Finally! This is the third time I’ve been to Thirty Eight Chairs and finally I’ve remembered to take some photos before scoffing down my pasta and can write a review that befits this establishment.
I’ve walked along Chapel Street many times as a tourist and many more times as a local. I would not describe the South Yarra part as a dining destination, even though there is the occasional top spot. One day a colleague suggested an Italian joint just off Chapel on Bond Street and instantly I had my reservations about their reservation.
I was wrong. It was a fabulous meal and a subsequent journey there for lunch again proved the first experience was no fluke. My first dinner further demonstrated the virtues of an almost all-Italian staff, handmade pasta, and a cosy (you guessed it) 38 chair restaurant. Incidentally there is now another venue next door for overflow, so I’m not the only punter enjoying the show.
Tonight, we both chose to enjoy a handmade pasta made “Nonna style”, which is explained to be fresh, but not al dente. Mine was fettuccine with wild mushrooms and truffle oil. I don’t say this lightly, but it was the best mushroom pasta I can recall and that includes my several trips to Italy (though I note it is not my usual choice to have just mushrooms and pasta). While not al dente like a dried pasta can be, it is still great firm pasta, taken out of the water just at the right time.
Catherine enjoyed her handmade curly style pasta with a duck ragu. It had that rich deep flavour you associate with slow cooked Italian meat sauce, along with porcini mushrooms. To balance our rich pastas, the classic parmesan, pear and rocket salad works perfectly as an accompaniment.
This is better than a go-to local Italian joint. It is up there with many of the finer, more expensive, city establishments. Outside of Tipo 00, I’m quite happy going to Thirty Eight Chairs, or Supermaxi, both outside the CBD, for great Italian food, served by terrific hosts.