Monthly Archives: May 2013

A tavola, Darlinghurst

“A tavola!”. Like chef Eugenio, it’s a phrase that reminds me of my childhood. It’s what Mamma Rosa or Dad would say to summon us for meals, and my sisters and I would bound to the said tavola, trying to get there before our brother to make sure he wouldn’t steal all the best bits of chicken. (I also remember coming home from school one day and deciding I was no longer going to call our father “Papa”, but go mainstream and call him Dad. It was highly controversial at the time.)

It’s a long communal table, also reminiscent of family gatherings growing up – although we would have packed in 40 aunts/uncles/third cousins/neighbours/randoms who showed up at our place – in the space where they put 20. Always room for one more!

Fridays is the only day they are open for lunch, and we are led to a light filled small room down some stairs, while the long marble table is covered with flour, pasta sheets and little hand operated pasta machines. The team is busy, carefully creating their hand made pasta for the night ahead.

Pretty much everything on the menu is tempting. There’s a selection on a little card in front of us, with additional choices on the blackboard.
018
019

I don’t need a lot of words to describe the food. Its simple and just lovely.

We start with the Ricotta di Buffala con Insalatina, which is almost too pretty to eat. The ricotta is outstanding and works well with the vegetables.

020

Then onto carpaccio, again beautifully presented,  delicate, and flavoursome.

021

My friend and I both opt for ragu – mine a more traditional pork, veal and chicken, with rigatoni, and hers the special lamb ragu with silky smooth parpadelle. For me, when I eat out at an Italian place, their ragu is always the benchmark, the dish that tells me that they know what they’re doing. This most definitely passes the mark, and Mamma Rosa would approve – the sauce is well seasoned and full bodied, the pasta al dente.

022023

I wasn’t going to have desert, but then I heard the words custard and ice cream – soft pillows of deep fried custard with silky ricotta ice cream, to be precise. A gorgeous combination. Don’t think about it, just say yes.

024

Go take a seat at the table. You’ll be very glad you did.

A tavola, 348 Victoria St, Darlinghurst, Ph (02) 9331 7871

http://www.atavola.com.au/

A Tavola on Urbanspoon

Antoine’s Grill, Concord (Guest Review)

Written by a Guest Reviewer for Napoli Restaurant Alert

Antoine’s Grill – a true taste of France in the Inner West! Antoine has worked alongside the renowned chef Alan Ducasse at La Cour Jardin in Paris and at one stage appointed private chef to the House of Roederer Cristal Champagne. (Locally, he has worked with Luke Mangan and Serge Dansereau at Bather’s Pavilion.) After the offshore stint, Antoine decided to return with his family to Australia and open up in Concord where his partner Sam grew up.

It’s a warm and intimate space with an unmistakable Gallic feel, full by 7.30pm on a weeknight, the warmth accentuated by our enthusiastic waitstaff, Thomas and Helene. After amiably talking through the dishes, we begin with melt-in-the-mouth Sydney Rock Oysters with French red wine eshaIlot, and a smokey Champagne mornay.

IMG_3874

Next onto Yarra Valley goat cheese pannacotta, fig, beetroot, caramelized honey & port glaze. Such an elegantly presented entrée. Beautifully textured and a lovely flavour combination; but a toasted brioche or wafer would have been a nice addition.

IMG_3875

Spanner crab soufflé, watercress, walnut, galangal scented emulsion – exceptional! The crab and galangal danced on the palate and we were surprised by the generous amount of crab in the soufflé. The accompanying salad was refreshing and beautifully light.

IMG_3876

Quail filled with roasted mushroom, foie gras, spring onion & parsley root puree, cassis jus. The filling is delicious and the cassis jus together with the parsley root puree is just superb adding a lovely sweetness that just lifts the dish straight away. A fabulous follow on to our entrée’s.

IMG_3881

Signature 500 day grain fed Wagyu Steak. When ordering this dish my husband was presented with a box set of Laguiole steak knives to choose from – a first in the countless number of restaurants we’ve visited around the world. This Wagyu steak was fall-apart-tender – a juicy, flavoursome main course. The accompaniments we chose – Warm roasted eggplant, with fire tomato & parsley and the French peas with mint, basil & roasted almond relish worked really well with both the quail and steak. I also tried the Roasted carrots, marjoram with herb scented sour cream and Steakhouse chips on my first visit and would also highly recommend them as sides.

