South American cuisines seem to have taken over the whole of Australia by storm recently. Restaurants serving Mexican, Argentinian, Brazilian and Peruvian food are popping up everywhere in Sydney and other cities. During my recent trip to Melbourne with Peter, we’ve decided to check out a bar that serves a type of traditional bite-sized bar snacks called, Pintxos, that are usually found in San Sebastian, Spain, but Peter confirms that pintxos are just as popular in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Not to mention the suggestive lascivious bar name, we are easily seduced and ready to get Naked For Satan.
We find our way to Fitzroy and the bar is easily spotted on Brunswick Street. If I haven’t heard of this place before nor particularly looking for it, I’d have simply walked past, thinking it is either a brothel or a gentleman’s club with such provocative name. Since we know what it has in store for us, we push open the door and walk inside with anticipation.
I think we have just walk into a Tardis, it seems a lot bigger on the inside than the outside. The high ceiling is cascaded with hundreds of bottles of wines, burgundy red banquettes and timber floorboards offer a touch of sophistication, the bar on the left is the heartbeat of this establishment, different flavoured vodkas are stilling and the counter is covered in an eclectic mix of pintxos. On top of that, we simply can’t ignore the steampunk looking machinery in the center of the room which gives this place its name.
Who is Satan? According to the Fitzroy legend, a Russian named Leon Satanovich, the grandson of a former Russian vodka maker, fled the Russian pogroms and made his way to Melbourne where he worked as a cleaner/caretaker at the Moran and Cato building in Brunswick Street. Many Aussies found his name quite a mouthful and soon nicknamed him, ‘Satan’.
During the Great Depression, part of the building was closed down and Satanovich found some copper boilers and water tanks while cleaning the empty space, so he decided to weld them together and created the vodka stills in warehouse. During the summer months, Satanovich often seen working in the warehouse, distilling vodka with nothing more than his underpants. And soon he became everyone’s best friend, selling his vodka to the locals in Fitzroy.
When you are with Satan, you must be honest and obey the system. I actually quite like the ‘honest system’ here, so you can choose as many pintxos as you like from the counter and bring it back to your table, eat it, go back for more, but make sure you save all the toothpicks and put in the little glass provided. Once finished, just bring all the used toothpicks to the counter and pay before you leave.
Trust me you will never stop at just one pintxos, especially when they are only 80 cents each during lunch on weekdays and also dinner Monday to Wednesday.
Pintxos, pronounced peen-cho, means ‘spike’ in Basque, these little bite-sized morsels are often served on a piece of bread with the ingredients on top, all held together with a toothpick. The pintxos selection here is pretty exciting, savoury to sweet, some more exotic than the others, each dish is clearly labelled. We actually take quite some time standing there to decide what we’d like to try.
We know we are not going to stop at just one plate and only pick three pintxos at a time to pace ourselves. The garlic prawn on cauliflower and Manouri cheese (1st pic on top) is a perfect bar snack, a pinch of paprika really brings out the sweetness of the prawn and the creamy cauliflower and cheese puree. The seafood and carrot puree pintxos is pretty as a picture, with black flying fish roe that occasionally pops with intense brininess. My favourite are those with anchovies, Pissalavieve and Gilda, one is more gutsy with strong flavoured anchovy with onion and olive while the other is more delicate served with pickled chillies and white anchovy.
Peter is very familiar with pintxos and definitely had more than a few from his many trips to Buenos Aires in his life. He likes the pintxos here at Naked for Satan, but find them a little bigger than normal, it should be one perfect mouthful that fits in one gob; the ratio of bread vs ingredients is also the other way round, should be more toppings and less bread, as we do find the thickness of the bread lends itself to dryness. Peter has a chat with the owner and finds out that they also actually went to Argentina (even the same pintxos bar) to do research on the pintxos and brought the idea back to Australia.
Pintxos aside, there is plenty more cheekiness here to keep ourselves amused and blushed. From plates, to menu…
Ohh.. .la… la…!
…to the orange tinge back wall along the staircase that leads to the bathrooms, is tastefully covered in vintage pin-ups of naked men and women in various poses. I simply have to stop and admire the collage of awesomeness while sneak in a snapshot or two without looking like a pervert.
The bathroom itself is just as mindblowing, covered in pages from old cookbook. I even found a recipe for fish gumbo on the wall and took a picture of it. Maybe I will give it a try one day.
This place is a hoot, lunch costs us no more than $10.00 each including the beverages, I even bought a tshirt before I left so now I get Naked For Satan everyday.
Naked for Satan 285 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne Tel: +61 (03) 9416 2238 Opening hours: Sunday to Tuesday 12 noon to 12 midnight Wednesday to Saturday 12 noon to 1am Pinxtos 80c Monday to Friday lunch and Sunday after 6pm All other times pinxtos are $2 each