Restaurant Reviews | Page 2 of 40 | Dani Valent

Restaurant Reviews

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?


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.


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.


Shall we get the name out of the way first? It's pronounced "soul" and you're to think not only of the essence coursing through the corporeal shell but also of a very wise bird. It's an indication of the balanced, deep experience that chef and owner Yiannis Kasidokostas is striving for: heartfelt, meaningful and considered.

© Dani Valent 2019