It’s not easy to replicate an excellent restaurant experience at home. You can dim the lights, dust off an old tablecloth and dig out a couple of matching wine glasses, but there are some things the professionals do more effectively than we ever can (a word to the wise: enlisting family members as waitstaff, however comical that may seem initially, is a dangerous game). And being looked after by a good sommelier is one of those things.
A good somm makes you feel at ease, even if your pronunciation of “Montepulciano” comes out sounding more like your mate “Monte’s chinos” than an Italian grape. A good somm isn’t trying to upsell you. They’re there to help you have the best possible time, drinking the best possible drop for your buck, that works with whatever it is you’re eating.
And while we can’t dine out right now, with the help of local Dan Murphy’s wine merchants, we can enhance our takeaway experiences with a good beverage buddying up.
Cheese arepas and “old clothes” pulled beef from Arepa Days
This sunny diner is dedicated to the arepa, a savoury pancake popular in Colombia and Venezuela that’s made from ground white corn. Arepa Days does plain and cheese-stuffed versions, and both can be topped or stuffed with just about anything – from guacamole and Vegemite to scrambled eggs and chorizo.
Order a bucket of cheese arepas to-go, then load them up with the eatery’s signature ropa vieja beef, a Cuban dish of beef cooked for hours with tomato, capsicum and onion, then shredded (the name means “old clothes”). Add guacamole and hot sauce for a little oomf.
“It’s very earthy and simple but filling,” says Santiago Villamizar, who owns Arepa Days with his wife Carolina Talero. “There’s a special sweetness to it from the tomato and onion cooking for such a long time. I’d definitely pair this with an easy to drink [beverage] as you may be having two or three arepas to make it a full meal.”
Expert pairing tip: Blue Pyrenees Bone Dry Rosé
Richo Doumani, wine merchant for Dan Murphy’s Alphington, says a rosé would also work wonders. “This bone dry rosé from Victoria has a lovely texture which will match the pancake perfectly,” he says. “There is also enough richness to balance with the flavour of the beef.”
How to order it: pre-order online for delivery or pick up from Arepa Days in Preston or sister eatery Sonido in Fitzroy.
Doro wot from Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant
For Mesob chef-owner Dawit Kebede, doro wot takes him back to his childhood in Ethiopia. If the sweet, spicy chicken stew was cooking – traditionally at Easter – there’d be electricity in the air. Something big was about to happen; something to bring whole families and even villages together.
The sweetness comes from the slowly simmered onions, and there’s a decent kick from the heavy dose of berbere, a fragrant spice mix of chilli, coriander, garlic, ginger, nigella, and more. A few boiled eggs are thrown in at the end, and it’s served with ayib (a soft cheese similar to cottage cheese) and injera, a fermented flatbread.
Expert pairing tip: Airlie Bank Pinot Noir
Doumani says this savoury number from the Yarra Valley is “defo the go” here. “It’s funky and delicious, the bright acidity will cut through the spices and the savouriness will offset the sweetness of the chicken.”
How to order it: 03 9489 6952 to order and arrange pick-up from Mesob in Northcote. The small team at Mesob is unable to facilitate delivery at this stage.
Chilaquiles with refried beans from La Tortilleria
Kensington eatery La Tortilleria’s house-made tortillas are so outstanding, the lo-fi diner supplies them to its competition – restaurants such as Mamasita, Hotel Jesus and Mesa Verde. Try them in the chilaquiles (pronounced chill-a-kill-less), a dish that’s different in every region of Mexico, but will always involve fried tortilla chips submerged in salsa – a bit like nachos, only soupier.
La Tortilleria covers its tortilla chips in a mild salsa made from roasted tomato, onion and chipotle. A blend of mozzarella and tasty cheeses goes on top, then a big whack of smoky, garlicky refried black beans, a mix of sour and thickened cream, and some fresh coriander.
In Mexico, chilaquiles is best known as a breakfast dish, said to be particularly good for resurrecting the hungover if you add a couple of fried eggs to the combo of crunchy chips, fresh salsa, and fatty cream and cheese.
“Normally we’d pair this with a beer,” says Gerardo Lopez, who hails from Mexico and opened La Tortilleria with his friend Diana Hull. “It goes well with any beer, to be honest.”
