“It is as if you are at an apothecary high up in the Armenian mountains during a pilgrimage to one of the ancient monasteries.”
A DINING EXPERIENCE REVIEW
Type: Armenian Food: 8/10 Service: 9/10 Value for money: 7/10
- This restaurant is extremely accommodating to dietary requirements and the staff are happy to help you order just the right amount of food for the table
- If you’re not going for one of their inventive cocktails on the menu, do try the Armenian wine from the wine list!
- Great for date nights as well as group bookings
Aggie is getting married!
Rhian and I arrive early at Sezar on a mild winter evening, buzzing with excitement and a hankering for cocktails. The three of us (Rhian, Aggie and myself) have a bad habit of struggling to commit to regular date nights together, so it has been months since either of us have spoken in person. It doesn’t help that our little lawyer has been shipped off to the middle of nowhere, or that Aggie is always on wedding planning duties with her soon to be hubby, or that I’m casually disintegrating to a grey pile of dust from spending too much time on planes. How do women in movies find so many opportunities to catch up for cocktails and brunches and shopping dates?
Finally though – by some miracle – we all manage to be free tonight after a failed attempt to catch up last week. I picked Sezar after hearing some rave reviews from a fellow food blogger at work, and the thought of Armenian food sounded super exotic and exciting. Upon arriving at the restaurant, we are soon greeted by a friendly and casual front of house staff who takes Rhian and I to our table which was next to the bar – and wastes no time in getting us started on drinks.
The cocktail list is myriad of sensuous and exotic sounding concoctions:
“The battle on Lake Sevan”
“The Sezar Express”
It is as if you are at an apothecary high up in the Armenian mountains during a pilgrimage to one of the ancient monasteries. Ingredients include rose water, fig vodka, pomegranate, cloves, and chilli.
Rhian and I decide to start with the Sezar Express, which comes out looking too pretty to drink. The flavour is almost non-alcoholic and smells of roses and dessert. What it’s like: An Aviation with an Armenian twist.
Aggie is lost on the way to meet us.
To be fair though, the restaurant is a little hidden. The laneway it resides in takes a few narrow turns and the entrance isn’t all “Look at me! Look at me! Give me attentionnnn!” like every Kardashian offspring to date. With a little guidance from us (using Taco Bill as a landmark point of reference) we manage to get our lovely bride-to-be safely to dinner.
There is a lot of commotion when Aggie walks in as we fawn over her glittering engagement rock – now at least 6 months old because that’s how long it has been since we have seen each other – and even the staff chime in with the ooh’s and ahh’s. How amusing is it that after 4 billion years of evolutionary success, our instinct is to still turn into a magpie when we see something shiny. Ordering becomes an extraordinarily difficult task because everyone is so distracted, but one staff member manages to keep us focused on the task at hand.
Upon reverting back to our human forms after the brief magpie transformation, we are promptly served our mains. Items on the “Bzdig” menu are small bite sized portions of entrees or sharable dips and platters. We order the spinach and feta boreg with aleppo mayo (AH-mazing) and the most luscious bowl of brown butter chickpea hummus served with fresh, pillowy soft flat bread. The boreg are like Armenian spring rolls, all flakey and melt-in-your-mouth with pockets of molten feta that bursts when you bite into them.
Of course, there is never enough bread for your dip is there?
Next come the medium sized plates from the “Michag” menu. I think it is safe to say that there is definitely something magical about dumplings. Whether they be little juicy Jewish Kreplach, hearty Polish Pierogi, tantalisingly complex Japanese Gyoza, heart warming Korean Mandu or just your plain old comforting Chinese Jiaozi – these little pouches of deliciousness never disappoint. So when the girls and I spot the Armenian Spanner Crab Manti on the menu, we become overwhelmed with excitement. The Manti is – as you can guess – a type of dumpling. At Sezar, it is filled with delicate sweet Spanner Crab in a bowl of tart yoghurt soup and drizzled with herbed paprika butter. The flavours are so perfect together, we end up ordering two plates of these. Although it comes floating in a bowl of yoghurt soup, it is surprisingly light and refreshing.
We also order a plate of lamb shish kebab to sample some punchy, meaty Armenian flavours. The smokey, tender lamb shish kebabs are served with a generous mound of eggplant caponata and the sweetest, butteriest baba ganoush I’ve ever had. A handful of fresh pine nuts are sprinkled on top. We’re thoroughly impressed at how well we are doing with the menu so far.
It is at this point where we decide to move from our cocktails to a nice red wine. We are recommended the Armenian wine (of course) made from the oldest grape variety in Armenia – the Areni. It is aged following the same methods as ancient Armenian wine in clay amphorae pottery or “karas”, and it transports you to a whole other era.
Not wanting to have to roll ourselves out of the restaurant by the end of the night, the girls and I opt for only one item from the main “Medz” menu and accompany it with one of the “Kove” (sides). From the mains, we decide on the roasted pork belly, rubbed with molasses, and served with ice plant, pomegranate, radishes, and garlic jam. The protein is incredibly tender and decadent with that molasses rub – we slice through it like a hot knife through butter.
The Kove is a generous bowl of fluffy zucchini and dill fritters that – although deep fried – don’t feel greasy at all. It is punchy in flavour and is a nice little change from your ordinary bowl of rice or chips.
We gossip and chat away for hours as the steady flow of food arrive at our table at just the right moment each time. The darkness settling outside is unnoticeable from inside the moody, dimly lit, exotic interior of the restaurant that becomes buzzing with laughter and the comforting sounds of clinking glasses from each dining table…
All in all, Sezar managed to host a truly memorable evening for three very worn and hungry women who spent three hours reminiscing their early twenties as if we were 25 going on 40. Highly recommend for a fuss free yet refreshingly different dining experience in Melbourne. Happy feasting, and do mind your table manners!