162-164 Commercial Rd Prahran, VIC 3181
|Opening hours||Daily, 6.30am-10.30pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9098 1155|
So, you know fried food is basically just steamed inside a crust? That's why I'm a connoisseur of the golden, crunchy, searing-hot and somewhat healthfulfruit of the deep fryer. Of course, fried isn't always fab: clean oil at a high temperature and watchful cooking are just as important as the quality of the gear that's dunked.
Gramercy Bistro, the diner at the boutique Cullen Hotel, has some good fried dishes on its New York-style menu of sandwiches, salads, sliders, steak and ribs. Jalapeno poppers are the most emphatic dish I tried: hot green chillies are stuffed with melted Monterey Jack cheese, crumbed and fried, turning them into power-packed taste bombs.
Spice-dusted chicken ribs are fried to a dark tan and served with creamy, peppery ranch dressing with grated celery. Because ribs are flat and slender (taken from the bone-in breast), they cook quickly: by the time the outer layer is crisp, the meat is done, making for juicy bites with a good ratio of crispy bits to meat, plus a built-in bone handle.
Even I don't live on fried food alone, so it's lucky there are also soft-shell tacos slathered with smoky chipotle mayonnaise then layered with black beans, corn, guacamole and tuna ceviche. They're a fresh spring break.
Cold dishes include a chopped salad that tasted as though it had been chopped a little too long ago, and a decent Waldorf salad, with celery, apple, grapes and lovely candied walnuts. I was happy with the white-chocolate cheesecake, formed into a sturdy little cone and topped with crunchy crumbs.
The Reuben sandwich might be 10,000 miles from its New York inspiration, but it brought no shame to the canon. House-made beef pastrami was the linchpin of a towering rye-bread construction with mustard, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and pickles. It's a winner and, unlike some American versions, I could get my mouth around it.
As you would expect from a hotel restaurant, Gramercy Bistro is a please-all-comers place, rolling from big breakfasts to cocktails, and both at once if you like. Hard surfaces make it noisy but there's a sheltered terrace for aural relief (and celeb spotting).
When you do a bit of everything, it's hard to do it all brilliantly but there's plenty to like - fried or not - at this all-day wine-and-diner.
3 stars (out of five)