AGFG (Australian Good Food & Travel Guide) is one of my favourite websites to visit for restaurant reviews, recipes, stories from the food and travel industry, dining deals etc… And this year, AGFG also bestowed the honour of Top 10 Bloggers, 2017 which was a great opportunity for me to take my work forward.
So when AGFG reached out to me to review the food at Thirty Eight Chairs, I was really keen because I had heard really good things about the restaurant and also, regional Italian cuisine is one of my favourites.
Thirty Eight Chairs has two locations – South Yarra and Carlton North.
Situated in a quiet, beautiful neighbourhood of Carlton, Thirty Eight Chairs is a dream come true venture for its owner, Gino Forlano.
The South Yarra restaurant was a huge success but Gino always wanted to open a branch in Carlton because it has one of the biggest Italian communities in Melbourne. He wanted to have a dining space that was a reflection of both Italian hospitality and way of life. A space which is not hurried but where families and friends can sit down to good food and wine, engage in meaningful conversations and spend time with each other.
The ambience at Thirty Eight Chairs is best described as friendly. There are lovely streetside tables (great when the sun’s out and shining), a relaxed dining space downstairs and a large venue space upstairs. The staff are extremely friendly, very cheerful and was genuinely happy to help out with choosing from the menu.
I had the opportunity to have a chat with head chef Giuseppe Di Mauro. He told me that the food served here is classic Napolitana style, true to its origins in terms of flavour but care has been taken to present it in a contemporary style. They use a mix of local and seasonally available ingredients but also source certain ingredients from Italy which are not easily available here.
It was a warm day and all our drink choices were centered on that. I started with a sparkling while the others chose a Cosmopolitan, Mojito and a whiskey cocktail. There are also wines on tap (somehow I get very excited everytime I see this) and I chose a Prosecco to accompany the mains.
We had a selection of starters beginning with the ‘A Tunnat ‘e Mar (Peppered yellow fin tuna, crispy shallots, caper vinaigrette & micro herbs). Hands down, one of the best tuna dishes I have ever had. Presented beautifully and the flavours were simply incredible. Highly recommended!
No matter how many ever times I have had it, I simply cannot resist ordering ‘A Caprese (Fresh tomato, basil & buffalo mozzarella) when visiting an Italian restaurant. It’s a classic and an instant judgement of what’s to follow because this salad is all about freshness and quality of ingredients. Happy that I was not disappointed at all.
Fried street food is also quite popular in Neopolitan cuisine so we also tried out ‘O Coupon ‘e Terra – a mixed platter of pea arancini, potato croquettes, polenta chips, beer battered zucchini & salty dough balls. Absolutely loved all of it but my favourites were the polenta chips and beer battered zucchini.
Thirty Chairs is quite famous for its pasta dishes as all the different types of pasta are made in house using traditional Italian methods. And what surprised me was the fact that there were so many pasta varieties that I still had no clue about. Don’t bother about the term ‘al dente’ here as that’s not the texture that suits fresh pastas!
The first pasta dish we tried was a signature dish that was highly recommended by the chef. ‘E Mafaldine ‘a Cacciator (long curly pasta, slow cooked duck ragú, porcini mushrooms & shaved pecorino cheese). The simplest of dishes yet the most complex in flavour as that duck ragu was slow cooked for hours to get the perfect texture and consistency. And the taste of freshly made pasta is simply out of this world.
The second pasta dish was from the day’s special list. Yet another variety I have never tasted before. Mixed with fresh sausages, chillies and tossed through the most amazing sauce, this pasta dish could easily be one of the best I have ever had.
The seafood lover in me had to try out the special seafood dish with cuttlefish, swordfish, scallops, prawns, clams, salmon and mussels unshelled in a delicious tomato chilli broth served with a side of grilled bread. Absolutely stunning flavours especially that bisque was just heavenly.
Also ordered a light and refreshing Bietola e Caprino (Mixed beeroot, baby cos, snowpeas & goats cheese, in lemon dressing salad) which paired extremely well with the rich flavours of the other dishes.
To summarize, the dining experience at Thirty Eight Chairs was a delicious and delightful one. I have dined at a lot of Italian restaurants yet discovered that there is more to the cuisine than I really knew, especially the differences between Napolitana style and other regional styles.
The freshly made pasta was a delight and clearly sets apart the pasta dishes served at Thirty Eight Chairs. And with a great ambience and customer service, it’s definitely a place you want to visit with friends and family.
Thirty Eight Chairs
651 Rathdowne St
Phone no: 03 8383 4113
Tuesday – Saturday
Lunch: 11.30am – 3.00pm
Dinner: 6pm – 10pm
Brunch/Lunch: 10.30am – 4pm
Disclaimer – I dined as a guest at Thirty Eight Chairs, but the opinions and views expressed are unbiased and entirely mine.