There’s this ongoing debate that a few friends of mine seem to keep having, in regards to movie sequels. The argument goes something along the lines of how movie sequels are never as good as the originals…but then dissipates into discussion about whether there are any exceptions to the rule.
Movida Aqui was, in my mind, Frank Camorra’s sequel. After building up the Movida name and running a highly successful and popular restaurant, Movida Aqui was bigger, bolder and brassier. In comparison to the tiny, dark, cramped quarters of the original, this second opening was huge, brightly lit and spacious.
(Yes, I know that there was Movida Next Door in between these two but that’s more of a bar to me than a proper restaurant so I’m calling that Movida v2.5)
When I saw that Movida Aqui featured on the Mushroom Mania hit list for Melbourne, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to go and visit it and see if this sequel would meet the expectations set by the first – or perhaps even exceed them.
One thing I need to say here is that I still remember the bread that I was served on my first visit to the original Movida. Textured, with a crisp crust and slightly chewy innards, my friends and I raved about how wonderful and homely it was, and a perfect carrier for the intensely fruity olive oil that it was served with. Thankfully, the bread here appeared to be much the same and was devoured with much gusto by my sister and myself.
The first actual dish that we tried from the menu was the spinach, manchego and organic egg Spanish tortilla. Having had Movida tortillas before, I had high expectations of flavour and texture…but unfortunately was let down on both parts. The spinash made the tortilla incredibly soggy and tasted quite bland – and quite frankly I thought that the addition of some salt and more manchego cheese would have done a lot for this dish. As it was, it set a very low bar for the evening and left my stomach feeling uneasy.
Next up were the bombas (Catalan potato bomb filled with chorizo). This was absolutely divine – the crumbed exterior was wonderfully browned and crunchy, the potato incredibly soft and fluffy and the chorizo in the middle was like a kinder surprise – a little bit of tasty delight. The contrast between the crunchiness and softness was a textural wonder in the mouth and the flavours came together well with the sauce. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what the sauce contained, but can still remember the smoky notes that came through to make this dish whole.
Being rather anti-seafood, my sister opted to avoid all fruits de la mer and go more the hoof-and-wing route for her carnivorous needs, so next up were the braised duck leg with corella pear and chestnuts, as well as the slow-cooked lamb neck in red wine and tomato sauce. Between the two, we both declared the duck to be the superior dish here as the corella pear was both sweet and smoky and worked in harmony with the rich, sweetly-marinated duck leg. The lamb was also very nice, but served plain with no other flavours to cut through the intense sauce, it became too much after a few bites and both of us had to surrender defeat to it after a few bites.
Now, when it comes to pork belly, I knew that we definitely had to give this a go. Having grown up with this particular cut as youngsters before it became “en vogue”, we both love to see how others treat this seemingly humble yet versatile cut of meat. Here, the pork belly was served with morcilla (black pudding) and apple puree. While each element in itself was wonderfully done and couldn’t be faulted, I was a bit quizzical about the black pudding in this particular dish. As far as black pudding goes, it was rich without being too heavy and definitely done well, but consuming it alongside the pork belly, salty crackling and sweet apple puree didn’t give me the sort of taste-gasm that I was expecting.
Now I certainly can’t fault the chef for this as it may very well be a regional way to serve black pudding that I’ve just never encountered before, but as far as my uneducated tastebuds were concerned, the dish would not have been any worse off had the black pudding been excluded from this particular marriage.
Last but not least, we have the setas – mushrooms cooked on the plancha and finished with sherry vinegar. This was the dish I had come here for in eager anticipation. I’ve had the mushrooms twice before at Movida and each time they were fat, meaty cuts of portobello mushrooms. Now, portobellos are essentially matured swiss browns and when cooked well are juicy and full of flavour with a texture that makes them equal to the task of being called a vegetarian steak. However, these tiny little button mushrooms had their flavour completely overwhelmed by the seasonings and sherry vinegar to the point where I could hardly taste any of the earthy goodness that I expect in a mushroom dish.
The texture was still wonderful – they had definitely been cooked with care and were chewy and toothsome without any rubberiness, but I really do wish that they had chosen to go with a mushroom variety that had enough flavour to hold it’s own here.
So the end verdict?
Movida Aqui certainly can’t be called a bad restaurant by any stretch of the imagination. The service was almost faultless, the design and feel are vibrant and alive and it’s a great place to have a meal. But as far as I’m concerned, it just can’t surpass Movida as my favourite of the three brothers.
Especially where the mushrooms are concerned.
Now don’t forget folks that July is the month of Mushroom Mania for Australia – so you’ve got just over a week left to experience what other chefs about town are doing with the mighty mushie! And if you’ve had a great mushroom dish while out on the town, make sure to submit it to the Mushroom Mania blog for your chance to win $100!