There are dishes in restaurants that I often gravitate towards-something with duck, pork belly or black cod are examples. I go for these as I don't often cook them at home or they're made with a favourite ingredient. Conversely, there are dishes that I don't tend to order because they're simple to make at home: pumpkin soup is an example. Risotto sort of falls into the category as I like it, but Mr NQN doesn't and I always find that I get too full from a bowl of it.
But when we go to Tutto Bene on Melbourne's Southbank promenade, it's not a matter of whether I'm having risotto, but it's which one. Tutto Bene's specialty is risotto and the menu has nine to choose from. There's also a gluten free and a dairy free menu at the restaurant for those with allergies. We start with a choice of entrees.
Polipo - warm marinated octopus, green olive, kipfler potatoes, cherry tomatoes $10.50
The warm marinated octopus is very tender and served with slices of kipfler potato, halved green olives and semi dried cherry tomatoes. There was perhaps a bit too much olive on the plate but not enough octopus although I enjoyed the octopus and potato combination together.
Olive Ascolane - traditional Marche region green olives, filled with pork, veal, prosciutto and nutmeg, crumbed and fried 4 pieces $9.00
The olives are stuffed with pork, veal prosciutto and nutmeg and are then crumbed and deep fried. Stuffing an olive must be a labour of love but there is such a small amount of stuffing it's hard to taste the filling.
Pancetta di maiale impanato - crumbed pork belly filled with roasted pumpkin and herbs, served with a ginger and balsamic aioli $11.00
This dish out as three pieces of soft pork belly layered with pumpkin and herbs that were crumbed and crunchy. The pork is soft and yielding and the ginger and balsamic aioli lifts the unctuous squares of meat appealingly.
The egg yolk ravioli is a large raviolo filled with egg yolk with truffled buffalo ricotta. We expected it to be runny yolk that might dress the asparagus but it solidly cooked inside like a hard boiled egg yolk. The slender asparagus is well cooked.
Prosciutto di Parma e Parmigiano Reggiano 2009 - 16 months aged prosciutto di Parma and aged Parmigiano Reggiano $19.00
Anatra - organic duck, porcini mushroom and sage $27.50
There's a chill to the evening so I have been looking forward to the risotto. Special forks by rice maestro Gabriele Ferron are furnished for those eating risotto - apparently a fork is the only way one should eat risotto. The duck was my choice and I wasn't let down, it was filled with pieces of soft, organic duck and flavoured with porcini and sage. The serving is a good size and I have trouble finishing my portion given the starters but just the risotto would be a good dish for dinner along with some vegetables on the side.
Granchio - spanner crab with tomato and chilli $27.00
Most people order the risotto and are generous with sharing their dishes - it is after all a table full of food judges. The granchio is actually my favourite risotto. Vivid red and shiny, there were small, slippery, tender pieces of crab in the pasta and I loved the intense seafood flavour and vivid colour.
Ortiche - stinging nettles, truffle and pecorino $27.00
Another risotto that I really enjoyed was the stinging nettle, truffle and pecorino risotto which had no shortage of flavour from the three ingredients. It's probably a toss up between this and the crab risotto for me.
Risi e bisi - (from the Veneto region) fresh peas, pancetta, shallots and Parmigiano $25.00
The Venetian risi e bisi was like the shy cousin after the bold flavours of the Ortiche, Grancio and Anatra risottos. It didn't have quite as much presence as the rest.
Our sides are a baby artichoke, broad bean and pea salad with truffled pecorino and a tangy red wine and herb dressing.
Torte di mandorla e mele - apple and almond tart with prune and grappa gelato $14.00
Although everyone had done well with finishing their mains I had saved some room to try the desserts. The apple and almond tart comes out as a round tart topped with thin slices of apple prettily fanned to resemble a flower. The prune and grappa gelato that sits on top of it is strong in grappa.
*Opera – layered chocolate and salted caramel with peanut brittle $14.50 *
An Opera cake is one that I tend to order because I'm unlikely to make the fiddly multilayered cake at home. I was hoping for the multitude of layers but instead it is just two layers, one chocolate with a feuilletine base to give it crunch and a salted caramel layer. I'm not sure where the peanut brittle is, perhaps it's the paper thin caramel with tiny flecks of what may be peanut but overall, I was hoping that this would be something quite different to what it was.
Cannoli - cannoli of ricotta, candied fruit, pistacchio and an orange infused sauce $14.00
The cannoli is crisp with a ricotta filling but is really for those that love orange as the whole dessert is a tribute to the fruit and is at times overwhelmingly orange in flavour. But one thing that I do get from my meal here is an appreciation for risotto.
So tell me Dear Reader, how do you choose what to order at a restaurant? Is it what you feel like eating or what you don't cook much? Or do you tend to order something you've never eaten before?
This meal was independently paid for.
Southgate Shopping Complex/Southgate Ave, Southbank VIC 3006
Phone: +61 (03) 9696 3334
Sunday - Thursday 12:00-3:00 pm, 6:00-9:30 pm
Friday- Saturday 12:00-3:00 pm, 6:00-10:00 pm