Eater | Page 4 of 50 | Dani Valent


We’ve all got to eat so it might as well be good! I’ve been a restaurant critic for almost 20 years, and have been writing a weekly restaurant column in Melbourne’s Sunday Age since 2006.

My approach is to always take a restaurant on its own terms: there’s no point slamming a burger joint because it doesn’t have white tablecloths. I try to be constructive in my criticism and I’ve always got the diner in mind: there are many places you could choose to go. Why should it be here?



Just as we've borrowed umami from the Japanese to describe the deeply addictive savoury lure of foods such as parmesan, tomato and mushrooms, cafe owner Reiji Honour thinks we need to add another concept to our culinary lexicon. It's encompassed in the name of his new cafe, Hibiki, which is Japanese for "sound" or "echo".


There's a special art to crafting a restaurant that feels like it's been trucking on for decades and Ercolano, on site for a year, has it nailed. It's the timber beams and family photos, the hanging salami and mantelpiece knickknacks, the Italian menu which makes a virtue of tradition and – probably above all – the warm welcome which suggests that there's always another seat at the family table.

Radio Chat – Restaurant Rules

I love dropping into ABC Radio Melbourne to chat about what I've been eating, cooking and learning. This time, I came in to talk about restaurant etiquette. What are diners doing to drive restaurateurs crazy and what annoys diners about eating in restaurants? This has been a hot topic recently - the spur for this discussion was the founding of Restaurant School by restaurateur Angie Giannakodakis.

Radio Chat – Too many zucchinis (and a bit about child obesity)

I love dropping into ABC Radio Melbourne to chat about what I've been eating, cooking and learning. This time, I came in to talk about gluts, those times when you just have too much of something and need to deal with it QUICK. But host Richelle Hunt had been talking about a new program to try to help teens with obesity and the topic kind of took over the show, so we chatted about that too. It's a fraught issue and there are no easy answers.


Fusion is a scary word, evoking clashing mish-mashes and monstrous melds. But in the right hands, it can be a lively conversation between unlikely new friends, a proof that combinations can indeed be greater than the sum of their parts.


Eaten much ostrich lately? (It's a red meat, akin to venison.) Chomped on croc? (Somewhere between white fish and chicken.) Hoed into buffalo? (Like beef, but leaner.) The only place in Melbourne you can get all these meats – admittedly, not always on the same day – is Polepole, an African-inspired restaurant that's been open four years and is now setting its sights on game meats.

Tuan Tuan

Given that I'm the kind of person who wakes up thinking about pork buns, I didn't leave it too long to get to Tuan Tuan, a new Cantonese-Filipino brasserie in Carlton. The restaurant is Australia's first incarnation of a brand that's famous in Manila, particularly for its "snow" buns stuffed with barbecued pork.

© Dani Valent 2020