As has been pointed out many times by many people, there is a dearth of good South and Central American style places to eat around Melbourne. It's a bit of a shame really, as after watching a number of travel and cooking shows on TV the street food in particular looks really good and tasty. One of the few places with an authentic kind of feel, at least to this gringo, is Sonido on Gertrude Street.
First thing about Sonido that I have to say is that I love the feel of the place. It's very casually cool with mismatched chairs, open kitchen area and collection of assorted 'stuff' around the place. It's kind of cluttered without feeling hemmed in and the low level background music is some of the best around. It works well together to create a walk in and chill out atmosphere.
The food is mainly empanada and arepa, real street/snack style food. Empanadas always remind me of pasties, pastry covered meat or vegetable dishes that can be eaten sitting down or on the go. Sonido offers three different types and we sampled two, the empanada de carne (beef and olive empanada) and the empanada de chorizo (chorizo empanada). These looked different with very different outer pastries, one appearing baked (like a pasty) the other fried (like a curry puff). Consensus was that the empanada de chorizo was the better, with its pastry a bit more delicate and the filling tastier.
The choice of arepas is slightly longer. Our choices were the arepa de choclo (sweet corn arepa), the arepa de queso (cheese arepa) and the frijoles con feta (black beans and feta cheese). These were all good for different reasons, the flavour of the sweet corn, the taste and texture of the cheese oozing out of the arepa and the combination of beans and feta. It's good honest street food, not something I'd want everyday but a good quick option to fill an empty stomach or satisfy an occasional craving.
A variety of South American style drinks are available, including Inca Kola, a Columbian style hot chocolate and a hot 'tea' made out of sugar cane with lime juice. I can recommend the hot chocolate. Different in style to the creamier version you normally get around town, it has a stronger chocolate flavour without being bitter. It also looks cute when it hits the table, in its own jug ready for pouring into the cup.
Choice of desserts is a little limited with the most popular choice the Portuguese tarts. While alright I didn't think they were anything special but Ruby Grapefruit did speak highly of her chocolate and raspberry brownie.
Even on a quick weekday lunchtime visit we all enjoyed our time at Sonido. It's friendly, it's relaxing and the food is different but good. I think it would be even better for a weekend visit, with a greater chance to relax and not have to worry about rushing back to the office. It's one of those places where the place is as important as the food and rushing spoils that a bit.
Food - 7.5
Ambience - 8
Service - 7.5
Price - 7
69 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
Tel: (03) 9495 6636