MELBOURNE | Long gone are the days when steak is considered a ‘luxury’ meal and in the current day cheap steaks are readily available from one’s local pub. Despite this, cheaper steaks do vary significantly in quality and it is still nice to occasionally go out and have a high quality cut of beef prepared by a chef who really knows what he/she is doing. La Luna Bistro Carlton North is one of the mainstays of this part of Rathdowne Street, delivering modern Australian cuisine in a mid-price range with a big focus on steak.
It is a testament to the quantity of great eating establishments in the area that we hadn’t made it to La Luna yet but when one day we had a hankering for a good steak and didn’t have the motivation to make one ourselves we paid them a visit to see how they compared against the competition. Outside, La Luna Bistro strikes a classic, understated look that is entirely consistent with the feel of the Rathdowne Village area with the iconic orange sign being the only indication of the restaurant therein. Inside is a simply but elegantly fitted out dining area with dark wooden tables complementing the natural light resulting from the corner positioning of the restaurant.
On raising one’s eyes from table level you are greeted with light fittings that further enhance the atmosphere of the dining space and the all-important diagram that explains the various cuts of beef and where they come from.
As is common at restaurants of this type the drinks focus is on wine where the list offsets a wide array of tipples in bottle and by the glass. Having decided that we were going to have a steak lunch we choose a lovely full-bodied Heathcote Shiraz which went down very nicely.
As already mentioned the food menu has a strong focus on various cuts of beef, however for the non-steak eaters there are also a variety of other Modern Australian-style dishes available such as a crisp duck leg, roast pork with crackling and an amazing-looking lamb shoulder designed to be shared by two (unfortunately vegetarians need not apply). Side dishes included duck fat potatoes, brussell sprouts with bacon and sauteed spinach with garlic and chilli.
Fried Lamb’s Brains ($21.50)
We started our meal by sharing a plate of fried lamb’s brains – being quite the fans of offal (and also a little hung over at the time) we had no choice but to order this dish when told it was on the specials menu. The brain was cooked well with the outer crust was crispy without being too thick or oily and the brain retaining a nice creamy texture on the inside.
Duck Fat Kipfler Potatoes ($9.50)
To accompany our steaks we also ordered a side of sauteed kipfler potatoes cooked in duck fat. These were great. The potatoes were cooked just right and the duck fat added some great flavour and were served with a garlic butter which added some unneeded but most welcome extra decadence.
250g Hanger Steak ($41.50)
The first steak that we tried was the hanger steak, served medium rare and cut into thick strips, and accompanied by chimichurri and spinach. Medium rare steaks often come out medium, even at restaurants that specialise in steak so we were pleased to see plenty of pink in the middle of the meat. The first bite confirmed that La Luna’s reputation has been well earned – the steak was cooked perfectly and was very tender. The only thing that we would note as a criticism was that the meat had been seasoned so was on the salty side which was to our taste but may not be for everyone. The chimichurri probably needed just a little more spice to offset the slight saltiness of the meat, but overall this was an excellent dish.
500g Rib Eye on the bone ($59.50)
The other steak that we had was the massive 500 gram rib eye which was served on the bone with green beans and pepperonata. As was the case with the hanger steak the rib eye was cooked exactly to specification (again medium rare) and had excellent flavour and a good amount of fat and marbling throughout. We liked having the green beans for just a little bit of vegetable content but felt that the pepperonata didn’t really add much to the dish and we would have enjoyed it just as much (i.e. a lot) without it.
Having finally sampled the steaks at La Luna Bistro we can safely confirm that they definitely know what they are doing – these were some of the best steaks that we have had and we will be back again soon (probably to try the lamb shoulder which looked amazing). We recommend that anyone looking for an excellent meat-focussed meal in Melbourne’s inner north add La Luna Bistro to the ‘to do’ list.
La Luna Bistro
320 Rathdowne Street
Tue – Fri: 12:00pm to 3:00pm; 6:00pm to 10:00pm
Sat – Sun: 12:00pm to 4:00pm; 6:00pm to 10:00pm