The review LOTI St Kilda | Seafood restaurant on the esplanade of St Kilda

By on July 6, 2022 0

From the outside, LOTI looks like a small café, occupying the ground floor of one of the winding buildings of Saint Moritz. You can walk past it without peeking into the floor-to-ceiling windows or paying attention to the low-key outdoor seating. That is, until you come to the giant sculpture of an ice skater, one leg nicely pointed behind her, her skate slicing its way across the sidewalk. She is the titular Lady of the Ice (LOTI), after whom the restaurant is named, a nod to the site’s past life as a popular ice rink.

But there’s nothing icy about the venue’s layout, which is designed in warm neutral tones, with terracotta and salmon accents by interior design and design studio Mitchell and Eades based in Melbourne. The rose-veined marble serpentine bar divides the venue perfectly, with the bar side designed for cocktails, interesting and delicious wines, and snacks like oysters and scampi skewers in butter. The other side is the restaurant part, with an ever-changing seasonal menu, focusing on seafood and wild ingredients.

Chef Elijah ‘EJ’ Holland (Lûmé, NOMA Austalia, Aria, Quay) doesn’t think a chef’s job ends at the kitchen door, scavenging for ingredients along the coast and taking all the staff to choose more than 2 tons of olives to make the restaurant’s homemade olive oil. The result is a menu that not only changes according to the seasons, but also according to what one can physically find on a given day. But LOTI certainly isn’t flying by the seat of his pants; each dish is carefully studied for maximum punch.

This butter-poached scampi skewer, for example, is a two-bite wonder, with the rich, creamy butter perfectly complementing the soft, tender flesh. LOTI serves up probably the finest assortment of oysters we’ve ever come across, with an ornate garnish of forage plants showcasing the gorgeous pops of color from homemade condiments. These range from homemade coconut vinegar to tiny, corked bottles of yuzu to bright red limes, the flesh of which pops with a hint of citrus to enhance the oysters’ natural creaminess.

We fell head over heels in love with LOTI’s version of a Cornetto, but a far cry from the dessert course. This ‘Cornetto’ contains smoked albacore mousse and albacore tuna mojama, or salted tuna loin. The little cones are presented in a bowl of seashells, with flowers and edible plants topping the creamy foam. If you’ve ever eaten a really great lox and cream cheese, you’ll appreciate the interplay of smoked fish in a creamy base that can be a surprise treat. The mousse is beautifully seasoned, reminiscent of the sea right outside the door and providing a textural contrast to the soft crunch of the slightly sweet homemade cone. You might not know you needed a room-temperature fish version of the classic movie theater treat, but you sure do.

Perhaps the most impressive dish from a menu full of impressive dishes was the “Ice Rink” ceviche. Coarsely chopped red emperor fish arrives mixed with a few of those 2 tons of hand-picked Pyrenees olives and topped with a slice of frozen fish broth, which evokes the restaurant’s name and heritage. Diners should mash the puck immediately to encourage it to melt and fuse the flavors, while servers pour the native citrus tangy sauce over the dish. A vigorous blend will cook the raw fish in citrus, resulting in a strongly flavored ceviche that contrasts with some of the more delicate varieties served elsewhere. This ceviche is hearty and full of throat, with lots of salt and acid to keep things fresh and a variety of textures and temperatures from fish, olives and ice cream. It’s the flavor equivalent of neon, with flavors and textures dialed in all the way. You will be sad to see the bottom of the bowl; we certainly were.

If your tastes are more grass than surf, there’s plenty to satisfy on the menu, including a barley-fed rump of beef that’s perfectly pink in the middle and served with salsify horseradish. You could slice this rump with a fork, and it’s so tender it melts in your mouth. The bite of the horseradish cuts through the richness of the meat, making every bite a perfectly balanced pleasure.

Save room for dessert, if you can – the Dutch interest in ice cream classics doesn’t start and end with the Cornetto. He also makes a version of a Magnum – about a third the size of the 7-Eleven version and presented on a wild twig. It’s made with Daintree Rainforest Chocolate and roasted chestnuts, with aniseed myrtle imparting a light liquorice base note to the ice cream inside. There’s also plenty of salt here to balance the sweetness and enhance the flavors. Unilever, eat your heart.

The wine list is designed to complement the unusual menu, and we didn’t see any labels that we recognize from huge producers. We particularly liked the Tamellini soave, with citrus and almond characteristics that play with the creamy oysters and their lively garnishes. Another favorite was the Santio gamay, a light King Valley red that sings with fruit and has the jammy scent of a pinot noir without the occasional accompanying acidity.

Cassidy Knowlton dined courtesy of LOTI.