400 Gradi, 110 Keilor Road, Essendon. Phone: 9351 6690
Keilor Road has always appeared to us to hold much food promise – promise that largely goes unfulfilled.
The Mount Alexander Road end, especially, seems to be perennially drab.
So we’re happy and excited to accept an invite to dine at the swish, new 400 Gradi, an invite that came to us through a media colleague for whom it was not a good fit (see full disclosure below).
It’s entirely possible we may have gotten around to trying the Gradi Brunswick sibling.
The one at Crown?
Very probably not.
But a sexy new place in Essendon?
The Essendon Gradi, on the ground floor of a newish apartment building, has high ceilings and two main dining spaces as well as stools at the bar.
Much is black and/or shiny.
We find the service to be spot on, while our table in the main dining area affords us the wait-time pleasure of watching the open kitchen and its inhabitants in overdrive.
We’re in two days before Christmas and the place is VERY busy.
Having watched the cured meats being sliced off in a neverending stream, that’s how we start – with 18-month prosciutto crudo di Parma Mornello ($15) with cornichons and caperberries.
It’s a delight to which some very good fresh bread is presented on the side.
We’re not paying so there are no financial factors stopping us from going for secondi such as slow-cooked capretto with lemon, paprika, white wine, tomato and olive oil ($30); or the Gradi porchetta with apple balsamic, cipollini and white cabbage ($35).
But it’s a hot day, we’re not much in the mood for meat – and we have our eyes on dessert.
So pasta it is for us.
In the past year or so, Bennie has developed an interest in gnocchi.
I tell him the gnocchi di patate with 20-year-old balsamic, black garlic and sage butter ($24) he is about to eat here will likely be the best he has tasted.
And so it is, the gnocchi being delectably fluffy pillows caressed by simple, high-quality accessories.
My seafood linguini with fish (salmon and white fish I’m told is snapper), prawns, clams, scallops, garlic, chilli, napoli sauce and herbs ($34) at first blush appears to be a standard offering.
But it’s a much superior outing, thanks not only to the quantity of seafood but also to its startling freshness.
Aside from needing – for my purposes – a bit more zing in the chilli department, its perfect.
And so to dessert …
We have a cone apiece of the house specialty gelati – margherita.
Its sweet, sophisticated and very Italian.
But its no match for the tiramisu (top photograph).
This is a stupendous masterpiece.
All the expected flavours and textures are in place but there simply seems to be more heft and substance and all-round yumminess than has been the case with most of the other, many versions we’ve tried.
The only downside to what has been a very enjoyable experience?
During a busy, silly-season, pre-Christmas lunch session, the noise levels have been very high.
I’m told some soundproofing is on the way.
Next time, we’ll take those pizzas for a spin.
400 Gradi is open for dinner seven days a week and lunch Thursdays to Sundays.
(Consider The Sauce dined at 400 Gradi as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meal. We chose from regular menu and had no restrictions placed upon us in doing so. 400 Gradi management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)