The two main reasons people know about Armenia are so starkly different, it's kinda concerning. Either they've studied the Armenian Genocide, or just watch a lot of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Melbourne itself is a dry zone for Armenian food. This probably has something to do with the miniscule Armenian population here — according to the last Census it was only about 3500 — but Sezar is one restaurant proudly showcasing what Armenia has to give.
Nestled in Melbourne Place, the restaurant offers contemporary Armenian food that also pays homage to other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. The restaurant's interior itself is beautiful. At night it's dark, fit out with leather banquettes and warm lights to make a romantic atmosphere. During the day Sezar is perfect for a business lunch.
The menu is quite expansive. Sharing dishes come in the forms of spinach and feta pastry cigars ($12 for three), oysters with compressed apple and anise ($9 for two) and the knockout spanner crab manti — Armenian dumplings served with yoghurt and paprika butter ($16 for four).
What takes the food to another level at Sezar is how anchored the spices are in the dishes. Powerhouse flavours such as cumin, paprika, cardamom and chilli sing out from the plates. That goes for the cocktails too, which almost make for a separate dining experience.
The cocktail list features concoctions such as the Good Fortune, which is packed with Noy brandy (from Armenia), pomegranate, chilli and lemon ($22). Subtract the alcohol and this drink is almost good for you. Sezar also has a range of wines, beers and mocktails available.
But back to the food. When you're ready to move onto something more substantial, consider the dangerously addictive twice-cooked chicken wings with pomegranate glaze ($18) — it comes highly recommended by the waitstaff. For lamb lovers, try the shish kebab with eggplant caponata and some of the smokiest babaghanoush out ($22).
But the anoush (that is, sweets) menu is where the tongue trembles. The new-style baklava is a must, made with layers of filo pastry and Ricketts Point's vanilla and walnut praline ice cream ($14 for two pieces). The honey cream is a great choice if you don't feel like something too sweet, topped with saffron poached pear and brik pastry ($14). You can also order a dessert tasting plate if choosing one is all too much ($40).
On that note, there's also a banquet option, where the stress of choosing is alleviated. Be prepared for a never-ending mix of dishes to land on your table for $59 — seafood, pastries, dips, meat, dessert, the lot. And the lot is exactly what you want — at Sezar, you're going to want to eat it all.