
“Tapas takes on new meaning when you dine at MoVida.”
These are some of the statements going viral about this veracious little restaurant in downtown Melbourne. However you will likely triple-take as there is not just one, but three MoVida venues such has been its success and popularity among the denizens of this city.
The brainchild of talented chef Frank Camorra, ‘MoVida’ was designated as the name for this holy grail of Spanish food, wine and ambiance in honour of the movement that fervently ignited after Spanish dictator Franco died in 1970. Art, film, music, and the somethesia that accompanies those things were liberated.
From MoVida’s small beginnings in a grafitti-pervaded alleyway off Finnigan Street to the now trio of establishments playing to the same musical score but varying in characters, plot and cinematograpy, it is a concept imbued with admiration and adoration. Of the three (plus one outdoor cafe/bar), the original MoVida was the setting of our evening of bon vivantism.
In order to truly express the unbelievable quality, creative thought and attention that has gone into every dish at MoVida it is necessary to explain Camorra’s background. He’s half Spaniard, half Australian and this agreeable mix shows through in every element in his restaurants.
The wine list wonderfully marries Australasian wines with the Old World with an obvious emphasis on Spain. Staff are upbeat, worldly wise, and have that saucy Spanish manner that makes a dining experience relaxing yet diverting.
Not only is MoVida’s home baked bread empyreal it provides a welcome complimentary starter whilst visually devouring the words on the page. Fortunately there being four of us, it was an ideal number to traverse largely the entire menu.
It is hard to single out anything to dislike about the menu – it features tapa, (small pieces suitable for one), and racion which are plates to share amongst two or more people, or can be more substantial dishes if your not feeling in a divvying mood. Notoriously, every dish has flavour combinations that animate faces, extort sighs of pleasure and provide the impetus for gastronomic conversation.
With a strategy in place it is decided to fashion an assortment of dishes to complement a white Spanish wine, which with the Sommelier’s well-informed guidance was the 2009 Bodega Fundadas Albariño Fefiñanes from Rías Baixas, Galicia, Spain. Grapefruit citrus, peach, floral notes and a nuttiness was prevalent here which suited it to a wide array of racion and tapas (well, it simply had to!)
A real standout tapa was the Anchoa – hand-filleted Cantabrian Artisan Anchovy on Crouton with Smoked Tomato Sorbet ($4.50 each). The incredible contrast in fresh saltiness from the anchovy, and slighty sweet, smokey sorbet shocks the palate with gelid flavour; the crunch of the crouton heightens the commotion going on, and in collusion they are euphoric.
We could not be disloyal to the Oysters as their special was narrated with purpose to the table – they did not disappoint.
The Monte y Mar – Pork-stuffed Calamari with Squid Ink Dressing ($7.00 each) were exceptional. In a lurid display, the tender calamari firmly encased golden pork which rested upon a painted rill of squid ink. It was a plate of succulence, and it smacked of Spain.
However nothing could be more Spanish than jamon, and not being able to resist both offerings on the menu, the Carrasco Paletilla Iberico de Bellota - aged 24 months (50 grams) ($28.50) and the Carrasco Jamon Iberico de Bellota – aged 36 months (50grams) ($50) with pan catalan appeared on the table. These jamons, particularly the Iberico bestow upon you a blissful, at-one-with-the-universe moment. An unadulterated melt in your mouth experience.
The chef’s at MoVida have a zeal for sorbet and particularly pairing it with seafood – after the Anchoa episode we simply had to taste the House Cold Smoked Spanish Mackerel with Pine Nut Gazpacho Sorbet or ‘Caballa Ahumado’ ($18.50). The confluence of flavours is beautiful, and overall it’s an elegant, tantalizing dish.
Being in the viscera of Melbourne’s dining scene necessitates perusing the wine list for an interesting regional red. Taking a punt, the 2005 Yarra Yerring Dry Red Wine No.5 (Yarra Valley) is ordered. It’s a fascinating proposal as it is a Touriga Nacional – a variety from Portugal, and uncommon in Australia. The extensive descriptors that resound around the table upon its pouring is profound. Blue and black fruits, herbaceousness, and the most wonderful lush floral notes – especially violets – are present. There’s also some cocoa, and allspice which appear in the spectrum. It has bright acidity, and a winsome tannin structure.
To match this gorgeous red, we opt for a number of magnificent tapas and racion – two dishes stand out as clear favourites: The Cecina - Air-dried Wagyu with Poached Egg and Truffle Foam ($19.50) was to die for. The Wagyu was not too fatty by virtue of it being delicately air-dried – the high fat content is a hallmark of this idolized beef, and often it can be overwhelming, not so here.
Equally incredible was the Duck Liver Parfait with Pedro Ximenez Foam and toasted Brioche or ‘Higado del Pato’ ($12.50). It matched beautifully with the Yarra Yerring and the sensations between the velvety parfait, silken foam and crunchy, buttery brioche were unforgettable.
Sticking with the Pedro Ximenez theme, the Carrillera de Buey – Slowly Braised Beef Cheek in Pedro Ximenez on Cauliflower Puree ($19.50) was a rich and moreish dish. We cried tears of rejoice over the Setas Asadas con Jerez – Oven-roasted Portobello Mushrooms finished with Sherry Vinegar ($11.50), made short work of the Cerdo con Habas – Slow-cooked Pork Jowl with Fennel and Borlotti Beans ($12.50), and toyed with the Queso Manchego ($4.50) with its soupçon of quince paste.
When you are feeling as quintessentially content and complete after a dining experience such as this, as we were, and no matter how many notches on your belt demand to be freed, there is somehow still an uncontrollable propensity to order dessert. Which we did.
Helados de la Casa – Housemade ice-creams served with Fig Bread ($13.00) (Pedro Ximenez icecream featured here); Ganache Caliente con Turron – Hot Chocolate Ganache Pudding with Vanilla Bean ice-cream and Nougat ($13.50); and Vasco – Basque Tart with Quince and Merengada Ice Cream ($12.50) all paired exquisitely with a Piedro Luenga Pedro Ximenez. The PX was smooth, silky, and viscous and the aroma profile was teeming with dried Turkish figs, dark honey, lavender, allspice and raisin.
With so many successful flavour feats that evening we were quite eager to purchase not just one but both MoVida recipe books – gorgeous publications that reflect the ethos of this special institution. I am happy to report they truly oblige in facilitating the recreation of the MoVida experience in your own kitchen!
The formula at MoVida is so right: the food – some of the best I’ve ever experienced, the service – expertly understated, the ambience – culturally inspiring. For these reasons MoVida wears the crown of a restaurant par excellence.
1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne, 3000
(03) 9663 3038