Ryan Dolan’s cooking career spans 14 years and different countries. He was commis chef at Michelin-starred Christian Tetedoie in Lyon, France, and opened his own fine diner, La Bijouterie, also in Lyon. More recently, the chef moved on from Nick Stanton’s refined-but-casual South Yarra diner Ramblr (it’s now a casual pizza shop) last year and took on the inaugural resident chef role at Broadsheet Kitchen). Now he’s setting up shop at Fitzroy bistro Little Odessa.
Brother and sister co-owners Stefan and Sofia Soltys have kept things fairly understated since opening the neighborhood spot, serving dishes drawing on the food of Hungary, Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Dolan says the new menu has those same influences, with big flavours that are simple but sophisticated. And there’s a focus on vegetables.
“I wanted to create something that wasn’t sterile, not stuffy – something a little bit new,” Dolan tells Broadsheet.
Think brussels sprouts with yeast oil and dairy-free macadamia-nut cream; smoked carrots with lard, mustard oil and honey vinegar; and raw kingfish with cucumber gazpacho and finger lime.
Larger plates might include cod with yuzu, turnip and kombu. And beef cheek with carrots and mustard. For dessert expect a rich but balanced combination of pear, brown butter and molasses.
The bistro’s wine selection is always front of mind, too. “We’re going to refrain from using too many spices because we want wine to be the accent,” says Dolan. The drinks menu currently leans Australian, with predominantly organic and biodynamic wine varieties from here and Europe.
In working at a small, local diner, Dolan is hoping to help reignite interest in other small businesses. He says he’s seeing more and more people eating local, looking for simple, unpretentious food and wine at affordable prices, and hopes it continues.
“We've seen a rebirth of wine bars coming back into fashion,” he says. “Out of the kitchen, I want to see [more] small businesses on the up.”