Bianca: A restaurant named after one of our least favourite fishes, how was this dinner going to pan out? Anchovy offers a modern Aust/Asian menu with an all-female team. The name you ask? Anchovies are no-where on the menu BUT fish sauce is in almost every dish and anchovies are a main ingredient in the potent condiment.
Chef and owner Thi Le, a Sydney native honed her craft at Christine Mansfield’s Universal and popular Melbourne stalwarts Cumulus Inc & Supernormal. Going into their second year of trading it’s clear they’ve really hit their stride. We honestly didn’t know much about the food or the restaurant before our visit so were blank slates going in.
The Wild Garlic Pastry -w/soy & sesame $10 sounded so weird on paper we just had to order it. Very spanakopita-esque, reminiscent, flavour wise to chives, with the wild garlic giving off a soft and slightly caramelised note. The pastry crip and the accompanying sauce giving a salty tartness.
Grilled Port Phillip Calamari, qukes, radish, hot & sour rhubarb $24 is where things really escalated. I wrote one note in my phone, FIERY! The presentation was genius, with the calamari segmented and presented as you’d find it, the calamari having a tender bite. The pickled cucumber & veg providing some crunch and relief from the heat permeating this dish. I think we started sweating at this point.
I was in love with the Stir-fried drop noodles, red curry spice, betel leaf & nem $22. Another spicy dish offering no respite. The noodles were thick, pasta-like strands but retained some bounciness. The Vietnamese pork sausage (nem) was particularly tender and full of mixed spices & herbs. The fried crispy egg adding a whole other level of texture and once the yolk is broken, created a creamy coating for the noodles. A gorgeous amalgamation of flavours. There was a cooling fragrant end note of lemongrass.
Who knew we could get so excited over asparagus? Bridge Farm Asparagus, Shaoxing & lap Cheong $16 with thick crunchy pieces of asparagus and a delightfully thick rich white sauce, tied together by the meatiness of the lap cheong.
When it’s done well, duck can be a game changer. The Great Ocean duck breast -w/fermented beancurd & orange jus $39 was just that. For Alex to sing the praise of a duck dish you know you’re doing something very special. Expertly cooked, with a crispy skin. Pulling away easily from the bone. Without that extreme gaminess. Alex even picked up the leg and ate it with his hands…for anyone that knows Alex, that’s a big deal. The sauce was so fragrant and delicious, I spooned several straight into my mouth. If there was rice on the menu it would be put to good use here.
And to finish, Mandarin, fermented rice cream & brik pastry $15. What a dessert! Typically not something I would usually gravitate towards. So many layered flavours and textures. The mandarin plump and full of concentrated sweetness and the paper thin brik pastry adding a toasty caramelised crunch.
I really could not fault our meal at Anchovy, it was one of the highlights of our recent trip. For such an unassuming restaurant in suburban Richmond, they’re doing something pretty damn special.
(Major apologies for the photos, it was a combination horror show, Alex forgot his camera. And we loved the food so much we forgot to take photos of everything).