Carlton, VIC 3053
Ph: 9347 4393
I'm extremely hesitant about dining out at restaurants on Lygon Street. It tends to be geared towards tourists who think they can get authentic Italian food there. But for Melbournians, we know that it's just mainly bad food and lots of street vendors trying to lure you into their restaurant with all sorts of promises. In fact, one of my worst dining experiences that angered me greatly was at a restaurant in Lygon Street, Alpino. There are some good places in Lygon and one that I would definitely recommend is D.O.C Pizza and Mozzarella Bar. Well, now I can add Universal Restaurant to that list of recommended places.
I was invited by Ashley from Food Pampering to visit Universal Restaurant. From the downstairs area, you would think that Universal is your typical Italian restaurant, with flags and posters decorating the restaurant. However, as owner Alfie informed us, they were slowly revamping the restaurant to have a classier feel. He showed us the upstairs area and it really was a beautiful space. It looked very clean and modern, with a wonderful balcony area. For now, the upstairs area is used for functions, but will eventually be used for regular dining. The downstairs will also get a makeover soon.
To show the bloggers invited what the food was like, Alfie had organised a selection of the restaurants more popular dishes. Michele and I's only request was that there needed to be delicious ribs, but luckily that was already going to be served to us. Below you can see the Buffalo Wings which I really enjoyed. I never understood why they're called buffalo wings? Anyone know. The Garlic Pizza and Roma Bruschetta were also good simple appetisers. I hadn't really thought of putting strips of beef on a pizza but the I Am Angus pizza really worked for me.
Chicken and Avocado are always a great combination so why not on a pizza. The pizza bases are really nice and with lots of topping, made for a delicious pizza. Oysters served natural and Kilpatrick were very good. The oysters tasted really fresh and this was one of the better Kilpatrick I have tasted.
The Seared Salmon was simply cooked, served with some watercress and vegetable ratatouille. Although the ratatouille was good, I don't think it was needed as it was really powering and didn't work with the fish well. Instead the fish tasted beautiful with just a squeeze of lemon. My favourite dish of the day was definitely the Seafood Risotto. The risotto was cooked perfectly and the seafood had great flavour, with the slightly spicy kick really appealing to me. The Tuscan Risotto was again cooked perfectly and the chicken and mushroom flavours really shone through. The most disappointing savoury dish was the Steak. The steak was actually quite chewy and lacked flavour. But the superb chips saved the day. They were crispy while still fluffy inside, chips to rival any served in hatted restaurants.
My second favourite dish for the day was the soft Lamb Ribs. The sauce was sticky and good, but I could have used more of it even. The ribs could have also been a tad softer and they would have been perfect. What I didn't photograph was the corn, grilled and covered in butter. Oh my goodness, it was so amazingly delicious that I ate most of it and everyone else only got a small tasting.
After all that food, we thought there might be one dessert or two, but Alfie brought out 5 of them. The Blueberry Cheesecake looks fantastic with the chocolate ball. Flavour wise, it was quite nice although very sweet.
The Pannacotta with Persian Fairy Floss was my favourite dessert. The pannacotta was smooth and creamy, with the fairy floss adding a unique flavour to it. The sorbets did not agree with me at all. I didn't find any of the flavours appealing. The Chocolate Mud Pudding was ok but tasted slightly burnt in flavour and not as soft as I wanted. I did like the macadamia ice cream though. Lastly, I was also disappointed with the Tiramisu. I was exciting spectacular, but got passable. The chocolate layer on the top really ruined it. Else, the layers underneath were quite good.
Overall, I was very impressed with the food. The savoury dishes were all quite nice, with highlights being the Seafood Risotto and the Lamb Ribs for me. Some of the desserts were ok but other can be improved by tweaking them a little. As we were there as guests, it's hard to judge the service, but the wait staff seemed efficient. The ambiance would be nice in that space with more people (we were there on Saturday lunch, not the busiest time on Lygon Street). I would recommend this restaurant as a option when looking for somewhere to eat on Lygon. The pricing of the food is very reasonable and the quality and execution good.
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Thanks to Ashley for the invite and I dined courtesy of Universal Restaurant.