Having finally found a reason to visit this much-lauded Melbourne restaurant, little did I anticipate that it would be a month and a half before I finally got around to writing this review. Better late than never though right? We headed in early on a Tuesday night and were a little surprised at how busy it already was. Catering to a relatively mature crowd, the restaurant was noisy but not overtly so. We were promptly seated at a table that looked a little too small for a tapas style menu (or perhaps that added to the vibe, but in any case lots of plate-juggling would occur for the rest of the night) and settled in for a night of good food and wine starting with a a glass of celebratory champagne. Pictures and remembering dishes was somewhat secondary to celebrating the occasion, so you'll have to excuse me.
MoVida offers a mix of Tapa (small individual pieces at $3.50-$5.50 each) and Racion (plates to share at $7 for olives to $50 for aged ham). We were enthusiastic about trying every dish and felt somewhat like kids in a candy store when presented with the menu, but our stomachs probably couldn't have stretched quite that far, and so restraint was required. Nonetheless, we still ordered a respectable number of dishes between us. Ordering in English seemed like the safest bet though because A. the waiters were obviously Australia and B. even if they were Spanish, my toddler-level Spanish would probably have offended them.
Overall, the food was very good. The flavours were unique and interesting, with little cross-over between the dishes (always good when you want to try many things). The tapa were mostly too small to share efficiently, but we gave it our best shot regardless. Now, if you're ready, here comes the parade:
First up, the ubiquitous dish of croqueta(s). The squid ink croqueta was contained within a cuttlefish skin that was reminiscent of a sushi roll.
|Croquetas de Choco en su Tinta|
Slightly chewy, the bite-sized morsel was packed full of flavour and texture. Definitely one of the better renditions of the dish I've had.
I have a weakness for goat cheese, so the Queso Manchego was a must order.
The cheese was delicate, and the quince paste was a nice counterpoint. I just wish there was more of the quince paste. The tiny sliver was barely enough for a bite of cheese, and without the accompaniment, the cheese got boring quite quickly.
Luckily, up next, we had the lovely Cordornice - pressed quail and morcilla with apple and pickled garlic.
One of the must order items on the menu was the Lengua - char-grilled veal tongue with green pepper sofrito.
The last two tapas dishes were greatly contrasted, we ordered the Cordero al Chilindron (Pyrenees wet roast lamb breast with fino and paprika sauce) and the Caballa Ahumado (house cold smoked Spanish mackerel with pine nut gazpacho sorbet).
|Codero al Chilindron|
We were wondering what the smoke smell that wafted by every few minutes in the restaurant was, but it wasn't until the smoked mackerel dish arrived at our table did we realise that this was the source of the intriguing aroma. Lightly smoked, the purity of the fish really shone through. Well presented, the pine nuts lent a nice 'crunch' factor to this dish.
After finishing the tapas dishes, with a lot of the aforementioned plate juggling, we moved on to the larger racions. I can get a little obsessive with my greens, so of course we ordered a salad. The Valencian salad with endive, orange, palm hearts and manzanillo olives was interesting enough to be counted as a dish on its own, rather than a side dish.
|Claims with Pea Sauce|
|Carrillera de Buey|
We couldn't wait for dessert though seeing as my companion had never had churros before. Ever. Unbelievable.
|Poached Figs with Vanilla Ice-Cream|
Somehow during the course of the night, we also finished a glorious bottle of red. At the recommendation of the sommelier, we went with the 2008 Palacios Remondo ‘Propiedad’, a mix of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Graciano. I loved it for the rich berry and vanilla flavours, but M didn't quite like how hard-hitting it was. Surprisingly, it matched most of the food quite well.
Overall, MoVida serves delicious but simple fare (for a top-class restaurant), good service, and a lively atmosphere in wonderful company made it a great night. While I can't pick a particular highlight, neither can I pick a particular disappointment. Do yourself a favour and book here when you're in the mood for great dining, minus pretentiousness.
MoVida Bar de Tapas
1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne