Thursday, October 27, 2011

MoVida Next Door

The aptly named MoVida Next Door is one of the hot spots in the city. It is a soulful (meaning: full of souls or too damned crowded) bar in Hosier Lane, just next to Forum Melbourne, obscured in an artsy alley embellished with abstract graffiti and inspirational quotes, its outer façade too, does not lack the painted, witty, light-hearted jokes, which one can enjoy while waiting for a table. 

After Spring's gig on Tuesday, herself, Jayden, Edwin, Kaili and I decided to have a post production celebration dinner. Instead of Movida Next Door, we planned to go Movida. Unfortunately, there was only one table in Movida which could accommodate five and it was occupied. The waiter advised us to try our luck next door, literally. Still, it was an eternity of waiting and we were cold and starving.

We could not wait any more after getting a table. We were squinting at the menu and the specials board, trying to figure out the Spanish words in dim light. In the end, we ordered platija, mejillones, camarones, embutido, codorniz, two bombas and churros. I did the ordering, with the mock Spanish accent and the signature lisp.

Now, to get to what those words mean.

Mejillones means mussels, not just any mussels but the sweetest mussels that I have ever tasted. There was no doubt about their freshness. Every pair of those iridescent shells cradled a sizeable mussel within. Each of those treasures were firm, succulent and absolutely exquisite. Upon biting them, them just broke apart and the pieces just bounced around my mouth, unleashing the torrent of juicy  goodness from within. Words utterly fail me at this moment in doing justice to the mussels. They were hands down the very best. I would have to credit MoVida Next Door for having found the secret to the miraculous mussels, by marrying them with a light broth. As such, the natural flavour of the mussels was put on stage and in the limelight, with nothing to mask or kill the flavour. On the other hand, the broth was flavoured by the sweetness of the mussels, which Kaili and I would have drank had the pot not been so heavy or if we had a spoon. 

Embutido is just a generic term for sausages. MoVida Next Door serves three types of meats for their version. One is a salami with fennel and aniseed, another thin slices of loin ham and the last being a spicy, chorizo-like ham.

The salami was probably my favourite. It had a more chewy texture due to the hardened spots of fats. The tastes of fennel and aniseed were quite prominent, which gave the salami a more complex flavour as compared to the usual overly salty ones.

The loin ham was quite a new experience for me. It was rather bland and was masked by the taste of olive oil that was drizzled on the board. I suppose one could call it a healthier and more premium ham, due to the light seasoning and the price. The texture of the ham was also typical of expensive ham. It had the texture of grated cheddar, only meatier and slightly softer.

The last of the lot was the spicy ham. There was a stark contrast between that and the loin ham due to the burst of saltiness and spiciness upon chewing. Texture-wise, it was somewhere between the salami and the loin ham. It was not too chewy but not too soft and quite a delight to chew on.

Platija simply means flounder and MoVida Next Door fries theirs with butter, jamón and sour peppers. For me, the idea of frying whole fish until crispy with butter is just strange. However, only one side of the fish is fried until crispy, the other just looks like steamed fish. Interestingly, the sour peppers gave the butter sauce a slight hint of sourness while the jamón, salty on their own, did little to the taste of the dish as a whole. The fish itself was amazing though. It was fresh as can be as the flesh was firm and gave a lot of bite. Still, I think it is a rather unpleasant way to cook such a wonderful fish.

Codorniz means quail. Jayden did not made much fuss about what to order but was rather insistent on the quail and he got what he wanted. The first thing that came to mind when the dish was served was: where is the quail? After digging in the jar that was served together with some shaved, white thing, four pieces of large croutons, we found a rather cute piece of quail meat. The quail, apparently, is pan-seared and then soaked in sherry and pomegranate. By itself, the quail had a wonderful, slightly rubbery texture to it which made it an absolute pleasure to bite. I wondered whether it was the sherry that altered the texture of the meat or was it like that to begin with. One thing the sherry did do was make the quail very sour. Though the idea of eating meat in vinegar is quite appalling to me, the quail had a refreshing quality to it.

When eaten with the croutons and the white things, it was quite a wide range of textures in one mouthful. The croutons were crispy and crunchy, the white things had a fibrous texture and the quail's was as described above. It was certainly an explosion of flavours, which would leave those who are curious and analytic about tastes flustered due to the rather chaotic mix. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I think it could be both.

Camarones means shrimps. These were tiny shrimps deep fried and heavily salted, served in a paper cone, on a wooden board, with a wedge of lemon and aioli, a rather novel presentation. The shrimps were crispy but not completely dry. Despite being thoroughly deep fried, the flesh still retained some moisture.

By themselves the shrimps were terribly salty but when dipped in the aioli, the creamy sourness balances perfectly with the saltiness. It certainly made a good snack. The only thing I have against this dish is the portion. It was by no means hearty.

We were still quite famished after the five dishes. So we ordered some tapas and a dessert.

By now, one would expect another literal name for the next dish. If so, this dish would come as a shocker. It does not take a polyglot to figure out what "bomba" means.

The menu describes the Bomba as a chorizo-filled Catalan Potato Bomb with a spicy sauce. I guess it reminded me of Indonesian perkedel (potato cakes), just with a more Mediterranean touch due to the spicy sauce. The crust was crispy and the potato inside was silky. However, at AUD 4.50 a piece, I would expect the Bomba to stay true to its description "chorizo-filled". I could only find two pieces of chorizo in each of those golf ball sized balls. This one really let me down.

It would be an understatement to say that Spring and Kaili were enthusiastic about the churros. It was all they wanted from start to end.

MoVida Next Door's churros are powdered with cinnamon instead of castor sugar, which made it less in-your-face and more of an adult taste. Diners only looking to satisfy their sweet tooth would not be able to appreciate the subtlety of the churros and the dip, which they described in the menu as drinking chocolate. The drinking chocolate is atypical of those usually used as dips. It was not too thick and too sweet. Instead, the taste is more of a complex amalgam of nuts and cocoa.

All in all, MoVida Next Door has a mix of great, good and decent dishes. Fortunately, there was nothing that stood out by putting me off. When it comes to seafood, the freshness is guaranteed but their way of cooking might not be so suited to my taste. Would I return for another meal? Probably for the mussels or if MoVida, which is next door to Next Door, has any vacancies, it would be a much better choice.

I would like to credit Edwin for being my lighting specialist for the night.

1 Hosier Lane,
VIC 3000.

03 9663 3038

Google Maps does not seem to have 1 Hosier Lane as MoVida Next Door. However, I will still include a map.

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