Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest at Piqueos
Incredibly embarrassed that prior to this visit, I had not taken the time to visit Piqueos, a little gem in the Rathdowne Village, bringing the flavours of Argentina and Peru to Melbourne.
Set up by Shuan Burke and Dave Mills, with co-owners Paul Goodard and lisa Prince, 'Piqueos' is not just a random name, but actually is a tidbit of food or tapas, usually designed for a single person.
The space is dark and intimate, with brick walls and touches of copper detailing. There's a healthy mix of counter and table seating, and before long Piqueos is filled to the brim with bums on seats.
Piqueos offers to feed us with a selection of their best (and a request from my end for their morcilla), and we naturally accept.
I'm delighted that we start the night with popcorn instead of bread. But it's not just any popcorn, it's cooked in pork fat and dusted in paprika, making it terribly moreish with a healthy spicy kick at the back of the throat.
The Tiradito was the first of the piqueos that we sampled, modest slices of milky white kingfish with puffed quinoa and a touch of passionfruit. Such a bright and cheerful bite, with the tender kingfish, surprisingly crunchy quinoa and strong but not overwhelming sweetness and tartness from the passionfruit. A lot going on in just a few bites.
The Pulpo, char grilled octopus with kipfler and olive tapenade was also a play on textures and thoughtful flavours. I was surprised that the olive tapenade was as subtle and light as it was, not overwhelming the gentle flavour of the octopus.
When I saw the morcilla on the menu, i knew I had to order it, and I was not disappointed when a whole sausage was presented to us. Yum. It wasn't spicy, like some morcilla's or black puddings I've had, and I found the fat was well distributed throughout, rather than in globs like it sometimes can be. Although there was no spicy kick, it was incredibly delicious, the sweet roasted capsicum complementing it nicely.
A delicate roasted beetroot salad with jerusalem artichoke and mild goats curd, made for a vegetable reprieve before the big guns were brought out.
Say hello to the Churrasco, 350grams of grain fed sirloin with Piqueos's absolutely delicious chimmichurri. In my notes, I've literally typed "That char is like woah". Because seriously? It's awesome. Falling off the bone, a delicious and tender piece of meat, that's not overly fatty. I really enjoyed how herbaceous the chimmichurri made the meat, cutting through a bit of the richness.
And let's talk about these hand cut potato chips with huancaina salsa with olive salt. I'm convinced the chips are cooked in pork fat (probably should have asked), as they are themselves moreish treats, super crisp on the outside, just the way I like them. But that huancaina sauce? There's salads, cheese and condensed milk in that smooth sucker of a sauce. Just woah. It's everything your nutritionist will tell you not to eat, but everything that your taste buds want!
Having destroyed the plate of chips, I wasn't sure if we could fit dessert in…but then it arrives on the table and the second stomach kicks into gear.
The alfajor, a soft cookie with dulce de leche and coconut was lovely. The cookie was short, crumbling into the smooth and rich dulce de leche. Just beautiful.
My favourite out of the two desserts (by a close margin though) would have been the suspiro limeno, a soft Italian meringue sitting on top of a cold serve of dulce de leche and plum pisco.
Just look at that Italian meringue! Beautiful, couldn't get over the smooth and velvety texture. The plum pisco added a little bit of quirk to the sweetness, a little tart, a little alcoholic. It's terribly easy to fill up on this dessert in a flash!
By the end of the meal, I was well and truly in love. Wooed by the comforting but not overtly rich flavours of Peruvian and Argentinian food. Piqueos is truly a little treasure, sharing their love of these cuisines, with quality produce, and a smile on their faces. I hope to pop by one of their special dinners, where they focus on a particular region in South America over several courses. A Chile dinner, focussing on the wines is coming up soon on the 29th, and an Argentinian dinner in August…oh the options….
298 Rathdowne Street
Carlton North 3054