Monthly Archives: February 2013

Cucinetta, Woolwich

Cucinetta is Italian for “little kitchen”. And a lovely little kitchen this is in the salubrious Woolwich peninsula, looking out towards the habour bridge. Bright and light, its a great space for a relaxed lunch, admiring the city from a distance and glad that you are not a part of its busyness. Now in its seventh year, Vincenzo Mazzotta’s kitchen must be putting on a good show or the well heeled local patrons would have quickly flocked elsewhere. There’s a lot to be said for longevity in the restaurant game.

I’ve seen a few recent negative comments about the service and staff, but they seem to have heeded them, as they were attentive, welcoming, and accommodating, and we felt well looked after.

On the menu:

Pane Carasau – Sardinian Bread with mascarpone cheese and truffle honey and marinated olives.  While the cheese and honey combination was a great creamy indulgence to spread on the crispy slices, it was an incredibly small portion of cheese, and this was not at all good value for $21.

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Calamaretti – lighty fried calamari with tartare aioli. And the frying was indeed light, with no heavy sense of oil.

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Proscuitto di Parma with Buffalo Mozzarella and Caramelised Grapes.  Those grapes – a standout – and such a pretty dish, but again I thought four slices of prosciutto was a little lean.

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Vincenzo’s signature potato gnocchi with parmesan fondue, truffle, and black pepper.  Light and fluffy potato pillows, though I couldn’t really taste the truffle.

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Fresh Egg Squid Ink Linguine with crab meat, tomato, basil, parsley, and fried chilli.  This was the dish of the day for me. Silky smooth pasta, balanced tomato sauce, fresh crab, and chilli that provided a flavoursome fragrance rather than an overpowering punch.

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Grigliata – mixed grilled seafood – beautifully and simply done, as good quality seafood should be. Once again, a small serve, considering it was a main course and came with a $43 price tag.

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And to finish, ricotta canoli.  Not a great finish – pastry too thick and not as light and crisp as canoli I’m used to, and too much lemon in the ricotta.

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So the verdict – lovely surrounds, friendly staff, food with finesse and good flavours overall, but the serving sizes relative to price are disproportionate.  Italian food usually equates with generosity, and they need just a little more of it here.

Cucinetta, 103 Woolwich Rd Woolwich Ph (02) 9817 2125

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Amalfi Lemon Delicious with Limoncello Custard

A gorgeous silky custard for limoncello fans. Pandoro would also work well with this as an alternative to sponge. Makes 6. Recipe by Amanda Tabberer.

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Ingredients
250g sponge cake or Pandoro

Sugar Syrup
100ml water
50g caster sugar
50ml Limoncello

Limoncello Custard
4 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
45g plain flour, sifted
500ml milk
peel of 1 lemon, in fine strips
200ml pouring cream, lightly whipped
100ml Limoncello

Sugar Syrup
Bring the water to the boil, add sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then set aside to cool. Add limoncello and refrigerate until needed.

Custard
1. place the egg yolks and sugar in an electric mixer and beat until pale and fluffy.
2. Add the flour and mix well until smooth.
3. Combine the milk and lemon peel in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. When the peel rises to the surface, turn off the heat and remove the lemon peel.
4. Slowly add the warm milk to the egg and sugar mixture, whisking constantly.
5. Pass the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve to remove any lumps, then pour into a small saucepan and whisk over low heat until it thickens
6. Turn off the heat and stir well, then set aside to cool.
7. Fold in the whipped cream and Limoncello. Refrigerate for an hour.

Assembly
Cut the sponge cake into small cubes and dip quickly into sugar syrup. Using 6 glasses or bowls, put a layer of custard, a few sponge cubes, then more custard, then a few more sponge cubes.

East Ocean Yum Cha, Haymarket

East Ocean took the brave step a while ago of dispensing with the trolleys and giving you the option of ticking what you want on a form, though there are some wait staff carrying around other dishes on trays.  It makes for a much more sedate yum cha experience, and takes away the bustling and some of the fun.  Its not quite the same if you can’t wave away a pushy trolly dolly, or peer eagerly into the steaming baskets to unearth the contents.

