Circa, The Prince
There’s never a better excuse to splurge than with birthday celebrations…
Over the past few years there has been much change in the menu and direction at Circa. Whilst I cannot say I have witnessed the changes in person, I have seen it through the eyes of other bloggers. The current décor is well pared back, with an elegant colour scheme of muted white, cream, black and timber. There are no white sheets in sight to add to its carbon footprint. The menu by Paul Wilson & Jake Nicolson has steered away from its origins, focusing more on Asian contemporary fusion cuisine that sprawls across several menu categories that is largely designed for sharing – yakitori, global street food, hot+cold+spicy, BBQ + feasting + mains, and desserts.
*Entrees / share plates*
Oysters with native lime mignonette – jedd’s pacific oyster.
Fremantle Octopus with native desert lime caramel.
Ocean trout tartare with Yarra Valley caviar, snapper + taro chips
Crispy lamb ribs with Sichuan eggplant san choi bao
LA style Korean inspired wagyu taco + Napa cabbage slaw
Rice cracker crusted spicy calamari with seaweed aioli
Dancing crispy shiso shrimp with green tea and sesame aioli
Much of the fun and excitement of dining at Circa lies in this part of the menu. Not only are the flavours punchy and moreish, there is an element of tactile stimulation requiring a bit of hand to mouth manoeuvres.
The juicy bites of soft and slightly sweet Fremantle octopus for example is eaten straight off the wooden sticks. While the plump shrimps wrapped in delicately paper thin golden pastry has to be dis-impaled with your fingers and dipped into the divine green tea & sesame aioli. I cannot say how much I adored those shrimps. If not for ordering half the menu already I would have gone for seconds and maybe even thirds.
Despite deceptively appearing so elegant on the plates, both the wagyu taco and lamb rib san choi bao requires you to get your hand a little messy, as both are full of juice that just uncontrollably oozes out. There is good heat (i.e. spice) in the kim chi, and there is nice balance of lightness in the san choi bao.
When it came to the ocean trout tartare, I was already won over when I saw taro chips. If you have never had taro then you are losing out. It works with just about anything – in spring rolls, in desserts, on their own – and of course in this case it brings a bit of crunch and earthiness alongside the tartare and caviar. Love it.
Finally, I had heard much acclaim for the crusted spicy calamari, and they did not disappoint. Give them a try and you won’t be able to stop.
McIvor Farm Berkshire suckling pig with mango sweet’n’sour, golden beetroot + fresh lychees
Robata BBQ O’Connors grass fed sirloin, with kimchi butter, exotic mushrooms + fried bread.
WA Patagonian toothfish, sweet miso + black garlic
These were quality mains with good crackling, beautiful charring with fine use of caramelised mushrooms and onions, and even perfectly cooked fish. But there just seems to lack that little X-factor that would bring silence to the table. After all my foodie adventures, no matter how good the restaurant is, there are few and far between that are able to preserve that very high level of inspiration, creativity and sensory impact of entrees onto the mains that follow. Circa comes close to escaping this notion, but not quite.
*Puddings + Desserts*
Native lemon aspen pavlova with hibiscus ripple ice cream
Salted caramel delice with boysenberry sorbet and macadamia crumble
By this time, we (including me) were full to the brim. I can’t say I remember much detail from the sweet section *cough, food coma*. Both desserts were notably lighter, and more floral than I would usually like (or choose in a sane state of mind for that matter). P.S. nothing further need be said, when I say the dessert selection here has been much applauded by Momo-and-Coco.
Rating: Yummy+2. Circa is one of the few fusion-Asian cuisines in Melbourne that I have thoroughly enjoyed. The food is creative, dotted with fun and vibrancy and most certainly swoon worthy.
Whilst personally I would like the mains turned a notch up, there is more than enough to tantalise and satisfy from the less formal yakitori / global street food / hot+cold+spicy sections of the menu. Overall there is little to fault here and definitely a keeper.
[Circa, The Prince]
Where: 2 Acland St, St Kilda (ground floor The Prince Hotel)
Contact: 03 9536 1122
For more places around St Kilda…