I have been meaning to get over to Dalmatino for sometime. In fact, it was Maeve O’Meara and the Food Safari Croatian special that first planted the seed, some time ago now.
I remember a key point of interest was the diversity presented in Croatian food. Intense braises and whole roasted poultry in one corner, delicately simple fish stews and fresh shellfish in the other. A real journey for the senses.
My journey started with the décor. Although a relatively small restaurant, Dalmatino is decorated in such a way that makes you feel as if you have enough room to move, with a cosiness that doesn’t make you feel like you are eating in a sparse grand hall. With mood lighting, dark timbers and delicious red-brick walls, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a small eastern European village.
The menu is similar to the décor; cosy with enough choice to cater for all without overwhelming. Entrée had to be the Buzara or mussels cooked with tomato, chilli and garlic ($14.90). On arrival, I was seriously questioning my ability to get through three courses. The mussels were piled high on the plate, constantly testing the waiter’s deftness from kitchen to table. He passed and so did the mussels.
With my stomach par-filled with shellfish, it was time to tackle the main. Patka s Mlincima or half duck twice roasted with Mlinci (traditional pasta), served with a duck sauce ($36.00). It was at this point that my cosiness was taken to another level. The duck was crisp, yet succulent with the fat well rendered and the meat displaying a lovely subtle gaminess.
Unfortunately, the dish was a little too cosy. The Mlinci was rather stodgy and bland and the duck ‘sauce’ was nothing more than thin duck juice. What could have been a lovely dish with the addition of vibrant sauce, was sadly let down.
The whole-baked baby snapper special was a far better choice by my dining partner. Fresh and simple, the fish was well prepared and equally well enjoyed.
With hardly enough room for desert, I was tempted by the Palačinke s Jabukama or apple filled crepes with cinnamon ice cream ($14.00). Thank goodness I was. The crepes were thin and tasty, the apple sweet yet sharp and the ice cream provided that lovely balance of hot and cold. A nice way to end a somewhat undulating dining experience.
Would I go back? Well yes, I think I would. Whilst their dishes aren’t going to win any critical acclaim, the food is honest without being overtly ambitious. The coffee is not bad either.
280 Bay Street Port Melbourne Victoria 3207
Phone: 03 9645 6584