Overall it was a bit hit and miss – some dishes worked well others didn’t – it seems to be about knowing what to order here. I doubt I’ll be back –  I’ll stick to my old favourites, Marigold and Palace.

On the menu:

Yum cha isn’t yum cha without a bit of salt and pepper. We started with salt and pepper calamari, the stalwart, and some salt and pepper whitebait.  The first was as it should be – bit of punch and tender calamari.  The whitebait was cold and we had to send it back, but even the replacement was lukewarm –  it was very average and could have been fabulous if cooked well (and served hot!).

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Next was the beans with mince pork.  Dish of the day. I’ve had the Din Tai Fung version (excellent), the Mr Wong version, and the Lynn Shanghai Cuisine version (both a bit bland).  This was flavoursome and with a nice hit of chilli.

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The dumplings overall where a little ho hum – we had a scallop and seafood, the snow pea and seafood and the Shanghai style pork dumplings.

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The fried rice also average, but the soy marinated chicken and bbq pork combo was tender and well flavoured. The bbq pork puffs had nice flaky pastry but needed more filling.

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It is however a great Cheap Eat, you can do it for under $20 a person – but there are other better choices.

East Ocean, 421 – 429 Sussex St, Haymarket Ph (02) 9212 4918

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Popolo, Darlinghurst

Piazza del Popolo is an impressive piazza in central Rome, surrounded by history.  Popolo in Darlinghurst, on the other hand, is tucked into an unsuspecting little square behind the Lexus dealership. A smallish restaurant seating sixty, it manages to feel intimate but not-too-squishy at the same time.

They clearly operate on a simple-but-good philosophy here, and some deft hands in the kitchen know how to let the ingredients shine through without too much fuss and fanfare.  The wood fired prawns for instance, were caressed by a combination of mint, parsely and capers, adding a nice freshness to the dish. The seafood on the Marinati seemed just out of the sea, and the creamy Buffalo mozzarella heightened by the surrounding sweet Summer tomatoes. The generous bowls of crusty bread, made in house, were reminiscent of what I’d have in my mother’s village.

Onto the mains and it was malloreddus (a Sicilian pasta) with a melt-in-the mouth suckling pig sauce. The spatchcock was touch overcooked but well seasoned, and the pizzas crusty.  They are true to their Southern Italian roots here, not tampering too much with what’s on the plate.

Pricing I thought was very reasonable – come in on your own and relax at the bar with an Italian wine and a plate of pasta, or come with friends for a relaxed Sunday lunch. Either way, you won’t have a tremendous hole in your pocket. Service a little hit and miss – we waited quite a while on arrival for someone to approach – with some going for the moody Italian look, others friendly.

Popolo, 50 McLachlan Ave, Darlinghurst ph (02) 9361 6641

Gamberoni – woodfired king prawns, parsley, mint, capersnapolialertpopoli1

Marinati – marinated market fish, baby endive, citrus olive oilnapolialertpopolo2

Latticini – Mozzarella, tomatoes, eggplant, basil olive oilnapolialertpopolo3

Malloreddus with suckling pig ragu (special)napolialertpopolo4

Galletto – roasted spatchcock with radicchionapolialertpopolo5

Pizza Norma – fior di latte, eggplant, ricotta salatanapolialertpopolo6

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Zucchini and Potato Frittata

Serves 8. Can be served hot or at room temperature. If zucchini flowers are available, these make a lovely decorative layer.

