Lit­tle Odessa

It’s an Eastern bloc party at this neigh­bour­hood wine bar.

Time Out (Melbourne) - - FOOD & DRINK - By Jess Ho

IT’S COM­MON FOR im­mi­grant par­ents to work their ar­ses off in un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated in­dus­tries like hos­pi­tal­ity to give their kids a bet­ter life. The kids are raised in the res­tau­rant and in turn, end up run­ning restau­rants them­selves. This is the case with Ukrainian sib­lings Sofia and Ste­fan Soltys, who grew up in cult venues Café Par­adiso and the Paragon, and have opened up their own neigh­bour­hood hang­out, Lit­tle Odessa.

Along with high ceil­ings, dark tim­bers and grand Amer­i­can oak bar, this deeply ro­man­tic room boasts a fea­ture wall draped in a fam­ily heir­loom. It’s a mu­ral painted on a World War II army tent de­pict­ing the sib­lings’ great un­cle among his comrades with screen sirens wrapped around them.

Pier­o­gis are still the carb-on-carb potato dumpling the sib­lings grew up with, but at Lit­tle Odessa, they’re larger, crisper and lighter than the tra­di­tional ver­sion and soothed with a dol­lop of sour cream. Borscht is a steam­ing bowl of beet­root-stained root veg­eta­bles bright­ened with shav­ings of fresh cab­bage and a cool, anise-heavy, dill-spiked sour cream. Plates like the vodka and dill salmon tartare and the braised veal shin are a lit­tle lack­lus­tre and would ben­e­fit from a heav­ier hand of salt. Un­for­tu­nately, this is mag­ni­fied by the ab­sence of sea­son­ing on the ta­ble. Do your­self a favour and fin­ish on the tra­di­tional Rus­sian honey cake: thin lay­ers of dense, honey-in­fused sponge discs sand­wiched to­gether with a vanilla cream, un­der a crumb of tooth-shat­ter­ing hon­ey­comb taken to the very edge of bit­ter­sweet.

Lit­tle Odessa of­fers per­fectly ap­proach­able drops from Ro­ma­nia: 2014 Cramele Re­cas chardon­nay and feteasca re­gala blend in the whites, and the 2016 I Pre­fer Pinot pinot noir in reds. Beers are lo­cal, with the ex­cep­tion of Bud­var com­ing di­rectly from the Czech Repub­lic.

The cherry on top of ev­ery visit is that the Soltys sib­lings are as ex­cited to greet a stranger as they are an old friend. 274, Rear, Brunswick St, Fitzroy 3065. 03 9417 0526. lit­tleodessa.com. au. Wed-fri 5-10.30pm; Sat 1pm-mid­night; Sun 1.30pm-mid­night.

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