22 Oct Cento Mani, Melbourne CBD
It’s always exciting to explore new cuisines, especially when they involve discovering something new to eat for breakfast. Started up by Diego Reyes, Cento Mani was born out of a desire to bring an authentic Colombian experience to Melbourne. Cento Mani serves up breakfast and lunch, and a different menu on weekends. Filled arepas make an appearance and sandwiches during the week, and Saturdays and Sundays sees a few more traditional Colombian additions.
First off, some Colombian drinks. Guandolo is a sugarcane lemonade that has a honey-like flavor, and lulo juice. A hot drink of Colombian chocolate and cheese sounds like an odd combination, but it’s very popular in Colombia. The chocolate is sweetened with aguapanela, cloves and cinnamon, and the mozzarella cheese is very gentle in taste.
Lunch begins with some Pandebono, an addictively chewy and dense bread made with corn, cassava flour and cheese. Their Colombian Empanadas are filled with pulled beef and potato, and served with aji – a traditional Colombian chilli made from onion, tomato and coriander.
Arepa is a Colombian staple, and if you love cheese, the Cheese Arepa are for you. The white corn arepa is filled with melted Mozzarella that strings beautifully when the arepa is pulled apart. If you’d prefer, you can also get arepa topped with a pile of bacon, scrambled eggs, sauteed mushrooms and baby spinach.
Colombian Calentao “Engallado” is a rice dish that’s much tastier than it might look. Rice is mixed with pulled beef, slow-cooked beans, scrambled eggs and hogao (tomato and onion sauce), and comes with fried egg and arepa. Calentao is traditionally made from leftover dinner elements from the previous night, though you obviously won’t be eating leftover ingredients at Cento Mani. It’s homely and comforting. The mother of the calentao is Bandeja Paisa – a plate of beans, crunchy pork belly, chorizo, minced beef, hogao, fried egg, rice, avocado, ripe plantain, and grilled arepa.
There are a few soups on the menu. A common lunchtime, celebration and hangover soup is the Sancocho with beef, potatoes, cassava, green plantain, corn cobs and carrots. It’s thick, and tangy from citrus juice. Ajiaco is made with both yellow and white potatoes, corn, pulled chicken, capers and thick cream, with a unique flavour imparted by the guascas herb. Both soups come with white rice, avocado and pico de gallo.
On the sweet side of the menu there’s the sweet and tangy Choclo Pancakes. Choclo corn arepas sandwich layers of raspberries and are topped with ricotta, coconut flakes. Drizzled all over the corn cakes is a syrup made from aguardiente, a sugar cane liqueur. For something smaller, Arequipe con Queso is a dish of homemade dulce de leche with slices of soft fresh mozzarella. The cheese is also paired with bocadillo, the Colombian sweet guava paste, in another dessert.
For Colombians, Cento Mani is a taste of home, but for the rest of us it’s a big hearty and friendly welcome to Colombian cuisine.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Cento Mani as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own, and are based on my experience at the time
2/140 Flinders St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 8529 7610