Out with a few girls on a Tuesday night looking for a decent bite to eat. We attempted Chin Chin but the place was pumping and my stomach was crawling up my throat again and could not wait one and a half hours for a table.
So one of the girls said let's get a pasta at Il Solito Posto. I had a slight hesitation as there was no recent talk of this place. But I do recall those good old times when I used to get a good value well cooked pasta for around $14.
Well, have times changed!
In contrast to Chin Chin, Il Solito was dead. Different to times before when we had to wait at least 20 minutes for a table.
I ordered the seafood linguini and others ordered risotto and the veal penne. The seafood and the veal penne were good time favourites.
Not any more - the seafood was scarce, there was no salt (I hate adding salt to pasta after cooking) and I was not sure on the mussels. And worst of all it cost $32. Look, I am not expecting to pay $14 but for that price I am looking for a well cooked flavoursome pasta with a healthy amount of fresh seafood. The veal ragu was too rich and the risotto was average.
This brings me to a couple of matters:
(1) The price of good produce - I understand that restaurants are suffering because good produce here is expensive. But cooking pasta well with a few simple ingredients does not need to cost much - mussels are cheap, as are tomatoes and basil.
(2) Finding an excellent well priced pasta is Melbourne is impossible. I am always disappointed unless I am paying top dollar at Il Bacaro and Enoteca di Sileno. There are some great places in New York City (goats cheese house made agnolotti with lemon butter - $12 at Otto in Greenwich village - the best pasta I have ever eaten!) and Rome (crab pasta with a delicate brandy cream sauce at L'Archetto for $17).
Places like Il Solito Posto need to think really hard if they want to get thriving bums on seat during the week - maybe spend some time with the likes of Mario Batolo from Otto.
Or maybe they are doing well with take away meals from the likes of Macquarie bankers - I guess working crazy and desperate hours in the office with money to burn, one will eat anything - been there, done that and over it.