14/20

Piqueos

298 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North, VIC

All Details
  • 03 9349 2777
  • $$$
Diced blue-eye trevalla ceviche at Piqueos.
Diced blue-eye trevalla ceviche at Piqueos. Photo: Eddie Jim

Larissa Dubecki

SHEEPSKIN BOOTS. MEAT PIES. Mateship. Russell Crowe. The Australian habit of claiming foreign-born things as our own defines us as a nation.

The barbecue, for instance. It's the very crucible of a national identity. Yet share it we must with a host of other nations, including Argentina, a country with which we share a hemisphere, a climate and a passion for red meat married to the joys of a big red (on which point we must diverge into the ''us'' and ''them'' of shiraz and malbec).

It's horribly unpatriotic to assert, but if barbecuing was a national sport - International Olympic Committee, take note - we would make the dais but the Argentinians would take gold. Sorry, but it's true.

Team Piqueos (L to R): head chef Blair Williams, sous chef Daniel Salcedo, and owners Shaun Burke and Dave Mills.
Team Piqueos (L to R): head chef Blair Williams, sous chef Daniel Salcedo, and owners Shaun Burke and Dave Mills. Photo: Eddie Jim

Is that why Argentina has become a favoured newcomer to the dining landscape? Shared obsessions make the going easy indeed at Piqueos, a new Carlton North restaurant from two local lads (Shaun Burke and Dave Mills) who picked up the Argentinian food bug working in London. You could safely say it's trending globally.

Piqueos is an accomplished little place for two first-timers keen to show their knowledge goes deeper than ''we took a two-week holiday and this is what we ate''. They certainly know their aji amarillo from their aji rocoto (types of chilli peppers, grown for them in the Yarra Valley), and the wine list is a punchy one-page primer in the increasingly popular wines of Argentina, including torrontes and bonarda, as well as their beloved malbec.

The interior is a Buenos Aires-Melbourne co-production, the tables and bar topped in sheets of copper, masculine red brick hinting at the meaty good times to come, but enough naked filament globes dangling on cord to make any inner-suburban dweller feel quite within their comfort zone.

Piqueos is an accomplished little place.
Piqueos is an accomplished little place. Photo: Eddie Jim

The most important bit of equipment at Piqueos is hidden from view: the parrilla, a charcoal grill that takes the base fuel of melaleuca and turns it into glowing embers by the start of service each day to the betterment of all kinds of foodstuffs that cross its path.

How good does char taste? Seriously: the almost-burnt bits pack in so much flavour and give a smoky depth to the meat without any compromising bitterness. The pop as the juices spill from expertly cooked octopus is one of those inexplicable joys. Salty olives knocking the edges off its sharp citrus sauce is another. Good stuff.

The Piqueos menu has a sub-major in Peruvian - another cuisine looming large on the horizon, of which the ceviche will be the best known. Opaque pieces of diced blue-eye trevalla, ''cooked'' in lime juice, owe their 10 tonnes of taste to a chilli paste made with the fiery aji rocoto, red onion, finely sliced coriander, sweetcorn kernels and sweet potato puree sweetly spiked with cinnamon and star anise. The cloudy liquid surrounding it (tiger's milk, they poetically call it) is tongue-curlingly zesty and totally drinkable, with or without a hangover.

Peruvians are also rather fond of beef heart, and Piqueos respects its street-food origins. The unabashed chunks marinated in vinegar and chilli before meeting the parrilla are nicely spongy in texture and a lick of chilli mayo makes an excellent sidekick.

The magic of the coals also laces sliced wagyu skirt steak, the boldly coloured, flavour-packed crust giving way to sweet pink insides riven by soft fat. It's very good - something to give the growing band of wagyu apostates reason to believe again - and the house chimichurri keeps authentically subtle on the chilli to emphasise the herbal notes.

This is more than a one-dimensional festival of meat. The menu has enough light and shade to make a properly rounded meal, kicking off with little tastes, including a single grilled scallop topped with chilli paste on mustardy mayo, and the straightforward charm of fried provolone soldered deliciously to its cast-iron pan.

Empanadas are the new baccala (discuss!) and equally vulnerable to abuse, but these are ridiculously tasty - braised beef with egg and sultanas has the perfect pastry-to-filling ratio. And there's more pastry fun with small and simple desserts. The alfajor is like a shortbread dulce de leche sandwich. The caramel-like concoction is another Argentine obsession, somewhere between Maradona and tango. It's surely only a matter of time before we start claiming it as our own.

THE LOW-DOWN
The best bit The joy of barbecue
The worst bit Two sittings - but at least they take bookings
Go-to dish Ceviche, $15
Wine list Punchy all-Argentinian list organised by altitude, backed with good advice
Vegetarian Four starters; a couple of salads
Value Good
Noise Lively
Service Easygoing but professional
Wheelchairs Yes
Parking Street

Twitter: @LarissaDubecki

How we score
Of 20 points, 10 are awarded for food, five for service, three for ambience, two for wow factor.

