Restaurant Reviews | Page 6 of 38 | 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?

Ned’s Bake

Ned Radojcic didn’t get the memo about South Yarra being a gluten-free suburb and he somehow accidentally opened a bakery here. In come the locals, shimmering in their activewear, bemoaning the problematic and pesky presence of flour. Radojcic, a Yugoslav aircraft engineer who arrived from Belgrade in 1989 with $238 in his pocket, begins his ‘breaducation’.

Panama Dining Room

It doesn’t matter how many times I lug myself up the steep stairs to Panama Dining Room, I’m always made at least as breathless by the city views as I am by the long staircase that got me there. This is a quarter-acre-block-sized bar and restaurant, so large that the billiard table and booths look like dollhouse furniture. Enormous windows face east (to the burbs and hills) and south (through plane trees to town). In a town of bolt-holes and boutique hideaways, it’s nice to take a turn in a place that has room for dozens of cool cats to swing, swig, swagger and dine.

Estelle by Scott Pickett

Sometimes a restaurant’s trappings are so many layers of distraction. At ESP, they serve to shine an ever more focused light on the food. Yes, there’s crisp service and excellent, interesting wines. Yes, you’ll be cosseted in a gleaming, comfortable dining room replete with gorgeous furniture and tableware. And yes, these accoutrements are all profoundly enjoyable. What you don’t get is smoke and mirrors. This is a chef’s restaurant and the trappings are there to support the sublime efforts of the kitchen.

Brother Shota

When Han Kim was a boy in south Korea, his father insisted he get up at 5am to come to the fish market. There Han had his first lesson for the day, choosing seafood for the family’s Japanese restaurant before heading to school. By the time he was 16, Han was working alongside his father, on track to take over the family business.

© Dani Valent 2018