To kick the whole thing off, Tutto Bene set up a special event for food bloggers, offering a set menu of five cocktails and six cicchetti, or grazing snacks. Mrs Leghorn and I turned up to give it a try. We’re not really cocktail people, but the snacks would be worth a try.
First to arrive were crostini with a mixture of eggplant, buffalo cheese, and other bits and pieces. Very well assembled, but not really my sort of thing.
Next was a crumbed wallaby cutlet. Whoever cooked this certainly knows their cutlets. The coating had a uniform golden-brown colour, the meat was tender, and the dish was seasoned just right. Surprisingly, there was no distinctive wallaby or game-meat taste.
After that it was zucchini flowers stuffed with salted cod. This was an almost-masterpiece. The stem and flower had kept their colour and texture, showing a real mastery of technique. This dish had nothing in common with the greasy and soggy zucchini flowers I’ve encountered elsewhere. It had just the right level of firmness, and really brought out the character of the main ingredient. Strangely, though, it suffered from a serious lack of salt (apart from the filling). Reluctantly, we had to find a salt shaker – something I never expected to do at Tutto Bene.
After that came panzerotti, pastries filled with ricotta. Similar to pastizzi, but the dough is not flaky. A tasty little treat.
Then it was on to baby calamari stuffed with risotto, in a chilli and rocket sauce. This was possibly my favourite dish of the night. Unlike the tasteless rubber rings that pass for calamari in most restaurants, the little pocket of squid was tender and flavoursome, nicely offset by the sauce.
The final dish was exquisite mezzaluna pasta. This is where the kitchen really worked its magic, taking stodgy ingredients like beetroot and carrot, and turning them into something memorable. The beetroot was in fact a fluffy mousse. What really made the dish, though, was the thin and delicate pasta.
In between dishes, Tutto Bene came up with some extras: a bruschettina with a surprising touch of chilli, and stuffed mushrooms with Taleggio cheese.
The mushrooms could easily be a dish in their own right, and once again showed off the artistry of the Tutto Bene kitchen.
Mrs Leghorn finished off the meal with a coffee (perfect) and some ice cream. The restaurant has a separate ice-cream section outside the front door, displaying an eye-catching array of colours.
For Christmas they’ve created some special flavours, like lamington and pavlova. If you have a sweet tooth, it’s definitely worth a shot.
And what a view!
OverallOn the day, there were a few teething problems that are likely to be sorted out with time. The crostini, for example, were served on pieces of wood rather than plates. A minor point, apart from the fact that the waitress was unable to pick the wood up from the table – it had no grooves or anything to enable a grip. The wallaby dish, though technically perfect, left us wanting something more, because none of the wallaby character came through. We thought particularly of a wallaby tartare we’d had in Beechworth a few months ago, but I’m sure there are other ways of highlighting the character.
Mind you, any criticism I make is in the context of a very high standard, because that’s what customers expect at Tutto Bene. Many of these dishes served at a lesser establishment would become that restaurant’s signature dish. The key to eating at Tutto Bene, I think, is that you can try any number of things that you would avoid elsewhere, because you know that Tutto Bene will get the details right. The stuffed zucchini flowers were possibly the best example of that, and I will make a bee-line for them next time I am back.
Find it atTutto Bene
M28/3 Southgate Avenue
Southbank VIC 3006
Phone: (03) 9696 3334