Bianca: Last October, Alex and I spent 9 days eating till our hearts were content (and sometimes even beyond that) sampling some of the best food on offer in Melbourne. But it was our meal at Atlas Dining that really had us excited. The very fact bookings were so hard to come by had us very intrigued. I didn’t really know much about chef and owner Charlie Carrington prior to our visit but my research for this piece made me respect him even more. At only 23 years he puts most people (including this recent 30-year-old) to shame. But it’s Atlas Dining’s concept that really sets him apart. A complete menu over-haul every four months. You’re thinking. okay, that sounds normal. No, we’re talking focusing on a new cuisine EVERY four months.
Now that changes things… Previously there has been Vietnamese, Israeli, Korean and now Mexican. The Mexican tasting menu will set you back $65 for Five courses but I am not being hyperbolic when I say that this was the best meal of our trip and probably up there for one of the better meals we’ve ever had in Melbourne.
Crossing the threshold into the restaurant you’re immediately welcomed by the strong charred smell of a woodfire oven/grill. The decor is very elegant with exposed blonde woodwork with opulent copper furnishings. The music… big thumbs up. There was a constant rotation of diners during our early 5:45pm seating and I can see why.
Course 1 – Asparagus, Habanero & Green Chilli. Mentally, I enjoy the vision of seeing this placed before my father. It doesn’t go down well. But that’s the exact narrow-mindedness I hope Atlas challenges. It’s a stunning plate of food, as a ‘forest’ of up-turned asparagus. Very light and refreshing, no frou-frou to really hide what this should taste like, fresh vegetables. The cucumber and lime juice finishing sauce adding quite an acidic note. The very last bite was that of a fresh corn tortilla.
Course 2 – Zucchini Flower Taco. An amazing 3-4 bites that personified Mexico. Corn tortillas are my favourite ‘taco’ of choice. The barley giving a nuttiness and texture. The zucchini flower is quite a delicate main ingredient but its use here is handled well.
Course 3 – Chicken Oyster, Mole & Leek. The prized nugget of chicken! As a whole eating experience, this was very clever. Varying textures and temperatures have you guessing at each and every bite. The ‘oyster’ was like butter, with a concentrated chicken flavour, those that have had chicken skin know how amazing it is and here it’s on a whole other level.
Course 4 – Sea Bream, Banana & Green Tomato and Masa Sourdough -w/ Ancho Butter. The sea bream was incredibly soft and melted in the mouth. The charred cucumber was an interesting flavour, fresh but a noticeable caramelised flavour. The banana mole was light and aided to provide some moisture. The salsa of green tomatoes adding a fresh note. But the real star was that amazing sourdough, with strong corn flavour tones. Crispy and fluffy.
And finally Course 5 – Coconut, Lime & White Chocolate. A perfect way to end the meal. Despite the previous 4 courses, we weren’t feeling too overwhelmed by the volume of food. So this was both decadently rewarding without being over the top.
Run don’t walk, make a booking now!
Photos by Alex