Vlado's is nearly an institution in Melbourne when you want to eat steak. I had been wanting to go to Vlado's for a while, especially after reading very favourable reviews such as that from Sarah. She even managed to score some free raw steaks after the meal. What the? I've never heard of anyone getting raw ingredients from a restaurant to take home, but I wouldn't say no. So when Vlado's was thrown around as an option for a work dinner, I quickly threw in my agreement.
Ron and I arrived precisely on time at 6pm, quickly followed by Kemal, Vela and then Karl and Claudia. The small wooden door would be quite hard to find if I hadn't already scoped out the place many times. Upon walking through the door, I was surprised to find a rather small room decorated with all types of plaques and photos. I would usually say this type of thing is tacky, but with so much history behind this restaurant, it felt more homely than tacky. We were seated by the waiter, who said he had just setup the table from a lunch crowd that just left. Gee, who are these lucky people who get to have lunch until 6pm.
We were presented a drinks menu, and I selected a Gulf Station Cabernet Sauvignon 2006. I had tried this previously and it's not too bad. Also, I was watching the price, more on that later.
The waiter brought the wine and poured some for half the table while others preferred orange juice. Shortly after, the starting entrees were brought. If you don't already know, there is no menu at Vlado's. The only choice is the set menu of meat, meat and more meat. Like the sign says, "40 years of no change". According to my work mate Karl though, there has been some slight change. They've added lettuce and tomatoes to the salad.
The entree of sausages was very delicious indeed. The sausages were made in house. While we had just finished devouring our sausages, platters of meat entrees arrived. There were hamburger patties, liver, pork, eye fillet. Each meat was perfectly cooked and very tasty. My favourite was the pork, surprisingly. I don't usually like pork but this one was very good.
By this stage, we had finished our first bottle of wine already. Karl turned to Ron and say "So, should we get another bottle. We're here already, we might as well go for another bottle" or something to that effect. So Karl ordered the Grant Burg Nebuchadnezzar Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon. Upon hearing the name "Nebuchadnezzar", I thought it was a really strange name for a wine. Then something popped into my head, and I say "Hey, that's the ship from the Matrix". I thought that was a good pick up, until Kemal said "Nebuchadnezzar was actually a king during Babylonian times". Ooops, how bad is my history. Kemal laughed and said that so many references are reused today that the younger generation don't even know the origins of a lot of things. Well, I have learnt another thing now. The wine, by the way, was very nice. The shiraz cab sav mixed worked well.
Our first choice for the night was for what steaks we wanted and how it was cooked. Everyone else got the eye fillet, but I love the flavours of the fat through a porterhouse so got that cooked medium. The steak was cooked perfectly and served without any embellishments. I didn't use the mustards at all, and just ate the steak with some cabbage. A well cooked piece of meat has so much flavour.
I was really full after the steak, so went for a bit of a walk. I went to the toilet, which passed the kitchen and another room in the back. Being a huge sticky beak, I peered into the kitchen and the other small room. That small room looked very private. It must be reserved for special guests I think. I might try to get a table back there next time. I also stopped for a photo with the chef. Obviously, he is too young to be Vlado, but he does have a striking resemblance with younger photos of Vlado. I wonder if this is Vlado's son or relative? Does anyone know?
For dessert, there was a choice of Ice Cream with Strawberry or Strawberry Pancakes. Vela opted for just plain strawberries as she was really full. Most got the famous strawberry pancakes. The pancakes were good. The strawberries weren't the best, as it's not really strawberry season now.
I have been told by another friend that Vlado and Lazar, from Lazar's Charcoal Grill used to be business partners. They both do the same type of food so I can't help but compare them, even though Lazar's is no longer around. I have to say, that from the two times that I went to Lazar's, I felt his sausages, salad and pancakes were much more superior. But as you all know, the mind plays tricks on us and we tend to remember things much more fondly. Just take my recent Koko experience as an example. I thought it wasn't as good as the first time. But as good as the Vlado's sausages and pancakes were, they didn't give me that "ummmm" moment when those words just naturally come out of my mouth when I eat something really good. The steaks are equally good, and Lazar's didn't have the meat platter, although his beef soup was yum yum yum.
The service was prefessional with a touch of personable. I told this to a friend, who was a little surprised as he said the waiters don't usually converse much with the patrons. But I guess since we asked questions, the waiters had to reply. The atmosphere in the room is really good I thought. The small setting was intimate, yet at the same time private. Each table is separated from the next by not laying them in neat rows next to each other. There's nothing worse than hearing every word your neighbours are saying and feeling awkward about talking as I felt at Verge. The noise level in Vlado's was vibrant, but you can still hear your dining companions.
Finally, what was the best part of the meal? As I alluded to at the start about choosing a cheaper wine, it was because work was paying for the meal. Yep, the whole meal was completely free. It was a work treat for doing a great job on our recent project. We decided to celebrate the success and much fun was had by all at Vlado's. I think I would occasionally go back to Vlado's when I really craved an all meat meal.
Overall Rating: 15/20, If you want meat and just meat, Vlado's does it well.
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.