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Ingredients
3 large zucchini
1 brown onion
good handful of basil
sprig of rosemary
2 spring onions (shallots)
150g ricotta
100g grated parmesan
4 large potatoes
3tbsp olive oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Making it
1. Boil potatoes until just cooked, allow to cool then slice using a mandolin (3mm slices). Season lightly.
2. Slice zucchini in 3mm slices
3. Dice onion, and slice spring onions
4. Heat olive oil in a large pan and saute onion until soft, add spring onions, and finely diced rosemary
5. Add zucchini and cook for about 5 mins until softened. Allow mixture to cool slightly
6. Preheat oven to 170 degrees
7. Combine potato, zucchini mixture, parmesan, torn basil and ricotta. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Grease a 26cm springform pan, line base with baking paper which comes halfway up the sides of the pan
9. Pattern a layer of zucchini down the bottom, then layer the rest of the mixture, smoothing so nice and flat
10. Lightly beat the eggs, and pour over the top
11. Bake for 30-40 mins. Allow to rest in tin for 15 mins before turning out.

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Rosetta Ristorante Melbourne

I actually have a Zia Rosetta who lives in Rome. She’d be pretty damn thrilled to think Neil Perry had named a Melbourne restaurant after her. This place has been the talk of the town since it opened. Initially, there were plenty of “what does Neil Perry know about Italian” comments, then various writers said its like going to your Italian Nonna’s house. Now I don’t know about you, but neither of my Nonna’s would ever charge $45 for a cotoletta. The scrutiny was on.

The room is old style opulence, you expect to see the Godfather in a corner sitting with his cronies. Huge chandeliers, a wall of black and white photos of Italian movie stars, waiters in white jackets (plenty of them native Italians), polished service, and a lovely atmosphere. You can also sit outside but it doesn’t really compare to the interior.

On the menu:

House made ricotta with roast tomato. The ricotta itself was creamy and lush, but awfully small for $16. It could have done without the tomato, and the bread was too charred, so that when you spread the ricotta on it, it was overpowered. I would have just liked a simple (larger) round of ricotta with no tomato, and some plain beautiful bread, and it would have done the trick.

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Prosciutto San Daniele with nectarine and hazelnut. Excellent prosciutto which went well with the sweetness of the nectarine.

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Beef Carpaccio, red witlof, anchovy mayonnaise & parmesan. Again excellent, no complaints.

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Grigliata Mista di Mare – charcoal grilled prawns, cuttlefish, calamari and mussels with extra virgin olive oil and lemon. Really lovely, especially the cuttlefish and calamari.

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Polpette al forno – meat balls oven baked in a tomato sauce. The competition from my Nonna was too steep here, and they didn’t do it for me – however everyone else thought they were great.

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Spaghetti alla Chitarra – prawns and pistachio. There was way too much oil in this, there was a pool in my plate at the bottom, and the pistachio was over toasted. I was hoping this would be a wow dish but it wasn’t. The spaghetti itself though were beautifully done.

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Tagliarini Neri with warm mud crab with fresh chilli and lemon zest – again beautifully done pasta, but crikey, $65, and $97.50 in a main size – even if it was hand picked by Virgin Maidens or whatever the spiel was.

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Wood fire roasted duck, mattone style with braised cherries. The waiter had us sold on this after telling us the duck was steamed, then deboned, and then cooked with a hot brick (mattone). And it lived up to the hype. The serve was very generous and the duck was divine. However I didn’t rate the braised cherries, they were overpowering for this dish. The stellar duck just didn’t need them – a simple puree of cauliflower or similar would have worked well.

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Cotoletta: pan-fried crumbed boneless veal loin with lemon. I got a shock at the size of this, its really huge (in fact we were having bets about what percentage the slight woman at the next table would polish off), so you could share it between two and the price then looks reasonable. But it was a little dry and didn’t have enough flavour (Nonna competition again).

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And to finish, some fresh gelato, in this case white peach and pistachio, generous and flavoursome, but so-so as far as gelato goes.

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The wine list is extensive with a huge selection of Italian wines, but of course mostly high end pricing to match the menu. There really isn’t much under $100 a bottle.

Overall for food and drinks you won’t get much change out of $150 a person – it is very very expensive Italian (Nonna would have fed the entire village), and while I’m glad I tried it, and it might be good for a big night out or special occasion, I wouldn’t rush back for that sort of price.

Rosetta Ristorante, Crown Complex, 8 Whiteman Street,  ph (03) 8648 1999

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