It had been awhile since we’d visited The Crimean – about 18 months! To be honest, I wasn’t that enamoured the last time we dined here, my memories telling me that the food was just okay. But that was all about to change… because on this evening, our dining experience was memorable in all the right ways.
The Crimean is located in North Melbourne, about midway between our place and the lovely Rambunctuous R’s home. So, one Friday night – it seemed it was time to give it another go. It was more in the interests of catching up than having a fantastic meal. But as the night progressed, I realised I was getting both!
We were pleasantly surprised to receive a cute little amuse bouche to start our night – mushrooms stuffed with goats’ cheese. Yum!
Beef & pork polmeni, sour cream, paprika butter
For our entrées, we had opted to share a couple of dishes from the dumpling list. Look at these little babies – they are miraculous little parcels of joy. Quality mince filling, lovingly enveloped in a pasta wrapper, and then assembled in lovely slick of sour cream and paprika butter – subtly flavouring every gorgeous mouthful. These little dumplings are worth a visit all of their very own!
Chicken Kiev croquettes
A favourite for Andrew – does life get any better than beautiful chicken croquettes hiding a heart of molten, garlic butter? The outside is crispy and golden, while the inside reveals a moist, seasoned chicken mince sausage with a nucleus of liquid gold. Delicious.
Beef short ribs, red wine, mustard, potatoes & horseradish, roasted heirloom tomatoes
For his main, Andrew chose the beef short ribs – and I have to say it was the dish of the night. There was significant plate envy going on from both me and Rambunctuous R. The short ribs were incredibly tender and melt in the mouth, and the accompanying vegetables and jus melded the components together into a very satisfying blend of flavours and textures.
Banitsa: Balkan filo pie of zucchini, feta and dill, smoked tomato and honey sauce, lambs lettuce
Rambunctuous R was swayed by Frank’s glowing recommendation of the vegetarian dish on the menu. A large filo pie filled with all an herbed mixture of zucchini and feta. She was very happy with it, and although she ordered the beef on her next visit (again with us), I have it on good authority (her own) that she’s ordered this again! Always testimony to a great dish!
Quince and orange braised lamb shoulder, chestnut, spinach and buckwheat kasha
I have to say that I think I ordered the next best dish of the day – the lamb shoulder was fall apart tender, and the kasha (a buckwheat grain similar to barley) mixed with the spinach and chestnut was a delicious, healthy, hearty complement to the meat. A beautiful dish.
Alongside our mains we had some lovely side dishes – the lettuce salad was simple and fresh, while the fried cauliflower was an amazing way to serve the usually pristine white vegetable. The florets had been tossed with capers, fried off until they were golden brown and then sprinkled with fresh parsley and sharena sol (coloured salt). Lovely!
With our meals, we enjoyed this wonderful pinot noir – Skin and Bones. I had never heard of it before, but it had a gorgeous silky mouthfeel. It hailed from the Adelaide Hills – a region I wouldn’t normally associate with pinot – nonetheless it was a brilliant accompaniment to our meal.
Just when you thought you were finished (because there certainly was no room for dessert) a jangling, mesmerising sight appeared: Frank with the vodka trolley! Each bottle, fresh from the freezer, wore a jacket of frost. There were at least 20 to choose from and Frank introduced each one of them in seemingly freakish speed. We each chose something different – mine was the honey one, and the consensus was that I chose best! I’m not sure if frosty vodka counts as a digestif – but it worked for us, and formed a perfectly fitting ending to a surprisingly delicious night!
The Crimean is a brilliant restaurant – from the wonderful dumplings to the amazing mains which represented a modern twist on Eastern European classics. We’ll definitely be back (in fact, we already have been) and have firmly fixed it to our list of local favourites. You should check it out and see if it makes yours. Bon Appetit, or should I say Dobar Tek!