Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mille Vini: A thousand reasons to visit

I've passed by Mille Vini on the busy part of Surry Hills' Crown Street a thousand times but had not ventured into the veteran wine bar until a few months ago. Perhaps it was the thought of 1,000 wines (translation of Italian mille vini) subconsciously intimidating me.

Late last year the former founders of the Crust Gourmet Pizza chain took over the business, retaining its name and wine bar concept and bringing in chef John Lanzafame, a recognised pizza maestro, in the kitchen though not for pizzas.

Wine shelf at Mille Vini, Crown Street, Surry Hills
Chef Lanzafame brings a rustic southern Italian menu - of share plates, pasta and more - to life in the small, narrow kitchen with plenty to tempt both nibblers and diners in a casual and accessible setting.

The two-storied space is full of character, being a heritage-listed building from the 19th century that was once used as a stonemason's workshop.

Wooden beans in the ceiling
History aside, Mille Vini's current wine bar status means you can be drinking one of over 20 wines available by the glass beneath potentially centuries-old wooden beams and brickwork, while dining on appropriately rustic Italian fare.

Sambucca fritte olives
We started with a bottle of the fun Santa Margherita Prosecco and olives from the antipasto menu. Fat and meaty black olives were served warm with wrinkly skins in a small frypan, cooked in a sweet, syrupy sauce of Sambuca anise-flavoured liqueur.

Bambino bruschetta with nduja and cucumber salsa
I am weak to the temptations of nduja spicy salami paste and pretty much order it whenever I see it. I've never had such a generous serve as that at Mille Vine, served as a thick puddle with an oil-filled divot and cracked black pepper.

Presented as a deconstructed DIY bruschetta alongside thick rounds of bread, the nduja was a velvety mix of porcine fattiness and roasted chilli goodness, cut by thin ribbons of pickled cucumber.

Burratta with proscuitto and roma tomato
Burrata mozzarella cheese filled with cream is another of those irresistible Italian delicacies, here served with ripe, sliced roma tomato and beautiful, thinly shaved prosciutto, with lashings of olive oil and black pepper.

The burrata didn't ooze its creamy innards out upon cutting but had a clean, creamy flavour that was perfectly matched with the sweet yet savoury tomato, while the prosciutto held its own on a plate of excellent produce.

Liver pate with pear compote
From the stuzzichino menu we had the liver pate, served in a jar with a thin layer of jelly and on the side, more bread and a dark, sweet pear compote.

The pate was lusciously smooth and rich with a depth of flavour that happily distracted me from the liver factor, although I'm growing to like the offal blitzed with loads of butter in pates and parfaits.

Home made gnocchi with Italian sausage ragu and parmesan
In the spirit of the wine bar, we moved to a second bottle of wine for mains, the 2012 Lamberti Pinot Grigio. It probably wasn't a typical match for the evening's pasta special of gnocchi in a rich, tomato-ey Italian sausage ragu.

The house-made cocoon-shaped potato pasta was airy and light in contrast to the full-flavoured ragu, with sausage bits fragrant with fennel. Served with lots of parmesan cheese, it was an utterly satisfying dish with heart and soul.

Beef tagliata
Italian tagliata is a salad made for carnivores, featuring thinly sliced rare-cooked steak beneath a mound of dressed rocket leaves and parmesan shavings. The steak's juices melded with lemon juice and oil to dress the overall insalate but it was the tender, succulent beef that shone.

Cheese board
The best meals - with great wine and good company - should always end with cheese and so, despite the lure of neighbouring gelato queues for dessert, we opted for the cheese board with a side of ports and dessert wines that I don't quite remember now.

I do recall the parmigiano reggiano being my favourite; the gorgonzola dolce that was beyond divine with a drizzle of truffle honey; tallegio and provolone piccante; complete with dried muscatels, walnuts, raisins, quince paste, fresh red grapes and a range of crisp breads.

Upstairs decor
We came, we ate, we most certainly drank. The combination of rustic, casual eats with mostly Italian wines in an intimate, character-filled venue is a definite winner attracting a broad range of locals, couples, girls nights out and group catch-ups.

While there might not be 1,000 wines on the wine list, after my second dinner at Mille Vini I think there's close to a thousand reasons to get in for a visit.

Disclosure: Food, booze and shoes has previously dined at Mille Vini as a guest.

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8 comments:

Annie said...

i can imagine myself coming here each time and still want to try everything off the menu!

Sherrie Huang said...

Oh man the gnocchi and cheese plate just look too good!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

It all looks wonderfully good! I haven't been there for years but I recall enjoying my previous meal.

Amy zhong said...

the Bambino bruschetta with nduja and cucumber salsa had me salivating! wow!

Chris@ MAB vs Food said...

Burratta, yes please! With juicy ripe tomatoes, there is nothing better :9

Shanshan Lam said...

that tagliata sounds like my type of salad; the steak, the dressing... honey, i am there!

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Am I the only person who starts singing Milli Vanilli whenever I see the name of this restaurant? lol. But hello burrata and pate!

Tina said...

Hi Annie - Yes, it's a very tempting menu :P

Hi Sherrie - It was all pretty amazing :)

Hi Lorraine - They sure have been around a while..! I remember wanting to go when they first opened!

Hi Amy - Yeah, that was seriously amazing - highly recommended.

Hi Chris - You're right, although cheese always tastes better in Italy...

Hi Shan - Yeah, can't believe that was my first time having tagliata... Plenty more from here on ;)

Hi Helen - Mmm, perhaps. Nduja, burrata, pate, wine... all good things.

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