285 High Street Kew, VIC 310103 9853 6929
|Opening hours||Mon-Sat 6pm-10pm,Wed-Fri 12pm-3pm|
|Features||Outdoor seating, Private dining|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Payments||Diner's Club, eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Free wine for Citibank cardholders here|
It's a shame you have to break a neighbourhood's heart to learn that you've won it. That's what happened with Mister Bianco's beef cheek, a sticky wintry braise that ducked off the menu last summer, only to be reinstated because Kew burghers started a ruckus. The beef cheek is now bolted to the menu. It shouldn't be radical to be a customer-driven restaurant, but Mister Bianco's eagerness to please is notable. After a solid two years in business, there's palpable care and thought in everything from the decorative door screen to the comments sheet slotted next to the bill. Along the way, there's expert, solicitous service, accomplished food and an intimate, classy dining room that works for romance, business, a girly gossip, or a family catch-up.
The food is Italian, but modern in approach. Chef and owner Joseph Vargetto trots out classics with immense pride. His veal cotoletta, using his mum's crumb recipe and splashed with a buttery herb sauce, is exemplary. Even the wedge of lemon seems happy to be there. The ''chocolate volcano'' (Mount Etna, of course) is a fondant pudding that pushes the buttons, ticks the boxes and wraps the concept in a flagrant bow of chocoholic joy - happiness isn't always, or even often, complicated.
Reading a pasta menu sometimes feels like being bludgeoned into sugo submission, but Mister Bianco's selection is full of light and shade. Semolina gnocchi are tossed with prawns, mussels, green olives and artichokes. Supple spelt tortellini are stuffed with braised rabbit and served with kale, crisp prosciutto and limpid tarragon-scented stock. It's a complete dish, wholly enjoyable, easy to share but hard to let go.
Vargetto's food gets cute at times - the beef ''taco'' is a shell made from parmesan, lined with lettuce and chilli beef strips. Zucchini flowers ''in the mist'' are served under a glass dome, which is whisked away in a drift of rosemary smoke. I found the smoky notes a little acrid, but the basil ricotta stuffing makes amends. An elegant tuna entree is as beloved as the beef cheek: the fish is seared, sliced and sandwiched with avocado puree, pistachio crumb, and green chilli ''harissa''. It's a new Kew classic, just like Mister Bianco itself.
Rating: 4 stars (out of five)