After going to Saha the previous day to sort of celebrate my upcoming birthday that I don't really celebrate, again some friends and I had another excuse to eat out. This time, I chose to go to Bar Lourinha on Little Collins Street after reading Serenity Later's blog post where one of the dishes was described as a "tastebud orgy". How can you resist that? So Dennis, Patrick, Kevin, Candy and myself went there on Saturday.
Bar Lourinha, and it was just that, an extremely small bar, was very busy. We had to wait about 50 minutes since we didn't book, but we had come this far and would eat in there if we had to wait all night. It was extremely dimly lit and the noise levels were unbelievable. Being such a small place and crammed with so many people, you literally had to shout to be heard. We were seated at these chest height tables where you actually had to share a long table with other patrons, a rarity in Melbourne.
Bar Lourinha serves small tapas so we ordered nearly all of them from the menu. I had read one review on some restaurant rating site where someone said that the serving sizes were generous and filling. Let me just clear that up before we start, don't let my photos decieve you, the dishes were, in my opinion, very small. It is on a par with Movida in terms of sizes of dishes and pricing. However, the quality (or more accurately, Thanh's like of the food) is a different issue. More on that later.
The Yellowtail Kingfish "Pancetta" was ok but not fantastic. The fish itself was kind of bland and the lemon oil didn't add to it that much.
The Wagyu "Carne Cruda" and Shave Horse Radish was again good but not great. The raw wagyu was not as flavoursome as other wagyu I've tasted. For a great, let me emphasis GREAT, raw beef, you have to go and try the one at Horoki. It blows this one out of the water and is cheaper too. Not that this one was bad, but just not great.
Probably my favourite savoury dish of the night, was the night's special of Veal with Fennel. The veal had great flavours and I really liked the sauce.
The Twice Cooked Octopus had great texture and the flavour was ok. But I have to compare it to the Paprika Octopus with Potato at Movida which was just superb and similarly priced.
The Spiced Chickpea and Spinach salad was done very well. The chickpeas were cooked right through till they were nice and soft and the spiced flavour was interesting, if slightly too salty. Compared to the Chickpea Salad at La Paella, which was excellent, this one was again give the ok by me. Do you start to see a pattern emerging?
The sausages again were, you guessed it, ok but not great. Compared to the sensational sausages at Lazar's, these ones were very bland. The Lazar's sausages were, and still are, the best I've ever eaten. It totally gave me that "wow, mmm, this is fantastic" reaction both times I went there.
Ok so we finally came to the Roasted "Tastebud Orgy" Mushroom with Garlic Cream. I have to say that they were good, but I wouldn't quite go as far as saying they were a "tastebud orgy". However, one dish later on I would use those terms to describe. Do I have you on the edge of your seat in anticipation?
The Chicken "Piri Piri" Winglets was given the "Did they forget to flavour this" comment from Patrick. He said that in contrast to all the other dishes that were so strong all night, this dish was almost flavourless. I would have to agree. It tasted like the chicken wings that I throw on the BBQ with a drizzling of lemon. Seriously, my mum marinates much better wings and for $14, she makes 3 kgs of it and I stuff myself until I cannot eat anymore.
The Chorizo with apple cider went into one of those "thats very different" category. I did like it and found the apple nice.
Desserts sounded great, but were hit and miss again. The Spiced Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse were a definite miss. It was actually disgusting and we each took one small spoon and that was all that was eaten of it. The Spiced Chocolate tasted like mouthwash, but worse. And since it was all over the mousse, we couldn't even remove it and just eat the mousse.
Ok finally, the one dish of the night that was a "tastebud orgy" was this beauty. The Pomegranate Cream with Pistachio Praline. This dish was divine. It was sort of like a firm panna cotta with some really beautiful flavour. But, when eaten in a whole mouthful with the pomegranate and the pisatchio praline, I kid you not, it was just amazing. We all finished this dish off extremely quickly.
The Donuts with Custard, that's what I'm calling them anyway since I forgot the name, was ok. The outer dough was very sweet and the custard type thing inside was ok. It had some honey jam on the plate which went well with the donuts.
The Churros with Chocolate Sauce was one thing that is better than Movida. The churros itself had better texture (is a bit softer and not overly crunchy) and the Chocolate Sauce is also better.
The place itself is ok, but I think its actually a bit too crowded and noisy for a meal. It was quite uncomfortable sitting so packed together and hard to eat. Talking was very hard and we found ourselves shouting across the small table to be heard. Service was very good, almost too good. Candy said she was very self conscious since the waiters would literally hover behind us and watch us finish the last things on the plate before they would remove the plate. In fact sometimes, we hadn't finished what was on the plate and they would start taking it away which meant we actually had to stop them and feel sort of silly since we wanted that last piece of sausage or that piece or the salad with the wagyu.
The cost for the meal wasn't expensive but neither is it cheap. For the same cost roughly, $40 each here compared to $46 at Movida where we got a French wine as well, I enjoyed it ten times more at Movida in terms of atmosphere and food. So I guess you can guess that I will be going back to Movida for my Spanish food in future. However, Bar Lourinha is far from bad, and if you like that crowded bar type environment, do give it a try.
Overall Rating: 12/20, Food and service ok. Atmosphere a bit too crowded and noisy for my liking.
Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.