27 Sep Lello Pasta Bar, Melbourne CBD
Yak Italian Kitchen & Bar has now become Lello, which was the childhood nickname of head chef and co-owner Leo Gelsomino. Pasta is still the focus here. It’s made fresh every day from stone-ground, sprouted, germinated flour, which also gives the pasta lower gluten content, more protein and a better nutritional profile.
We begin with some non-pasta dishes. Slow-cooked 60-60 sous-vide egg is delicately balanced over a nest of artichoke, goats cheese and liquorice brioche. The warm, pickled artichokes are poached in white wine, basil, bay leaf and garlic. The house-made brioche recipe has melted liquefied liquorice added to it, but its flavour is not overly strong. The egg (cooked for 60 minutes at 60 degrees) acts like a sauce that ties everything together.
The Chargrilled Octopus is tender – it’s been cooked sous vide before being finished on the grill and seasoned with salt. Underneath is a Sicilian panella made from chickpea flour and fennel seeds. The dish is completed with fried chickpeas, chilli, radish, and dots of apple puree with hints of cinnamon.
Handmade Potato Gnocchetti is served with scallops, asparagus, peas and vermouth. You can really taste the seafood in the sauce – perhaps a bit too much, as it’s slightly fishy – and the gnocchetti are beautifully soft pillows that break apart with a press of the tongue.
We then move on to the pasta. Apart from being lower in gluten, sprouted flour is generally easier to digest, leaving less of a starchy feeling afterwards. Eggplant and Almond Ravioli come with torched Clarence River prawns and a provolone cheese sauce. The prawns are marinated in lemon and lime juice, not boiled or otherwise cooked apart from the searing from a blow torch. The ravioli is full of flavour – a lovely combination of roasted eggplant, olives, capers and roasted hazelnuts are encased within the pasta sheets – and not overpowered by the creamy Provolone cheese sauce, which is gentle in taste.
Culurgiones are a type of pasta originating from Sardinia. At Lello they’re filled with a slightly tangy mixture of Nicola potato, mint, Percorino Sardo, and lemon zest, and served with broad bean pesto and crushed almonds. These dumpling-like bundles are one of the highlights of the night.
Arso Casarecce Caccio e Pepe are made with arso flour from Puglia, mixed with duram wheat. The arso (burnt kernels) contribute a nutty flavour and aroma. The spiral form of the casarecce is created by twirling pasta dough around knitting needle. Pecorino and parmesan provide a sharpness that matches the big hits of pepper. It’s a very flavoursome pasta dish.
Tangy celery-like cardoons and capers offset the creamy ricotta filling of the Gratinated Mezze Maniche, which also comes with a yellow tomato sauce. Thin layers of green-coloured spinach pasta in the Lasagna Verde alternate with veal and pork ragu, finished with a thin layer of browned cheese on top. The ragu contains orange zest and duck liver which adds extra richness to the sauce. The result is homely and comforting, with none of the heavy, stodginess that’s sometimes associated lasagne.
The night draws to an end with the sweets. Wild Fennel Ice Cream is teamed up with caramelised blood orange, caprino cheese, rhubarb and crispy chestnut flour crostoli. My personal favourite is the Sfogliatella Ricca with Marsala and Amarena cherry, which possess a superb crunch.
Yak had quite a reputation for its pasta, and Lello hasn’t dropped the ball. For lovingly handmade artisan pasta, Lello is just the ticket.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Lello as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own, and are based on my experience at the time
Lello Pasta Bar
150 Flinders Ln
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9654 6699