06 Aug IONIO: Greek Charcoal BBQ, Doncaster
Shopping centre food generally doesn’t get me excited. When catering for the masses, eateries can get a bit slack, with a corresponding change in food quality. IONIO resides in Westfield and could easily be boxed in with the stereotype, but can they stand out from the crowd?
IONIO takes pride in food made from scratch and the use of their charcoal-fired rotisserie, which can be seen in action, roasting those rotating spits of meat. Consulting Dani Venn of Masterchef fame, their newly redesigned menu re-focuses on authentic Greek cuisine.
No Greek feast is complete without olives, and of course, house made dips. Tzatziki, hummus and taramasalata are slathered onto warm and fluffy pita. Though delicious, self-control is needed; we’re only at the beginning of the meal, and who ever leaves a Greek household feeling hungry?
It’s now time for cheese. Fried balls of kefalogravieria cheese are crunchy and oozy. Skillets of Dodoni saganaki arrive hot to the touch, the grilled kefalogravieria inside them flavoured with sprinkles of oregano and squeezes of lemon before being torn apart in all their stringy glory.
Meat from the charcoal-fired spit is enjoyed as gyros, the succulent and tasty lamb and chicken assembled DIY style at the table. Rainbow trout is marinated in lemon & garlic, and wrapped in vine leaves before being cooked on the charcoal grill. Lifting the leaves away unveils the blushingly pink trout. Juicy and perfectly cooked.
My favourite dish of the day is the homestyle moussaka. Minced beef and lamb, tender eggplant, and slices of potato are topped with bechamel, cooked until the creamy white sauce possesses the tasty browned layer on top. Comfort food at its best, it was hard to stop eating until it was demolished.
Salads arrive to balance the meat-heavy mains we’ve received. There’s the Greek salad with its classic combination of tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, feta, olives and oregano, and the zingy and tender roasted beetroot with labne, mint and hazelnuts. Goddess of Grains is a healthy, but textural and enjoyable mix of quinoa, barley, freekah, farro and sliced almonds, sweetened up by currants and pomegranate.
Smashed baklava with toasted walnut, pomegranate and honey ice cream is a deconstructed version of the popular Greek sweet. It’s lighter, fresher, not as saccharine, and probably healthier than the traditional version without all that sugary syrup, though is also less crunchy. One dessert that’s perfect for colder weather is the bougasta. The fragrant pastry dusted in cinnamon sugar contains smooth and piping-hot custard, and it’s the dessert I keep going back to.
Usually not a fan of restaurants in shopping complexes, IONIO surprises. Thankfully bucking the trend, their revamped menu means this is one shopping centre restaurant worth visiting.
Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest of IONIO. Opinions expressed here are purely my own and based on my experience at the time of the visit
IONIO: Greek Charcoal BBQ
Shop 2001 (next to Village Cinemas), Level 3
619 Doncaster Rd
Doncaster, VIC, 3108
(03) 9840 1423