I had first heard of Balzari after reading Michael's post about Balzari. It sounded like a good restaurant, so when my friends Dennis and Kevin rang me to go to dinner, I suggested we try Balzari on Lygon Street.
The restaurant is a long thin room with an open kitchen behind the bar.
It has fairly dim mood lighting and lots of large mirrors and decorations on the wall. The booth seating at the end of the restaurant where we sat was quite comfortable. But it was a bit tacky to have butcher's paper on top of the white table cloth to reduce clean up.
The service was extremely slow, in terms of waiters and food. It took the waiter a long time to give us a drinks menu and we had to ask for it again. We settled on a '04 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Barossa Valley called St John's Road. It had a very strong taste. It smelt really good but had quite a bite to the after taste, which I didn't like that much.
For entrees we got the Confit Duck and Currant Pie with Braised Red Cabbage and Orange Sauce since it sounded very interesting. It tasted really good, with the crisp pastry wrapping a filling of duck confit. I really liked the sweet flavour provided by the currants and orange sauce.
For mains, Kevin got the Linguine Carbonara - Olive Oil, Bacon, Garlic, Egg Yolk, Breadcrumbs and Parmesan. I tried a little and it was very good. The crispy bacon and breadcrumbs tasted really good. It was a little too oily as Kevin had pointed out.
Dennis got the Chargrilled Black Angus Porterhouse With Warm Potato Salad, Red Wine Jus and Onion Jam. He showed me how nice and juicy it was done medium so that it was still pink. He said it was really good.
I got the Crayfish Bouillabaisse with Scampi, Pippies, Fish and Rouille. I asked for no mussels since I'm allergic to them. The dish was very nice but not very filling. The three halves of scampi resulted in probably one tablespoon of meat. Pippies aren't exactly filling and the few pieces of fish didn't not satisfy my stomach. Hence Kevin offered me some of his linguine that he was having trouble finishing anyway.
Only Dennis and I got dessert as Kevin was struggling to finish his pasta even. Dennis got the Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Strawberry Soup. It was ok but the panna cotta was too soft. It was a bit disappointing for the $14.50 it costed.
My Blueberry and Lemon Curd Trifle was also disappointing for $13.50. The blueberry was made into a jelly type thing as well as pieces of blueberry in the trifle. I couldn't taste the blueberry at all to be honest. The lemon curd was too sour for my liking.
The entrees and mains were good. The desserts were quite disappointing. The menu is quite limited and what you see on the website is basically all on offer. There is a specials board that had one entree and mains and thats it.
Atmosphere is nice, although the mood lighting is probably a bit too much. I love the open kitchen though. Seeing flames flying from the kitchen is a great sight. The service was a bit slow, with only two waiters working the whole restaurant.
Overall Rating: 12/20, Food is ok. Service is a bit lacking. The atmosphere and open kitchen are good.
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.
Just finally, on the way back to the car, I passed this sign. I've seen it a million times as I even park at the Carlton Clocktower sometimes.
But there was a smaller sign in the alleyway. Look what some funny people had done to the sign. My childish humour made me laugh at it :-).