IMG_3878

Then onto dessert. Café Gourmand – chocolate vanilla profiterole, Baileys scented crème brulee, chocolate velvet fondant and miniature lemon tart. We really enjoyed this, a set of miniatures of the desserts featured on the menu. It definitely pressed all the right buttons.

IMG_3884

Callebaut chocolate velvet fondant, Grand Marnier sauce, minatured iced “magnum”, nougatine dust. A rich and decandent dessert. Loved the flavours, loved the textures, loved the dish – full stop! What a spectacular finish to our menu. The richness and smoothness of the fondant together with the Grand Marnier sauce and the beautifully nutty textured “magnum” – Antoine absolutely nailed it!

IMG_3883

In summary – it was a decandent, polished and precise 4 course meal at a reasonable price. We will definitely be back. Next time we will bring our children along. I was quite impressed by Antoine’s kids menu. First time I’ve come across a menu that features “real” food for children – grilled salmon, barramundi or steak – no chicken nuggets or fish fingers in sight!

Bon appetit!

Antoine’s Grill, Shop 1, 112 Majors Bay Road, Concord Ph (02) 9743 3354

Antoine's Grill on Urbanspoon

Silverbeet and Ricotta Filo Scroll

Great for breakfast, brunch, or lunch!

IMG_3892

Ingredients
1 bunch silverbeet, stalks removed, chopped
2 reserved silverbeet stalks, diced
1 brown onion, diced
3 spring onions, diced
2tbsp olive oil
75g parmesan cheese, grated
500g ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
12 sheets filo pastry
50g melted butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a pan, add onion, silverbeet stalks, saute until soft, add spring onions
2. Add silverbeet, a couple of tablespoons of water, season with salt and pepper and saute until silverbeet cooked (add more water if needed). Allow to cool and remove any excess liquid
3. Combine ricotta, parmesan, silverbeet mixture and mix thoroughly. Add egg and stir through
4. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees
5. Lay out 2 sheets of filo pastry. Brush each sheet lightly with butter, and place another sheet on top of each sheet, and repeat, until you have two piles of 6 sheets.
6. Dividen the ricotta and silverbeet mixture in half, and spread along one each of the filo stacks, along the longer side. Roll each stack into a log
7. On a baking tray lined with baking paper, take one log and roll it into a scroll. Take the second log and place around the first. Brush with butter and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden.

Coffee Warehouse Deli & Cafe, Homebush

A sprawling space on Parramatta Road, Coffee Warehouse Deli & Cafe has just what its name implies – lots of coffee, roasted on the premises, a deli where you can pick up freshly sliced smallgoods and other Italian treats, and a cafe.

The menu has a range of pastas, pizzas, meat dishes, salads and panini.  Not sure if ‘cafe’ is the right name though, these are well and truly restaurant prices – even the panini were an exorbitant $23 and a basic Pizza Margherita $26, while a fillet steak and chips was $36 – it is very expensive and overpriced for what it is, but I will say that the pizza was very good indeed. Similarly the deli goods aren’t bargain prices.

Margherita028

Ham and mushroom027

Would I drive to Homebush especially to come here? Probably not.  But would I drop in for a pizza if I happened to be on Parramatta Road going somewhere else – maybe.

022

Coffee Warehouse Deli & Cafe, 17-35 Paramatta Road, Homebush, ph (02) 9764 8822
Coffee Warehouse: Cafe & Deli on Urbanspoon

Baked Eggs with Spinach and Ricotta

A great breakfast! Serves 4

014

Ingredients
1 brown onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp raw sugar
100g baby spinach, wilted
100g ricotta
1 can canellini beans, rinsed and drained
8 eggs
Toast to serve

Making it

1. In a small pot, heat olive oil, add onion and saute until onion is soft. Add tomatoes, salt, sugar and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. (If you like you could also throw in a whole chilli for flavour)
2. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees
3. Spread beans among four individual baking dishes (or you could do all in one large dish), ladel sauce on top.
4. Create a little well in the centre, crack two eggs into each dish, add spinach and dot ricotta around the dish.
5. Bake for 3-4 minutes or until eggs just set. Serve with toast.

