MoVida Aqui

500 Bourke St, Level 1, Melbourne
Phone: 9663 3038

I’ve lived in Melbourne (on and off) for about fourteen years. MoVida has been open for about half of that time. You would think that seven years would be ample time to arrange a visit to what is consistently deemed one of Melbourne’s culinary highlights, right? Apparently not. Up until late last year, I had remained a MoVida virgin.

My awesome housemates Messrs J and N had given me a gift voucher for MoVida for my birthday last year, which I hadn’t gotten around to using, so when Mr J’s birthday rolled around, I thought it was apt to finally pop my MoVida cherry with him.

I called a week ahead, but the original MoVida was fully booked – on a Monday night! – so I booked at MoVida Aqui instead. I was a little apprehensive, because often the original is best when a restaurant becomes a chain. But I was reassured by a few friends who had been to both restaurants that the food and the experience at the much larger Aqui was just as good as at the original MoVida.

I kicked off with a tromba margarita; an interesting twist on a margarita – the addition of honey to the lime and the use of smoked salt really took this cocktail to another level. Mr J had the Pisco sour to start.

Then the tapas started arriving. There were certain items I knew I had to try, the first of them being the anchoa. This tiny little item packed so much complexity – in textures, flavours, and even temperature. The smoked tomato sorbet was an amazingly bright contrast to the beautifully salty anchovy. I love anchovies, and these were superb.
I was ordered, by just about everyone whom I talked to about MoVida, to try the bocadillo de calamares, a little calamari burger. The calamari was cooked to perfection, and though I would’ve preferred a touch more mayonnaise, I could definitely eat these all day.
We were tempted by the bomba of course, but Mr J wisely suggested we order the croquetas off the specials menu, as the bomba are a classic staple of MoVida, and I should always try them next time. He was also wise enough to know that of course there would be a next time, too!

The croquetas were composed of a sweet, sticky pork mixture – there was collagen a-plenty going on there – and a light crumb.

We moved on to the raciones (larger dishes) then, both of which we chose from the specials menu. First up, was a whole grilled baby snapper, with tomatoes and peas. The snapper was, again, grilled to perfection. The fish almost melted in my mouth, and the vibrancy of the tomatoes and fresh peas and the sauce, while simple, deftly balanced out the light smoky char and saltiness of the fish.
Time for more cocktails! This time around, I had the Sangre y Arena – Scotch Whiskey, Cherry Brandy, Italian Vermouth, Orange.
Wonderfully bitter the the way you would expect from those ingredients, it actually paired beautifully with our last savoury dish of the night, also off the specials menu; a blood sausage with slow poached egg and capsicum on toasted brioche.
This was amazingly good. The salty intensity of the sausage mixed perfectly with the richness of the poached egg. It’s a shame this isn’t on the regular menu, because I’d go back for more, without a doubt!

Now surprisingly, given the amount of food I normally consume, and the relative – I stress relative – small servings here, I was completely satisfied at this point. But Mr J has quite the sweet tooth, and I’m not one to shy away from desserts, so we shared the Sopa Inglesa. A trifle with PX-soaked sponge, rhubarb jelly and candied almonds, this was possibly the best trifle I’ve ever eaten. And I don’t even like rhubarb! I think the menu has since changed from rhubarb to quince.

The whole night, the service was unfailingly good. The waiters had a great knowledge of the menu, and were able to make recommendations as to which dishes would work well with others. For me, fine dining is a bit of a love/hate thing. I enjoy the interesting food, but I don’t really like the stuffy, restrained atmosphere sometimes. I think MoVida Aqui has struck the perfect balance between fine and casual dining. I’ll definitely be back soon!
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Laksa King: a tale of two laksas

12 Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington
Phone: 9372 6383

I hadn’t been to Laksa King in a couple of years. It had since changed locations, and I’d heard varying reports about the quality of the laksa. Some people had said the quality had gone downhill, an others reported being quite pleasantly surprised that the change of premises hadn’t meant a change in quality or taste. So there was only one thing for it: I’d have to see for myself.

I ordered the combination laksa. I can’t remember if it was called the Laksa King special laksa, but that sounds like something I would order…? Anyway, it came laden with slices of fish cake, a couple of prawns, some sliced chicken, puffs of fried tofu (my favourite part of any laksa) and a huge plump oily chunk of eggplant. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, oily isn’t being used in a negative way here.

The soup was a heady mix of coconut milk and curry spices, and though others have claimed Laksa King’s soup doesn’t carry enough depth of spice, I have to disagree. It was enough to have me sweating within a few minutes. Though then again, I do tend to sweat quite easily when chilli is involved.
As you can see, I quite enjoyed this laksa.

Food court (South end), Highpoint Shopping Centre, Maribynong

Then I was at Highpoint Shopping Centre not long after, and I had heard that Laksa King had an outlet there. In the name of research (and not having eaten breakfast that morning) I decided to try the same combination laksa.

It was a little disappointing, given the fact that the girl behind the counter had bothered to ask me whether I was eating in or taking away, that I was served a laksa in a disposable plastic bowl. Combined with the disposable chopsticks and the thin plastic soup spoon,it made for a truly food court experience. Which is fair enough, I suppose. I was eating in a food court, after all.

The quality of the laksa, however, was definitely above your standard food court fare. Again, the (smaller) bowl was laden with seafood, chicken and tofu, though the soup was noticeably less spicy – perhaps catering to a wider audience? – and was a little overly coconut-ty.

So my verdict? If you’re out and about in the West – and you’re most likely in a car if you’re visiting Highpoint – take the trouble to drive over to Flemington and have the original Laksa King laksa. It’s much better than the food court facsimile. Though in all honesty, if you read food blogs with any regularity, you probably didn’t need me to tell you that.
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