Down a little alley way just off Russell St (that’s so Melbourne) is Sezar. The only thing visible from the main street is it’s door, as the restaurant itself sits tucked perpendicular to Russell in the adjoining building. It sits on Melbourne Place next tot he Kelvin Club, one of the last remaining private clubs in the city.
The cuisine is one you may not have tried before – Armenian – the cuisine of a small country on the north east border of Turkey, that shares a small border with Iran. It’s a Christian country and has in the past, been a member of the Soviet republic. So whilst you might expect the food to contain some familiar middle eastern elements, don’t expect the heavy spice use found in Arab cuisine.
I can’t speak for traditional Armenian food – Sezar positions itself as modern, and the food features fresh, light local produce. The menu is sharing style – we had the grain salad featuring toasted nuts and labneh, pork glazed with pomegranate molasses, and shepherds salad with radish and herbs, along with a side of Armenian flat bread. As usual, I prove myself to be the worlds worst foodie, completely unable to capture mouth watering photography of the meal.
This is the sort of restaurant it’s safe to go to if you want to feel a little indulgent, but not leave at the end of the night feeling weight down and regretting your decisions. The food was simple in its complexity, reminding you of a long cultural past of living with the land. The ingredients are unassuming but come together beautifully, and everything was flavourful yet somehow fresh. Even the pork with pomegranate molasses, which can be incredibly sweet, was not overbearing. The bread was soft and light, not overly filling, and overall the whole meal felt nourishing and comfortable.
Leaving us plenty of room for dessert – when the waiter asked if we’d like anything, our first question was “Does the tasting board have a little of everything?” “Yes” “Ok, then that!”. The desserts were probably a little too modern – I’d have liked to see something more traditional since it was a cuisine I was unfamiliar with – the deconstructed baklava for example really didn’t resemble baklava at all, despite being delicious. Honey featured, as well as persian fairy floss and flavours of pistachio, berries and other nuts. All chocolate presented was of the dark and rich variety, and overall the board was very enjoyable, although some items are very sweet and should be eaten last so as not to over power the lighter flavours.
Another side note was that we accompanied our meal with orange wine – another thing that was new to me, being at the beginning of my wine journey (and not an overly common item on wine lists in Melbourne). I can say that if you haven’t tried it, you should. Being a somewhat niche product it’s pretty unlikely that it would have been produced by a low quality wine maker, and its flavour profile is really quite interesting. If you’re wondering, no, it’s not made from oranges – the production process makes the wine orange, just as Rosé is pink. You might think it would be sweet, but it starts with an exceptionally dry mouth feel, before leaving a complex lingering flavour of musk and rosewater.
Overall I highly recommend giving Sezar a try, particularly if you’re after something a little different, or a fine dining experience that is light and fresh. I’ll also definitely be on the look out for more Armenian restaurants.