Mejico, Sydney

046

Da-na-na-na-na-na-na, tequila! When a place has a dedicated tequila menu, you know that the night could get dangerous.  Enter Mejico, the latest in the “wave” of Mexican restaurants  that everyone says is happening in Sydney.  To me its more of a ripple, because we need the number to be multiplied by about a thousand to catch up to the number of neighbourhood Thai places.

Curious, I ask our friendly South American waitress about the owners and she tells me its owned by the guy who owns the chain Zumbrero (Sam Prince), a Mexican chain, and that he’s travelled extensively through Mexico learning about their cuisine.  I plead ignorance, haven’t heard of Zumbrero (she says there are 27 in Australia!) – and discover that there is one in Darlinghurst, but the other locations in NSW are in Queenbeyan, Wagga, and Wollongong – that might explain why.

Its an appealing menu with plenty to choose from, but we have to start with the fresh guacamole made at the table with plantain chips.  My friend comments the plantains must be some kind of bananas (“no, they’re plantains!” says our waitress), and I can see why, they honestly look like dried banana chips, which I can’t stand, so I hope she’s wrong (“they don’t taste like bananas, they’re plantains!” says our waitress again).  A bit of proogling says they’re both sort of right, plantains and bananas are actually related, but unlike bananas you can’t eat them raw. And thank goodness they don’t taste like banana chips, but like potato chips.  Anyhow, whatever they are,  they are great for scooping up the fresh guacamole with a right hit of chilli, and I really liked the addition of pistachios, great crunch (or you might get walnuts, depending what night you go) and we’re off to a good start.

050051

We then have Hiramasa Kingfish Ceviche with ruby grapefruit – again a nice fresh feel with a good tang from the grapefruit, but may be too acidic for some

055 - Copy

Smoked Pork Belly with black bean hummus and tomatillo salsa – this one was a bit too fatty for us and we didn’t enjoy it, but nice smokiness.

057

Chargrilled Black Angus Sirloin with chimichurri and quinoa and pumpkin.  That chimichurri – fabulous – and beautifully tender meat

058

Queso Fresco with homemade agave syrup.  This was recommended as a side, and it was a good one, I was scooping up every bit of that agave syrup.

061

Agave-glazed Caramel Fudge – a very rich little finish

063

Am I coming back – yes I am – there’s more I want to try – the lamb tacos, the salsas, the ribs.  This isn’t street food Mexican and it isn’t cheap – so don’t expect it to be such or you’ll be disappointed (keep in mind that even a takeaway chicken salad from Guzman is $11 these days), but you’ll get some great flavour highlights.  I looked at all the poor hopefuls in the line waiting to get into Jamie’s Italian for dinner, which is right next door, and I know which one I’d pick.

045 - Copy

049

Mejico, 105 Pitt Street, ph (02) 9230 0119

Méjico on Urbanspoon

Today’s Cake – Fig and pistachio frangipane tart

032 - Copy

Ingredients
Pastry
30g pistachios
250g plain flour
125g cold unsalted butter, chopped
75g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
2 tbs ice cold water
Zest of half a lemon

Frangipane Filling
125g pistachios
120g unsalted butter, softened
120g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
100g almond meal
40g plain flour
Zest of half a lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

4-5 fresh figs, quartered

Making it
1. To make pastry, process pistachios to form fine crumbs. Add flour, butter, sugar, zest and salt.  Process to form coarse crumbs. Add egg yolk and water. Process until mixture just comes together. Shape into a disc and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate for 30 minutes

2. Roll dough between two sheets of baking paper until 3mm thick and  large enough to line a 12cm x 36cm tart tin. Remove one of the sheets of baking paper, flip the pastry into the tin, remove other sheet and push  pastry  into sides and base. Freeze for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 160 degrees

3. Line pastry with baking paper and weigh down with baking beads or rice. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove weights and baking paper and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until pastry is golden and crisp. Allow to cool.

4. Meanwhile, process pistachios into a fine crumb.

5. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating after each addition. Add almond  meal, flour,  lemon zest and ground pistachios  and beat until just combined. Spread mixture into tart shell.

6. Layer figs on top of filling and gently press

7. Bake for 30–40 minutes or until golden

8. Serve with yoghurt or cream