The latest child in the Crown Complex household is Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons. It's only been open for a very short time, but people are really latching on to it and there was a long queue of people waiting for a table the night I was there. Both Jacky from Eating With Jack and Jon from Melbourne Foodie have already gone back twice and reviewed it both times, such is the regard they both hold it in. Reading their reviews made me really want to try it out, so when it was my good friend Kevin's birthday, I suggested we go there.
Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons doesn't take reservations, with a first come first served policy. This is both good and bad, which I might discuss in another post. Anyway, knowing this was the case, I made sure we got there really early to snap up a table so that we didn't have to wait. Arriving at about 6:30pm, the restaurant was already quite full. We asked for a table for 5 and were seated at a bench type table attached to the now famous salumi cabinet. Hence, we got to watch the waiters take meat from that cabinet all night and cut it up.
The decor of the restaurant is rather electic I think. I read that Jacky really liked the feel of everything, but I wasn't as convinced. The sparse scattering of tables was rather strange. We felt like we were stranded on an island sitting next to the meat cabinet, and missed out on most of the atmosphere of the surrounding tables. The tiles running on the floor and up the walls onto the ceiling was too distracting I thought. The windows were opaque and the Yarra river view was not capitalised by allowing patrons to see it. And I'm not a fan of the dark lighting that much. Even the toilets were strange. The unisex cubicle toilets weren't a concern for me, but the toilet doors didn't have any indication of whether that cubicle was being used. So I had to push every door to see which one would open.
We chose entrees to share from the menu, which also doubled as a table mat.We chose some oysters, the Raw Scallops and the Enzo Salumi that both Jacky and Jon raved about. The oysters were very fresh with a squeeze of lemon. The Enzo Salumi was soft and quite good.
The Raw Scallops had a nice texture, but the flavour was lost I thought. The accompanying lemon, peach and rocket overpowered the flavour of the delicated scallop.
We shared a variety of mains. The Pork Sausages with Lentil was quite nice. The house made sausages were definitely a class above your average sausage from the supermarket, but wasn't in the same class as those from the now closed Lazar. The Chargrilled Steak with rocket and peppercorns was quite good, the hint of chilli giving the dish an extra dimension. The Farfalle Pasta with Braised Game, Porcini and Peas was very nice. The pasta was cooked perfectly and the game gave it a strong flavour.
We wanted to order the Spaghetti Arrabbiata, but they didn't have that on the night, so instead we got the Risotto with Sausages and Bone Marrow was rich and well cooked. The Clams Casino (a rather strange name, I not sure what the casino part is supposed to imply, are you taking a risk of food poisoning by eating it?) was a dish I really liked. I love clams, and this mixture of clams cooked with Guanciale and Chicory was packed with the flavours of the sea. Dipping the bread into the juices was delicious.
The mains were all fairly good, but the desserts were excellent. The Raspberry Tart contained rose flavoured grappa and vanilla marscapone. It was extremely smooth and contained big juicy raspberries.
The "Canolli" 3 Ways had a sweetened ricotta, mocha zabaglione and vanilla custard filling. Each were good, but my favourite was the vanilla custard which combined the best with the crumbly canolli pastry. The Trifle was huge and could easily satisfy four people alone. It contained almond slivers, pistachio and raspberries hiding layers of cherry jelly and jam, whipped cream and liquer drenched sponge cake. It was a great combination and was not overly sweet as some trifles tend to be.
The best dessert of the night was the Baked Chocolate Pot with Chocolate Pearls. The pot was like a smooth dense mousse, intense with chocolate flavour. When combined with the crunch of the equally intensely chocolate flavoured pearls, it was a taste and texture treat.
Service throughout the night was not too bad. The waiters did fairly well. Only one waiter was a bit condescending. When we ordered 7 oysters, yes 7 is a strange number for 5 people, but that's what we wanted, he mocked us a little for ordering that by asking us if we were sure, and then emphasizing the number 7 when he delivered it. Also, later in the night, when I spotted Chris Johnson from the Brisbane Lions waiting at the bar for a seat, I asked for a confirmation from the same waiter. He turned around and just said "does it look like I would be into sport, who's Chris Johnson?" But otherwise, the service was quite good. The lab coats they were wearing was shocking though. It was such a bad look. Wearing all types of jeans and sport shoes and then wearing those coats just looked so wrong in a restaurant. It was like a scene out of my uni Chemistry class.
Overall, the experience was quite enjoyable. The food was well priced and of a good standard. I would come back here for a casual meal as that's what it felt like, rather than as a special occasion restaurant.
Overall Rating: 15/20, A good restaurant for an enjoyable casual meal.
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.