Restaurant Reviews | Page 4 of 39 | 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?

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.


Sometimes duck is just duck: bird on a plate. But when chef Joe Grbac is cooking duck it's a shrewd but tender honouring of produce, a showcase of flavour matches and a sensitive mastery of cooking techniques that ensure the bird is conversation-haltingly delicious.


What's the sound of Thai food? If you're at BKK, the easygoing bar/restaurant off Chapel Street, it's the crunch of betel leaves, herbs and peanuts, the clack of chopsticks as you try (and, if you're me, fail) to pick up slippery rice noodles and the preoccupied "mmm-mh" when someone asks you if the food is tasty.

Mama Manoush

You know those people who touch food and it turns to gold? Mama Manoush's Elizabeth Kairouz, 50, is one of those culinary alchemists. She'll tell someone a recipe, exactly, and they'll follow it assiduously, but they always say the same thing: "It just doesn't taste like yours." She shrugs. "What can I do? I tell them, 'Take my hand.' That's the only thing that's different."

© Dani Valent 2019