21 Jan Robarta, St Kilda
St Kilda is full of places to eat and drink, so it’s hard to stand out and keep a crowd of regulars. Though it’s more known as a bar and for its extensive cocktail and beverage list, Robarta has an impressive food menu too. Different days of the week have their own dinner specials and happy hour deals. The outdoors section includes both small and communal bench tables. Inside you can take a seat at a high table, at the bar, or laze on a couch with drink in hand. As the night goes on, the party continues upstairs where there’s a balcony, more seating and a second bar.
We can’t have a meal here and not try the cocktails. It is a bar after all. I have the White Chocolate & Passionfruit Martini with vanilla vodka, passionfruit liqueur, passionfruit puree, white chocolate syrup and ruby red grapefruit juice. It’s a fruity drink that’s smooth and velvety, thanks to the addition of white chocolate. It’s not too strong either, making this very easy to drink.
For something lighter and more refreshing, there’s the White Peach and Mango Daiquiri with mango puree, white peach, Bacardi Rum, Malibu, Peach Schnapps, coconut syrup, fresh lime and raspberry puree. It’s great for warmer weather, but don’t take too long with this one or the granita will melt and spill over. The Salted Honeycomb Espresso Martini is another of their signature cocktails. The drink of vodka, caramel, sea salt, espresso, honey drizzle, and crushed salt and honeycomb rim is also a winner. Definitely one of the better renditions of an espresso martini we’ve had of late.
The menu is filled with plenty of bites suitable for sharing, and tends to lean towards Asian flavours. There’s vegetable and tofu tempura, lightly battered and enjoyed with dipping sauce. Beef, Potato & Onion Croquettes are smooth and creamy on the inside, speckled with beef mince. The circular crunchy nuggets come with a panko crumb, and the spicy mayo adds zing. A range of spring rolls are available, from chicken and prawn with its slightly curried flavour, to vegetable, and Peking duck. They can be ordered with plum sauce and sweet chilli to mix and match to your liking. The water jug comes filled with fruit, which is great for cutting through the oil, though to be honest, the fried food is not overly greasy anyway.
The Almond Prawns come coated with a surprisingly generous amount of almond flakes. Each bite is full of crunchy nuts combined with juicy prawn meat, and I’m in love.
Another memorable dish is the Crispy Nori Chicken. Chicken is marinated in mirin and soy, then lightly fried. It’s moist and tasty, even without the addition of mayo on the side. It’s gluten free too.
Coming with a different sort of batter is the Wasabi and Honey Chicken, which has the more typical thick and airy sort of batter. The crispy morsels of chicken are drizzled with a wasabi and honey sauce, and there’s a decent wasabi flavour here.
Teriyaki Eye Fillet steak comes cubed pan-fried. The meat is tender, and the Teriyaki sauce is not overly sweet. It’s not exactly finger food, but it’s a solid feed, especially with the white rice that comes with it.
If you’re not so keen on plain white rice, there’s always Roy’s Special Fried Rice with BBQ pork. The rice itself could do with a bit more salt, though it’s OK if you have it with enough pieces of the finely diced pork. Just as well there’s a lot of it. There’s a nice variety of other ingredients in it too, including egg, spring onions and fried shallots.
Finally there’s the coconut milk-based Indian Chicken Curry, served with roti. Some may scoff at its claim of being ‘famous’, but it’s very good. There’s a slight bitterness to it, but also a touch of sweetness in the aftertaste. The roti isn’t the puffy elastic, flakey type, but it has a nice amount of crispiness, and its stiffer structure actually makes for easier eating in this setting. The curry reminds me of roti canai that I’d commonly eat for breakfast in Malaysia, and it wouldn’t be too out of place amongst the hawker stalls there.
Though there were plenty of tasty things tried tonight, the highlights for us were the cocktails, nori chicken, almond prawns, and curry. I don’t usually go into a bar expecting food that matches the quality of the drinks, but Robarta is one that’s bucking the trend.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Robarta as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and are based on my experience at the time
109-111 Fitzroy St
St Kilda, VIC, 3182
(03) 9534 9041