This restaurant is now closed.
Mirka at Tolarno is one of those restaurants that always feels comforting and familiar, thanks largely to the fact the interior murals by noted artist Mirka Mora has remained a constant feature for many decades. Several noted chefs have cooked here over the years, including New Zealand-born, Australian-based TV chef Iain Hewitson. Indeed, the last time Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband dined at this St Kilda icon, Huey was running the kitchen. Suffice to say, that was a while back.

The kitchen, still turning out predominantly Italian bistro classics, is now headed by Brad Bouhalis. On a coolish night, we took an early tram out of the city, down to St Kilda (car parking in Fitzroy Street and environs is at a premium) and took advantage of a coupon deal, to explore what was on offer. For A$69 we were entitled to three courses and a glass of wine each. The standard three-course deal there is $50 per person, so we were well in front.

Opting for glasses of a very good La Zona sangiovese by Chrismont in Victoria’s King Valley, we got down to the business of ordering. Our waiter explained we could choose a side dish with our mains instead of dessert if we preferred. Sorted. Selections made, we awaited the food.

Greedy Girl has often wondered why restaurants go in for coupon deals. Working in marketing in her day job, she’d be concerned about cheapening the brand. Having dined out on a few coupon deals already, the quality of the food for the most part was pretty good, but the question remains: would you pay full price for it? So far, Greedy Girl is yet to respond in the affirmative.

First to arrive were cotechino sausage rolls. This was a tasty pork sausage encased in crispy pastry with a tomato ‘marmellata’. The crispness of the pastry was a good touch; too often these can be a bit limp and greasy but these were quite well done, if not bursting with flavour.

Pork sausage rolls

Pork sausage rolls

Next up were slow-cooked lamb ribs, pictured at the top of this blog. These were served with a sumac-spiced yoghurt. It was an attractive-looking serving but the ribs had a lot of fat that hadn’t been rendered down enough and it left a coating in the mouth that needed to be quickly washed away by the wine.

To our choice of mains. Gluttonous husband took the Wagyu beef cheek. It was very soft (as you’d expect from the braising) and served with tomato, red wine and Jerusalem artichokes. Gluttonous husband was pleased with the texture of the dish and pronounced it perfectly edible.

Wagyu beef cheek

Wagyu beef cheek

Greedy Girl took an old favourite – saltimbocca. This was served in the traditional style with pancetta and sage and accompanied by potato puree and a light lemony sauce. Greedy Girl couldn’t discern any flavours other than lemon from the sauce and it was extremely runny. The veal was tender enough but again there wasn’t much of a flavour hit from either the pancetta or the sage.


Saltimbocca – an old favourite

We opted to use one of our ‘dessert’ spots here for a side dish, purely for the novelty factor – truffled French fries with a dipping egg. There was certainly no truffle flavour. The egg, while an interesting touch, didn’t really add anything to the dish. It was an experiment that didn’t really pay off.

Truffled fries with egg

Chosen for the novelty factor

And so to dessert. Greedy Girl deferred to gluttonous husband’s choice of tiramisu. The coffee flavour here seemed to come from a dusting of coffee powder on top that tasted a bit raw. It wasn’t altogether pleasant. While gluttonous husband enjoyed the cream mixture below he said it wasn’t particularly memorable and he was also looking for a little boozy hit.


A pot of tiramisu

The wait staff were courteous but seemed to be trying to elicit some heightened enthusiasm for the food. We just couldn’t respond. Paying for our wine, we prepared to depart. Again, Greedy Girl has to say, with hand on heart, that she’d struggle to justify paying more for the food. All was perfectly edible, but we’re very fortunate that gluttonous husband is an excellent home cook. When we dine out we want to experience something that inspires us to elevate our own cuisine.

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