Popol Nah is another newbie sitting along the strip of Lygon Street, currently already overpopulated with Italian restaurants and loitering waiters beckoning you to enter. The interior of Popol Nah shows enough personality for many passers-by to do a double take; painted brick walls decorated with hanging deer antlers and oxen skulls. It is a bright and inviting space and the manager welcomes us in warmly with our pick of any table.
It was one of those weeks, that when we had all settled into our seats, voiced why each of us desperately needed a drink. We shared a bottle of La Vendimia tempranillo which was full of berries and left a hint of spice on the tongue.
La Vendimia garnacha tempranillo ($50)
The prawn ceviche was slightly overcooked and the chunky texture made it difficult to enjoy the components together as a whole dish. The accompanying taro chips added some much needed texture.
Caribbean style prawn ceviche ($12)
The tasty cheesy mixture was scooped up with some dense, crisp corn chips and we couldn't stop picking at it until it all disappeared.
Cheese fondue, chorizo and corn chips ($9)
The tasty empanadas were stuffed with chorizo and potato although the coriander mayonnaise was leaning more towards the creamy side rather than being herb-based.
Chorizo and potato empanada with coriander mayo ($8)
Considering that there were the four of us, the three pieces of beef on the skewer were slightly awkward. The beef was almost well-done and quite chewy, although the flavour of the meat was excellent and enhanced by the punchy chimichurri.
Argentinean style beef, capsicum and onion skewers with chimichurri ($14)
The shredded zucchini and kale salad was incredibly fresh with the meat dishes that we had ordered.
Shredded zucchini, kale, cucumber and pickled vegetable salad ($9)
Typically a slow cooked lamb shank would fall off the bone with just a prod, unfortunately the lamb was lacking some cooking time and sauce. It was interesting combination of the hearty lamb against the fresh and zesty quinoa salad.
Slow cooked lamb shank in spicy tomato, fresh and dried peppers with quinoa salad ($19)
The Caribbean style fish and chips came highly recommended by the manager. Reminiscent of the flavours in a Thai curry, with a creamy, coconut milk base, it was delicious with the tender fish and roasted vegetables. The use of plantain was certainly an interesting spin on the typical chips.
Caribbean style fish and chips - plantain chips, roasted corn and squash in a coconut broth ($14)
With a focus on sharing dishes, they were portioned on the smaller size and it had only felt like we had gone through entrees so we quickly ordered more food. The refried beans with cheese were very heavy and filling, yet strangely moreish. We much preferred the cheese fondue over the claggy texture of the refried beans.
Refried beans, cheese and corn chips ($9)
Everyone revelled in the chance to suck up all the delicious bone marrow when we were presented with the osso bucco. With slices of avocado to cut through the rich tomato sauce, the braised veal was uncomplicated and warming.
Braised veal in a wine and tomato with avocado ($19)
Sadly, the lamb and beef meatballs were dry and tough, partially redeemed by soaking up the tomato and white wine sauce, which worked well with the sweet mango salsa.
Lamb and beef meatballs in a tomato and white wine sauce with mango salsa ($10)
Lately, I've had an incessant hankering to bite into a buttery, short cookie sandwiching a thick dulce de leche filling with a coating of coconut flakes, otherwise known as an alfajore. Although the dulce de leche filling wasn't as caramelised as I would have liked, the union of the sweet cookies with the café ice cream, sourced from Helado Jauja, was delightful.
Alfajores with cafe ice cream ($8)
Altogether, it was an enjoyable meal at Popol Nah; with a select few of the dishes being more memorable than the majority. Being relatively new at the time of visit, Popol Nah had a few things to iron out but shows potential to rejuvenate that little pocket of Lygon Street.
Will I return? No, but they definitely have potential.
171 Lygon St
Carlton VIC 3053
(03) 9347 3293
Mon to Thur 10am - 10pm
Fri 10am - 11pm
Sat 9am - 11pm
Sun 9am - 10pm