12 Reasonable 13 Good if not great 14 Solid and enjoyable 15 Very good 16 Capable of greatness 17 Special 18 Exceptional 19 Extraordinary 20 Perfection

Restaurants are reviewed again for The Age Good Food Guide and scores may vary.

Rate this restaurant

Rate this restaurant:

Use [left] and [right] keys to rate, [enter] to submit, [esc] to cancel.

Rate this restaurant with 0.5 a star Rate this restaurant with 1 star Rate this restaurant with 1.5 stars Rate this restaurant with 2 stars Rate this restaurant with 2.5 stars Rate this restaurant with 3 stars Rate this restaurant with 3.5 stars Rate this restaurant with 4 stars Rate this restaurant with 4.5 stars Rate this restaurant with 5 stars

Write a review

Thanks for voting!

Write a review

298 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North, VIC

  • Prices - Typical starter, $15; main, $27; dessert, $4
  • Features - Licensed, Gluten-free options
  • Chef(s) - Blair Williams
  • Owners - Shaun Burke and Dave Mills
  • Cards accepted - Visa, Mastercard, EFTPOS
  • Opening Hours - Tues-Thurs, 5.30-10pm; Fri-Sat, noon-11pm; Sun, noon-10pm
  • Author - Larissa Dubecki
Close map

Similar Restaurants

La Luna Bistro

14.5/20

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Reader rating (1)

7 comments so far

  • So for years and years this was common fair as i am argentinean, now i have two hipster foodies come chefs selling it back to me for 10 times it's worth and turning it into upmarket fair?

    And this: It's surely only a matter of time before we start claiming it as our own.

    NEVER..alfajores are argentinean property..stick to scones and cream please!

    Que lo pario carajo..increible!

    Commenter
    Dario
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    March 05, 2013, 3:17PM
  • Just a few points - Ceviche is hardly Peruvian or even seen in Peru, try soup and rice, guinea pig or western style toasted sandwiches. You get a lot of ceviche in ecuador but definitely not peru. Apart from empanadas most argentinians like us melbournians cannot afford this yummy traditional argentinian food either unfortunately.

    Commenter
    Genghis
    Location
    Lounge
    Date and time
    March 05, 2013, 6:32PM
    • I think a lot of Peruvians would get very hot under the collar at the suggestion that ceviche is not Peruvian nor hardly eaten there! It's not so common up the Andes (where guinea pig is common), but it is quite big on the coast and Lima is full of places specialising in ceviche. Moreover, it's quite prominent in the growing celebration of the national cuisine that's taking place over in Peru right now.
      I do share the first poster's tiredness with the trend in over-priced hipster Latin American cuisine that is sweeping Melbourne these days. The Mexican craze is particularly bad in this respect. That said, the prices in this place don't look as bad as at many of the others.

      Commenter
      Chupacabras
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      March 15, 2013, 4:38PM
    • You're kidding, right? You have obviously never met a Peruvian!

      Commenter
      Pica
      Location
      Date and time
      March 22, 2013, 2:48PM
    • PS, Empanadas are Chilean, if you want to be picky.

      Commenter
      Pica
      Location
      Date and time
      March 22, 2013, 2:56PM
  • Curious that the go to plate for an argentinian restaurant ... is peruvian
    Also, too bad that there is no way to get choclo (mountain corn) and cancha (cant translate), so this ceviche is at most a imitation of the real thing.

    Kudos for trying though :)

    Commenter
    GeorgeSC
    Location
    Date and time
    March 06, 2013, 9:48AM
    • They are talking about cooking techniques. The owners are not claiming that it is an Argentinian restaurant, but that they use Argentinian methods. They also state that it has a SUB specialty of Peruvian food.

      Plenty of places have imported choclo and cancha these days.

      Nice try though.

      Commenter
      Pica
      Location
      Date and time
      March 22, 2013, 2:52PM

Make a comment

You are logged in as [Logout]

All information entered below may be published.

Error: Please enter your screen name.

Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

Error: Please enter your comment.

Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

Post to

You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

Thank you

Your comment has been submitted for approval.

Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

Most viewed restaurants

View all

You can also view recent reviews for:

Most viewed restaurants in Sydney

View all

You can also view recent reviews for:

Most viewed restaurants in Melbourne

View all

You can also view recent reviews for:

Most viewed restaurants in Brisbane

View all

You can also view recent reviews for:

Most viewed restaurants in Canberra

View all

You can also view recent reviews for:

Promotions

Winemaker Louisa Rose is the custodian of both Yalumba tradition and innovation.