I must have driven past this restaurant one hundred times and never knew it existed. Never knew that its unassuming exterior with rustic ‘CENTONOVE’ sign, housed an intimate italian inspired fine dining restaurant, frequented by the East side well to do. Picking up One Chef’s Hat in The Age Good Food again this year, after the same award in 2010 and 2011, dining at Centonove promises to be much more memorable than the facade suggests.
We made a booking for a Friday night and were told that the restaurant runs two dinner sittings, one at 6:30 and the other at 8pm. I completely understand this system given the restaurant can only hold about 40 people at capacity, however this does restrict your dining experience. If you choose the later session, don’t expect to eat before 9pm because by the time you have finished chatting and pouring over the menu (possibly with the help of your waiter) you will still have to wait the standard 20-25 mins for your meal.
The interior and decor is classy, it has a very fine dining feel where each table is set with fine white table cloths, olives, two sets of cutlery, wine glasses, bread plates and thick napkins. Dim yellow lighting gives an intimate feel to the space making it perfect for special occasions. The bar is placed at the centre of the front room, however waiters will cater to your every drink need, giving you no reason to leave your seat.
Like a well oiled and rather charming machine, the staff helped us though the menu and explained some of the more unusual Italian terms. They could tell us which dish went with what, make recommendations and cite the daily specials by heart. They are also on hand to help you with any allergy or intolerance questions.
On the menu there are a variety of Italian inspired dishes, including vegetarian, pasta, meat, fish and seafood based dishes. Choosing the classic Italian style, you have the choice of Primi (entre sized dishes), Secondi (main dishes, usually featuring a protein), Insalata e Vedura (salads and sides), Dolci (desert) and Formaggio (cheese). The ingredients and flavours are classic italian, but taken to a fine dining level.
I had the Pumpkin Risotto with sage and goats curd ($31) because I love a good risotto and wanted to see how this restaurant could compete with my mother’s excellent pumpkin risotto. The serving size was generous, with a hearty dollop of goats curd that added the creamy savoury texture that the risotto needed. However the dish was covered by a layer of a white wine and stocky liquid, presumably what the risotto was absorbed in. Not really what I look for in a risotto, it made the rice almost mushy and suggests that too much liquid was used in the cooking process. That said, the flavour was tasty, only mildly pumpkin, mostly due to the quality of the goats curd.
We also had a Special of Tagliolini with Prawns, garlic, chilli, radicchio, pecorino and capers. While the dish sounded and looked delicious, the diner complained that the flavours in the pasta were not strong enough.
Honey glazed half duckling with fontina and parmesan creamed silverbeet and jus ($39). The portion of duck was very generous, though this is a feature of Italian Secondi dishes, making the protein the main part of the meal, still I was very impressed. The skin of the duck was crispy whilst the inside retained that fatty juicy flavour. The creamed silverbeet whilst not the most appetising looking side was set off by the parmesan.
Lemon and thyme crumbed veal loin with a cabbage, apple and parmesan salad ($39). The veal was tender and slightly pink on the inside, and the crust a dark golden brown. The salad was finely sliced to the point of resembling a coleslaw rather than a standard salad, but it had the fresh crunch and tang of the parmesan desired.
For side dishes we had Roasted rosemary and garlic potatoes ($11.5) and a salad of Provolone, parr, rocket and radicchio with lemon and garlic dressing ($9.5). The potatoes were golden jubes and seemed as though they had been turned almost into potato nuggets with a crunchy coating on the outside. They were roasted with black garlic in its skin to the point where the garlic had almost caramelised and had a sweet flavour. The salad was very simple and small but fresh.
On the whole, there where some good and bad points in the food we were served at Centonove, however the restaurant space and staff are of excellent quality. While this might not be a place you want to be forking out the money for every week, it remains a perfect location for special occasions. Staff are happy to cater for your needs and you will definitely walk out with your italian craving satisfied (in a much more classy way than pizza).
109 Cotham Rd Kew