One of the best things about writing this blog is getting to discover little hidden gems either through readers suggestions or when the a chef or restaurant owner gets in touch. This was how the tiny Franco Choo’s Italian in Prahran found its way onto my radar after chef Steven Choo got in touch to invite me to come in for a meal. The restaurant is a well kept locals secret, it only seats around 20 people but was full for dinner on a wintery Wednesday night.
Just off Chapel street the tiny space is cosy and unpretentious with the main decoration being wine crates hung over the bar and filled with ingredients. It’s not styled or designed and instead feels a bit like the sort of trattoria you would stumble across in the back streets of Rome.
Steven says he changes the menu every two weeks or so depending on what’s in season and what he can get his hands on at the market. At this time of year the menu blackboard is all about Italian comfort food. Who could go past a dish of baked ricotta gnocchi? Especially when the fat, fluffy gnocchi ($14) are nestled in a tomato sauce with cavolo nero, roasted cauliflower and cubes of pancetta.
Jet black squid ink risotto ($15) was dramatic in presentation but the creamy rice topped with king prawns and scattered with peas was delicate and balanced.
The main options make the most of the wintery weather to indulge in slow cooking. A hunk of wet roasted lamb shoulder ($28) sitting on top of a carrot puree was gutsy and tender. But the accompanying scattering of celery and almonds seemed a bit superfluous. Similarly the pork stew ($26) is the definition of comfort food. The meat is cooked in milk and white wine until it is super soft and then served with grilled polenta and a hint of licorice in the form of roasted fennel.
Desserts were equally good although it would have been nice to have a warm dessert or pudding option for Winter. Wibbly wobbly vanilla panna cotta ($12) was text book perfect and came accompanied with crumbs of lemon almond cake and stems of rhubarb. Chocolate mousse topped with salted caramel popcorn was served in a delicate china teacup making a pretty as a picture finale to the meal.
Franco Choo’s Italian is one local’s secret I was very happy to discover. It has charm by the bucket load. And the food’s bloody good as well.
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Gourmet Chick was invited to review Franco Choo’s Italian
Details: Franco Choo’s Italian,179A High St Prahran 3181 (Ph 03 9529 7310)
Damage: Pricey but on this occasion I did not pay.