What anniversaries do you celebrate in your life? K and I obviously celebrate our wedding anniversary in November (last year by dining at Amass in Copenhagen), but we also celebrate our ‘dating anniversary’ in September. More accurately, it’s our ‘Facebook official’ dating anniversary as neither of us can really pinpoint when we started unofficially seeing each other as it happened so organically.
But to be honest, it’s all really just an excuse to go out and have a great meal together. This year for our dating anniversary we went to Sezar, particularly notable as one of the few Armenian restaurants in Melbourne.
I always like to do my research before a ‘special’ dining out experience, so I pored over the menu online. I even sent it to my friend M who comes from a proud Armenian heritage. Unfortunately, she was sceptical and said “Armenian my ass, pretty much none of those meals are Armenian. Find a Western Armenian or Syrian place and then you have found the true food of my people. Syrian / Western Armenians basically take Armenian food and give it flavour.”
So, while Sezar may not offer you ‘traditional’ Armenian food of decades past, what it will offer you is a modern interpretation of Armenian food. In their words, New Armenian. So where manti, or dumplings, might be traditionally stuffed with minced spiced meat, at Sezar it’s filled with crab meat instead.
The interior matches their modern approach, with clean lines, mood lighting, open kitchen, exposed brick walls, young cool staff, and a uber modern soundtrack in the background. The service was particularly friendly and prompt, walking that fine line between being helpful and being too pushy.
We started with some drinks – a Once Upon a Thyme mocktail for me made of mandarin, cinnamon and thyme, and a Hayk’s Arrow for K which was a dressed up G&T of Hendrick’s Gin, mint, cucumber and soda. K enjoyed his cocktail which was particularly refreshing, but I found my mocktail excessively sweet, with a concentration of mandarin juice/nectar that was particularly cloying on the palate. I ended up waiting for the ice in the mocktail to melt so as to dilute the drink to make it more palatable.
Sezar’s dishes are designed for sharing. For two people, our waitress suggested ordering one small plate (Bzdig), two medium plates (Michag) and one large plate (Medz). We diverged from her advice and decided to skip the Bzdig for the sake of ordering some delicious sides (Kove) instead.
But first, a Michag dish of Lule Kebab – two sausages made of spiced beef mince that reminded me of Balkan cevapi, though somewhat on the dry side. When smothered in the sour cherry sauce and eaten with the liberally dressed parsley salad however, the kebab was much improved. Still, I don’t think I would order this dish again.
The Michag Spanner Crab Manti on the other hand, was much more to my taste. The subtle flavours of the fresh juicy crab meat in thin dumpling skin contrasted well with the rich sour yoghurt and slight spice of the paprika. The only fault is that there was probably slightly too much yoghurt – I would have liked an extra manti or two in the dish to use up the yoghurt that was left at the bottom of the bowl.
We ordered the Medz dish of the Roasted Barramundi – a very Australian twist on what is probably a more traditional Armenian dish! The crispy skin and soft flesh of the barramundi fillet was just divine, but I think the real highlight was the persimmon amba, or chutney, on the side which made for a perfect tangy accompaniment to an otherwise simple and subtle dish.
We accompanied our meal with two Kove (sides) which drew our attention when a neighbouring table ordered them. How can you resist the smell and allure of Triple Cooked Chips or Zucchini and Dill Fritters? The chips were everything we could have wanted – crispy and crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. The highlight for K here though wasn’t actually the chips, but the roasted garlic cloves in the bowl. He would happily eat a whole bowl of garlic cloves if it wasn’t for the fact that I wouldn’t kiss him afterwards!
Sezar is just the type of place you would want to go to for a special occasion meal. It’s not overly pricey and you do get to try a cuisine that you wouldn’t normally find in Melbourne’s dining scene. Weeknights are quieter and therefore slightly more romantic, as you may find yourself battling with larger groups on weekends.
I’d return to Sezar again as it really is a particularly unique dining experience. It’s a far cry from our usual bowls of noodles in Chinese restaurants, sushi in Japanese restaurants, curries in Indian restaurants, pastas and pizzas in Italian restaurants, souvlakis in Greek restaurants, burgers in American diners… That’s the beauty of Australia – we really have a diverse range of cuisine to choose from, and New Armenian is one that I’m now going to add to my list!
Sezar Restaurant is located at 6 Melbourne Place, Melbourne.