Newcomer Peruves it’s worth it!
Piqueos is the new cool kid on the Carlton block. It has all the makings of a great Melbourne restaurant: a menu designed to share, a fabulous cocktail list, wonderful food and of course, exposed brick walls.
Our national drink of the night was first up, Pisco Sours all round. When I went to Peru in 2005, this was my drink of choice. A light, sour, alcoholic cocktail which, when combined with malaria tablets, worked quickly. With the exception of the malaria tablets, Piqueos replicated this cocktail perfectly. Unfortunately at $20 a pop, it did not come with the price tag you might expect in Cuzco but, of course, one that you could expect in Melbourne.
6 of us dined as the style of Piqueos demands, we shared everything, starting with one of the empanadas each. An empanada to me is like pizza: when it’s good, it’s really good and when it’s bad, it’s still kinda good. Take a combination of great ingredients (- beef, olive, egg – or – chicken and char grilled corn – or – cheese, potato, onion – in the case of Piqueos), wrap in a little carbohydrate parcel and fry. These ones were exceptional.
Following these, we ordered the cebiche and mollejas. The cebiche was truly out of this world. A tangy, fresh combination of beautiful fish and vibrant flavours, the only downside being, there was just not enough of it. The mollejas was ordered by my boyfriend, who is of Spanish decent. I don’t usually question him when he pronounces double Ls as Ys and Js as Hs but this time was different. He had just ordered us a plate of sweetbreads.
Some people know what sweetbreads are, some people don’t know what sweetbreads are and some people don’t know what sweetbreads are but are too afraid to ask at a fancy restaurant and end up with a plate full of char grilled beef innards.
I’m still not sure which category my boyfriend falls into.
Regardless, he came through with the goods on this occasion. If ever you are going to try sweetbreads, Piqueos is the place to do it.
Next came the larger dishes. 2 x Pollito – Peruvian spiced baby chicken (not one word you can fault there), 2 x Tira de asado - 48 hr slow cooked beef short rib with chimmichurri (hello gorgeous) and 1 x “Poon Boon” lamb rump (how could we not?).
Each of these three dishes was outstanding. Their unbelievably powerful flavour caused a stir. I think I might forever compare restaurant dishes to these in the future; I’ve already found myself saying “this is way more bland than Piqueos”.
After a bottle of Malbec (unfortunately there was no Peruvian wine on offer but it is sinister to complain about the fact that we had to drink Argentinian wine) and a couple of beers for each of the boys, the bill clocked in at $75 a head (note that ordering a la carte worked out cheaper than if we had have done the degustation).
In summary, I couldn’t rave enough about the quality of the food at Piqueos. It was absolutely delicious. Also, I am a person that understands and enjoys the fact that nice restaurants serve small portions (as opposed to some of the quantity haters on Urbanspoon); however, I feel a menu designed to share has to be a little more lenient. My only criticism would be that the portion sizes for me just weren’t quite enough for the price. Perhaps the menu is better suited to sharing between 2 or maybe 4, not 6 as we were. Having said that, I would definitely go back, I have been dreaming about that cebiche…and the ribs, oh those ribs.
If you are the type that goes for quantity over quality, this may not be for you. If you appreciate good food, no matter what the size, put it on your to do list. Be prepared to try a few new things, expect that it will be a bit pricey and you will be very very pleased. Just be careful of the bathrooms – I can’t tell you which one is for the men and which is for the women but you’ll make new friends outside trying to figure it out.
I’d love to see South American cuisine take off the way Mexican has and if it does, this restaurant is my piq of the bunch.