Grill Americano review

Inside the bustling Grill Americano.
Inside the bustling Grill Americano. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

112 Flinders Ln Melbourne, VIC 3000

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Opening hours Tue-Fri noon-late; Sat 5pm-late
Features Accepts bookings, Licensed, Bar, Business lunch
Prices Expensive (mains over $40)
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 8616 8010

The early signs are promising. Walk into Grill Americano and you're immediately dunked in glamorous buzz and bustle: white-jacketed waiters weaving through a sea of banquettes and chairs upholstered in royal blue, the chairs' brass-tipped wooden legs reflected in glossy monochromatic terrazzo; a battalion of chefs working around a glowing wood-fired oven at one end of a white marble bar lit at intervals by shiny deco-channelling lamps.

The room dressing alone is enough to set the heart of any true restaurant tragic racing. Then you order an Americano (if there is a time and place to order the signature cocktail, this is it) and it quickly becomes apparent there's substance to match the style.

The cocktail ($24) comes in a highball and is built around a single oblong of ice that reaches the top of the glass. The Campari mixes with a cacao nib vermouth and a dash of mandarin soda and, on the top of the ice, there's a little circle of mandarin skin that not only prevents any direct nose contact with the ice but gives you a subtle whiff of mandarin with every sip. It's served with two segments of mandarin that have been dipped in chocolate and it arrives on a shiny stainless-steel tray on a sheet of Grill Americano-branded paper. I'll have what she's having.

It's all in the details: the signature Americano cocktail with a round of mandarin rind.
It's all in the details: the signature Americano cocktail with a round of mandarin rind. Photo: Supplied

For those more familiar with restaurateur Chris Lucas' raging against the pandemic machine than his work over the past couple of years, it's heartening to report his passion for restaurants remains undimmed. In fact, Grill Americano, which comes hot on the heels of his super-ambitious, mega-swanky Society and the neon youth-quake of Yakimono, might be his best work yet.

The menu, from chef Doug Keyte (recently at Queensland's brilliant Hellenika), is exactly as a Manhattan-influenced Melbourne-Italian grill at the foot of 1990s tower of power 101 Collins should be.

It's big and brassy, with a steak menu that starts with a $48 minute steak, naked but for a choice of classic sauces (peppercorn, red wine and gorgonzola among them) and mustards, and then rockets up, past the Gina Rinehart-branded wagyu bavette ($65) to a Riverina black Angus Florentine-style 1.2 kilogram T-bone for $165.

Potato focaccia with Ortiz anchovies and green olive butter.
Potato focaccia with Ortiz anchovies and green olive butter. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

Yes, it's expensive, but Keyte sticks to the cardinal rules of a restaurant like this: keep it simple and cook it right. And the meat he presents is excellent; seasoned correctly, cooked over charcoal and everything you need it to be, even as the price makes your eyes water.

If you're taking the steak path, sides must be added to the bill, perhaps textbook spinach with garlic and chilli ($14.50), a perfectly dressed leaf salad ($15.50), potatoes (chips or roasted), or ridiculous, addictive Parmesan-crusted onion rings served with horseradish mustard ($14.50).

To start with, though, there are excellent cicchetti, perhaps a generous serve of green olives stuffed with veal, pork and chicken mince, crumbed and fried ($12.50), or chicken crochette ($16.50 for two), serviceable though needing a little more salt.

Go-to dish: Saffron tagliolini with scampi and bottarga.
Go-to dish: Saffron tagliolini with scampi and bottarga. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

A pretty octopus carpaccio ($27.50) arrives as discs, just smoky from a quick trip to the wood-fired oven, scattered across a plate and dressed with olive oil, lemon, chilli and parsley. It's almost as simple and elegant as superb saffron tagliolini, glistening with a butter emulsion, served with raw scampi and finely grated lemon and bottarga ($44.50).

Wine genius and beverage director for the Lucas group, Loic Avril, has pulled together Americano's massive wine list with an expansiveness (both in price and geographic scope) that suits the mood of the room. A $70 glass of 2013 Massolino Barolo Serralunga? No worries. But you can also get a $17 glass of Tasmanian pinot noir from Josef Chromy.

There's a lot of big going on here – 145 seats, a 14-metre bar – but Grill Americano's success, its ability to show you a good time and have you planning a return visit while you're still in the room, is rooted in the small stuff.

Tiramisu with tempered chocolate.
Tiramisu with tempered chocolate.  Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

The thin layer of tempered chocolate that adds satisfying texture to a covetable tiramisu ($21.50). The restaurant's initials embroidered on heavy napkins. The carefully splayed Ortiz anchovies accompanying pitch-perfect potato focaccia ($24.50). Gorgeous glassware and flattering lighting. Organic Italian chestnut honey drizzled over 36-month aged Reggiano. The warmth and charm of the service.

And that tiny circular piece of mandarin peel. Fabulous.

Vibe Bustling Melbourne-meets-New York grill

Royal-blue bar seats are reserved for walk-ins.
Royal-blue bar seats are reserved for walk-ins. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

Go-to dish Saffron tagliolini with scampi crudo and bottarga

Drinks Extensive, expensive, impressive wines, plus not-to-be missed cocktails

Cost About $250 for two (more for high-end steak), plus drinks

Pro-tip Booked solid? Bar seating is reserved for walk-ins

Michael Harden is Good Food's acting chief reviewer.

https://grillamericano.com/