Onda Bar & Eatery
Time Out says
At this intimate Richmond eatery, South American classics like ceviche, slow-cooked meat and Margaritas are the sure bet
South American eateries tend to fall into two camps in Melbourne: loud and bold restaurants championing the well-known cuisines of Argentina or Peru (think meat, ceviche and vino tinto at San Telmo and Harley House), or laidback neighbourhood joints slinging traditional, regional specialities (like La Tienda and Citrico). Places doing South American fusion are a rarity.
Enter Onda. Couple Stephen and Niharika Hogan scoured South America top to tip and brought their love for the continent’s cuisines back home to an intimate venue on Bridge Road in Richmond.
Onda’s compact menu (which is about half vegetarian) pays homage to Latin flavours but isn’t wedded to tradition. The ambitious dishes get full points for creativity. In the beautiful ceviche, kingfish is evenly sliced, opaque and firm from the finger lime. The flavours are spanking fresh, with the purple yam crisps providing the perfect crunchy foil. Beef short rib, smoked in-house with apple wood, likewise hits the mark. The mofongo (a thick Puerto Rican hash brown made with plantain) is a clever accompaniment to the gelatinous, fall-off-the-bone rib. Beef fat croutons add crunch, and drops of beetroot puree and herby chimichurri provide depth, acid and freshness.
Not everything is a slam dunk. The house-made mole – Mexico’s favourite chocolate-tinged sauce – hits the trifecta of bitter, sweet and spicy, but doesn't quite stick the landing with the accompanying mozzarella chipa, chewy puffs that taste like savoury profiteroles and are tad light on the cheese. Crumbed plantain fingers need more lime aioli and pickled sweet’n’sour jalapenos for balance: the same goes for a medley of roasted wild funghi served in cassia bark – more acid and spice, please.
A cigar box smoulders upon opening (ooh, the drama), and inside it are black sesame and chocolate tubes with a nutty brittle shell and a filling that’s heavy on banana and light on dulce de leche.
Full points go to the cosy interior. Comfy chairs encircle rustic wooden tables; floor-to-ceiling windows allow for people-watching; and the centrepiece is a blue suede ‘S’ curved couch, perfect for canoodling couples. The green bar and leafy mural on the pastel-pink wall conjures the jungle-beach vibes of Brazil or Belize. It’s no wonder people are going full rancho relaxo on a Friday night, ordering cocktails made with South American spirits like pisco or cachaca (made from fermented sugarcane juice), or a good old Margarita. The vibes are there, and when some of the dishes find their feet we’ll have South American fusion to get really excited about.
280 Bridge Rd
|Opening hours:||Tue-Thu 5–10pm; Fri, Sat noon–10.30pm; Sun noon–10pm|