I have to admit, prior to dining at Sezar, I didn’t know the first thing about Armenia, let alone Armenian cuisine. One of the best things about my food journey is discovering not only new foods, but learning about the culture, history and passion behind it.
Armenian cuisine is as ancient as the history of Armenia. It reflects the history and geography where Armenians have lived as well as incorporating its outside influences. Various spices, vegetables, meats, fish and fruits combine to create unique flavours and aromas.
Opening in late November, 2013 by the crew behind The Black Toro in Glen Waverley, Sezar is a contemporary Armenian restaurant, bringing a fresh approach on traditional flavours to Melbourne. Owning a restaurant within the CBD has always been a dream for the three owners -Garen and brothers Aret and Sasoon. “ We were contemplating what we could do that was different and add diversity to the Melbourne dining scene. It then occurred to us that our own Armenian-Australian upbringing was our greatest advantage and we drew inspiration from that” says Garen.
The former Canary Club space in famous Melbourne laneway, Melbourne Place, has been brilliantly converted to house the double storey restaurant.The decor is slick and contemporary – there’s polished concrete floors, a graffitied mural depicting Armenian hsitory and white subway tiles flanking the walls. Largely minimalist in design, the dim lighting gives Sezar a homely, cosy feel which is warmed up even further by its warm hospitality and service.
The food menu pays homage to classic Armenian home dishes, pairing them with modern cooking techniques to create a clever Armenian-Australian twist. There’s a great selection of mouth-watering dishes on the menu ranging from twice cooked chicken wings with a sticky pomegranate glaze to a chemoula zucchini paired with buttermilk, barberries, fennel and mint.
The cocktail list is equally impressive with classics like the ‘Sezar Express’ – a tantalising little beauty of sloe gin, raspberry puree and fresh lime, or the ‘Armenian Spring’ – a delectable concoction of Makers Mark, spice infused syrup and a touch of rosewater.
From the bzdig (small plates), a trio of spinach and feta boreg ($12), is always a crowd favourite. The fat cigar-shaped boreg are rolled in a nice crispy golden pastry encasing a sumptuous spinach and feta filling. A generous dipping bowl of aleppo mayonaise is the perfect companion.
Two seared Hervey Bay Scallops ($11) were beautifully presented, their pink shells gleaming on a crystal bed of heaped sea salt. Almost a pity to eat due to their spectacular appearance, the scallops were paired with a creamy cauliflower puree and a splash of cumin caramel and za’atar: this resulted in a fierce competition of earthy, peppery and sweet flavours, best enjoyed in one mouthful.
The spanner crab manti (Armenian dumplings – $16 for four pieces) equally did not disappoint. Traditionally manti are filled with lamb mince similar to ravioli. Using a contemporary twist, Sezar’s manti are stuffed with a generous filling of fish mousse using blue eye, thickened cream, spanner crab meat and fresh herbs and teamed with sumac yoghurt which gives it a subtle lemon punch. The manti are hand rolled and steamed which give these parcels a lovely texture. A tiny drizzle of oil cuts through the overall creaminess of the dish every so slightly.
If you’re hungry order the Armenian barbeque chicken ($38) – a full bird served with pickles, tabouleh, flat bread and tahini which is simply spectacular. And possibly the most succulent chicken I have ever tasted. What is the secret to the melt in your mouth style chicken? Firstly the chicken is brined in a mixture of sugar and salt which seasons the chicken all the way through, then it is dry rubbed with spices including all-spice and aleppo pepper. To retain the moisture in the chicken, it is cooked sous vide for two hours before being placed on the charcoal barbecue to impart a nice smoky flavour to the meat. As you can see the results are spectacular..
The final verdict…
Sezar has made me discover my new weakness for Armenian food. What I love the most about Sezar is their unique use of spices and fragrances, something that you appreciate as soon as you enter the door. I will definitely be back to this hidden hot spot on Melbourne Lane for many dinners to come.
Value for money: 8/10
Address: 6 Melbourne Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 9663 9882