Eater – Page 9 – 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?


House of Mandi

"There's no wrong way to eat here," says Abdirahman Abdi, owner of House of Mandi, a Yemeni rice restaurant. That's lucky, because I've taken the "no cutlery" option and a cube of beef has fallen down my sleeve as far as my armpit and the cute baby in the highchair on the other side of the room is wearing less rice down her front than I am.

Napier Quarter

Australians each eat 47 kilograms of chicken a year. Surely that's too much, not least because it's sad to see a special occasion meal relegated to cheap protein, eaten unthinkingly in nuggets and wraps, but also because few of those chooks are as delicious as the roasted chicken at Napier Quarter. Like all the meat there, it's carefully sourced and adoringly cooked, as though every bite matters, which it does.

Noodle House by Lao-Luangprabang

I'm supposed to be somewhere in half an hour when it happens. A huge, steaming, fragrant bowl of noodle soup is put in front of me. Before I take my first slurping spoonful, I send a text message. "I'm going to be late. Something urgent has come up." Noodle soup can't be rushed, not in the making of it, certainly not in the eating of it, and definitely not when it's as good as the soup at Melbourne's first dedicated Laotian noodle house.

© Dani Valent 2021