La Luna

320 Rathdowne St
Carlton North, VIC 3054
03 9349 4888

I’ve passed this place a few times and always thought it’s an ordinary joint serving ordinary food. It’s probably the small, unexciting orange signage at the front that made me think that. One day, I spied my colleague looking up places to have dinner at and was surprised to find out that La Luna is actually quite well known for good steaks and meats.

Ees took me to an indulgent brunch here on a Wednesday. La Luna understates it’s merit. Located in Carlton North, it sits unobtrusively in a corner without any intention of yelling its name. I felt comfortable in the bistro, its decor was homely and warm. The serving staff were genuinely hospitable and giving. I could sense that they actually enjoy working here.

It was good catching up with Ees. He bought me this book. I loved it. The book’s so in keeping with what I try to believe in. I went through this ethical food phase last year, trying to buy meat from ethical sources where I knew the animals have lived happy lives (before meeting their grisly deaths). For a short period, I even went a bit extreme and shopped at organic ecostores, but I found this endeavour too painful for my wallet. Eventually, I managed to establish an affordable middle ground with respect to ethical shopping. This book once agains puts me in touch with eating sincerely and nutritiously. Within a week, I wanted to to visit local farmers’ market and have started thinking of creating a balcony veggie patch next year.

Now whether any of these lofty ideals come into fruition remains uncertain, but at least the seed has again been planted. In essence, I am already a kind of Frugavore. I don’t waste food and am able to use up practically every part of an animal, including its offal. If an apple has a worm in it, I’ll eat around its home. Worms choose the best tasting fruit anyway. After a peking duck meal at Old Kingdom, Fitzroy, I’ve been known to ask for leftover duck bones to take home. With that, I could make a congee that lasts a week, or brew a beautiful soup stock. But don’t worry, I don’t think I’ll ever reach a point where I’d be dumpster diving.

Beef Tartare, Croutons, Free Range Egg Yolk. $21.50

With entrées, we went adventurous and had the beef tartare. This delicacy can sometimes just look like dog food and taste disastrous. It arrived looking indeed like an upturned tin of dog chow with spruced up surroundings. We used our forks and messed up the whole plate. Mixing everything together, yolk, raw beef and cress.

Despite coming from a heavy meat, the dish tasted light and bracing. It was very fresh beef, no meaty overtones, just clean meat with a delicately piquant dressing made of fresh lemon and good vinegar. There was a side plate of croutons. I tried spreading the raw beef on the croutons but found that the crunchy buttery croutons made you lose sense of the delicate flavours of the beef. Eat it separately.

Crackling Wrapped Roll of Roast Pork, Cabbage and Apple Salad, Mash. $38.50

For mains, Ees had the roast pork. He liked it and ate it quicker than I did my steak. I sneaked a bite. The apple and cabbage salad tasted refreshingly sweet and tangy. I can’t remember much of the pork though, but it was juicy. And I vaguely recall thinking the crackling could’ve been crispier.

Chargrilled Aged Beef, Creamy Buttery Mash, Pepperonata. $42.50

For my steak, I had the choice of scotch fillet and rump. I chose rump, medium rare. And boy did I get a lot of rump! Ees had to help me finish. The outsides were more well done, but towards the centre it was nice and red. My steak was agreeably char-grilled and the meat deeply flavoursome, I think the on-premises ageing helped make it more tender as well.

I was given a choice of several sauces to go with it, and picked out horseradish butter. Very good choice, I liked the subtle zing that horseradish gives with each forkful of steak I masticated on. The sweetish sauce lining the bottom of the plate had heavy hints of beef extract, I thought it might be nicer if the sauce were a little lighter in flavour to give some counterpoint to the stoutness of the steak.

From Left to Right: Cherry & Sour Cream Ice Cream, Three-way Mousse,
Lemon Meringue, Blackberry Sorbet, Chocolate Brownie, Creme Brulée. $28.50

There’s always room for dessert. But i think we went overboard this time with the mezze dessert platter for two. We were well and truly stuffed! In fact, I skipped dinner that night. I wasn’t too impressed with the mezze plate. Nothing really stood out, although I quite enjoyed the creme brulée and ice cream. I’m starting to sense that tasting plates for entrées or dessert carries the risk of losing the language behind the food. It’s like your palate gets confronted with a somewhat inarticulate smorgasbord of edible half-constructed sentences.

La Luna serves honest, hearty food of great quality. The service is sincere, relaxed and neighbourly. Snobbery has no place in this bistro. They offered extra napkins to Ees who was afflicted with hay fever and chased us across the street when we left a scarf behind. My experience here was pleasant. While it is a little on the pricey side, the portions are generous. I might not come back again because there are so many eateries in this city to discover, but for anyone who has not had a meal La Luna, I’ll vouch for the goodness that you’ll receive here.

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