Expert pairing tip: Cerveza Pacifico Clara
“This is comfort food done well,” says Nick Veanes, wine merchant from Dan Murphy’s Ascot Vale. “I recommend enjoying it with a Cerveza Pacifico Clara. This crisp style of pilsner has a slightly honeyed malt note that will complement the spices in the dish. It has a lively round finish and the light bitterness balances the palate, allowing the chilaquiles to stay centre stage.”
How to order it: order online for delivery to Kensington and North Melbourne, or pick up from La Tortilleria in Kensington
Kakuluwo mirisata (Jaffna crab curry) from Upali’s
David Cruse grew up on the east coast of Sri Lanka, and remembers his dad cooking this fiery curry after coming home from a day out fishing. Now, along with his wife, Cathy, Cruse owns two Sri Lankan diners – one in Glen Waverley, the other in Colombo – and both serve this rich crab curry that originated in Jaffna, a coastal city in northern Sri Lanka.
In place of the traditional mud crab, Upali’s uses blue swimmer crab, which is cooked in a broth made from tamarind, mustard seeds, garlic, chilli, onion, curry leaves and coconut milk. In Sri Lanka this is a real special-occasion dish. It’s messy, and best devoured with rice, roti and some coconut sambol to take the edge off the heat.
“It’s alright with a beer, but as with most of our spicy dishes we find a riesling or a pinot gris works best, or maybe a light pinot noir if you really prefer red,” says Cruse. “We look for varieties with some citrus, and usually something quite light, too.”
Expert pairing tip: Vickery Watervale Riesling 2019
For this curry, Stef Fisher, wine merchant from Dan Murphy’s Malvern East, likes this young riesling from the Clare Valley, “to match the deeply aromatic and spicy flavours of the dish. The fresh lemon and lime citrus flavours and soft mineral acidity are a perfect foil.”
How to order it: order online for pick up from Upali’s in Glen Waverley, or get it delivered.
“Cheakypita” from Miznon
Miznon is all about Israeli fare, much of it crammed into fluffy pita and best served with a cold beer, and the “cheakypita” is no exception. It starts with Miznon’s take on falafel – a patty made from blitzed chickpeas, parsley and coriander – that’s grilled on a hot pan rather than fried. The falafel arrives inside a pita from Brunswick’s Alaysia bakery, along with a thick slice of grilled tomato, sour cream, pickles and red onion. There’s real pleasure to be had in the contrasts in this dish – a combination of fresh and crunchy, soft and pillowy, cool and creamy.
“At Miznon we would pair it with a shot of Arak Elite, a local Israeli liquor that tastes of aniseed,” says head chef Afik Gal. “Any Israeli will confirm – arak goes with everything! Particularly street food.”
Expert pairing tip: Dal Zotto Col Fondo Prosecco
If you don’t have Arak Elite on hand, Veanes recommends this prosecco. “It’s super delicious,” he says. “A traditional prosecco [with] peaches, citrus and seductive brioche notes pairing up nicely with fuller mouthfeel and soft fizz.”
How to order it: order online for delivery, or pick up from Miznon in the CBD
Fish-flavoured fried eggplant from Dainty Sichuan
Dainty Sichuan’s fish-flavoured eggplant sits at the entry-level end of the spice spectrum, and, despite the name, this is a vegetarian dish – not a single ocean-derived element is involved. Not even fish sauce.
The sweet-and-sour dish has been on the Dainty menu for more than 15 years, and despite a few adjustments to the presentation it’s much the same as when the Sichuan eatery first opened. Big chunks of fried eggplant are flavoured with ginger, garlic, chilli, black vinegar, Shaoxing wine and “many Sichuan seasonings”, according to operations manager Will Xiao. Xiao says the name comes from the texture of the eggplant, which is similar to that of stir-fried fish. Each piece is soft and smooth after soaking up just the right amount of oil during cooking. Order it with lots of fluffy steamed rice.
Xiao recommends pairing with any drink that “can neutralise the spicy flavour”.
Expert pairing tip: SC Pannell Adelaide Hills Aromatico
The spice in the dish can also work well with this Adelaide Hills bottle, which blends the bright, floral whites of sauvignon blanc, riesling, and gewurtztraminer. “It’s loaded with mouth-watering summer fruits, rosewater and sweet spices,” says Antony Tatangelo, wine merchant at Dan Murphy’s Prahran. “The very slight sweet edge and silky soft mouthfeel work beautifully with the dish’s heat, too.”
Head to the Dan Murphy’s website to find your local store or shop online now.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Dan Murphy’s.