Category Archives: Italian

Flour Eggs Water, Tramsheds Harold Park

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The folk from A Tavola know their pasta and do it well, and they’ve expanded the family with the opening of Flour Eggs Water at the recently redeveloped Tramsheds precinct.  It’s a long narrow space where you can sit at a bench or on a communal table, and where you’ll be warmly welcomed by the staff, as I was on both my visits.   It isn’t an overly long menu, but one that changes regularly depending on what’s seasonal, and you’ll recognise a few favourites from the original A Tavola in Darlinghurst.  The menu is a little bit of a meander through Italy, as you’ll see a bit of Sicily, a bit of Sardinia, and some Calabria and Piedmonte thrown in for good measure.

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Start off with some beautiful San Daniele prosciutto and a hunk of buffalo mozzarella. It was gone in seconds.   They also give you some house focaccia which is so light and airy, but we ate it too quickly to take a picture of it!

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We tried the cuttlefish with fregola and pane carasau (there’s your Sardinia) with watermelon and mint. The latter ingredients added beautiful freshness and the cuttlefish was well cooked, but I did find the dish a little dry, it needed more of a dressing.

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On the other hand the beef tartare is a bit too saucy and acidic and the beef is a bit lost.  Excellent crunchy slivers of bread served with it though.

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But then the pasta arrives and shines.  Even Mamma Rosa gives it a tick of approval, so it must be good.

The malloreddus with pork and porcini is fragrant and rich and just gorgeous.  It’s a very generous serve too.

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Vegetarians will be absolutely delighted with the agnolotti dal plin (there’s your Piedmonte), with eggplant, scamorza, ricotta, salata.  The problem is it is so delicious the non vegetarians will want to steal it.

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Crab fans will enjoy the mezzelune with crab, ricotta and asparagus.  They come in a bit of a bisque.  One of my sorelle finds it a bit too fishy but I enjoy it.

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I also rate the chittara al nero di sepia with prawns, basil and pistachio (hello Sicily).  Chittara means “guitar”, the pasta being so named as it is traditionally made using a tool with strings, like a guitar. Lovely flavour combination, must try and make this at home.

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The pappardelle with lamb is one of their signatures.  The pasta is silky smooth. I do like lamb, but not in ragu form, so this wasn’t a favourite for me.

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Accompany your pasta with a refreshing salad.  Loved the red cabbage salad with raisins and walnuts.

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Otherwise there’s radicchio with witlof with fennel, orange mint and lemon.

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If you have room for dessert, there’s a few A Tavola favourites.

There’s the tiramisu, which in taste reminds me very much of my version.

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Or the cremino al cioccolato (from the original Darlinghurst venue), which looks like a cappuccino but isn’t.

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If you’re too full but just want a little sweet, try a cannolo.  It’s pretty good with a crunchy casing, but there are others that I prefer.

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Overall, its a lovely spot for a casual Italian meal, one you can easily drift to regularly.  Tutti a tavola!

Flour, Eggs, Water, Tramsheds Harold Park
Ph (02) 9188 7438
http://www.tramshedsharoldpark.com.au

Flour Eggs Water By A Tavola Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Il Girarrosto, Hunters Hill

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Il Girarrosto is the latest venture of Luigi Esposito, the founder of Via Napoli.  But where Via Napoli is all about the carbs, Girarrosto – the Italian word for rotisserie – is all about the protein.  In fact, other than a few bruschetta type entrees, you’ll find very little in the way of carbs on the menu.  Vegacquarians like my Marito are catered for, with a nice offering of seafood, but pure vegetarians might struggle a little.

There is also a nice offering of cheeses and charcuterie.

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The rotisseries themselves are impressive, slowly roasting beef, chicken, lamb and quail.

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Large cuts of meat and the various seafood are cooked on grill plates at the fire.

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I was a fan of the king prawns, on a bed of cherry tomatoes and some fresh chopped chilli.

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The Marito preferred the baby octopus.

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Whole snapper was nicely done, though the stuffing inside was a touch too salty.

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Our little carnivores on the other hand, polished off a 1kg rib eye which was a special on offer that night.  It was medium rare, smoky, and tasty.  I also liked the rosemary potatoes.

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The salad dressing needs some refining, I found it a bit oily and lacking flavour.

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Given meat and seafood, don’t expect the same cheap and cheerful pricing you’ll get at Via Napoli – and that’s the point as Luigi does want to bring something different to the table.

Il Girarrosto, 60 Gladesville Road Hunters Hill
http://www.ilgirarrosto.com.au

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Il Girarrosto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Salt Meats Cheese, Mosman

Since its humble beginnings in 2012 as a warehouse in Alexandria with pallets of European food goods to buy, Salt Meats Cheese has morphed into so much more.  You can still buy the goodies, but now you can sit and eat, and cook up a storm.  SMC has now opened a small outpost on the northside in Mosman.  Plenty to buy to prepare your own meals at home but you can also sit in the cosy dining area and eat and enjoy a glass of Italian wine.  There are pre-prepared items like pizza, calzone, various rolls that they will heat up, and others made fresh. But I think the thing to do is go up to the counter with one of the knowledgeable staff, get a selection of cold meats, a plate of cheese (also get the onion jam with it, its delicious and they sell it to take home too), a glass of red and take a seat and relax.

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Add to that some of the house made mozzarella with fresh tomato….smc mosman (4)

…some very good truffle chips, and some dear friends for company, and you have the makings of a pleasant and relaxed meal.smc mosman (5)

There are also plenty of sweet treats on offer, including Papa’s ricotta cake, to enjoy with a well made cup of coffee.

Salt Meats Cheese Mosman, 803 Military Road, Mosman
http://www.saltmeatscheese.com.au

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Salt Meats Cheese Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

ACME, Rushcutters Bay

When I heard there was a new restaurant called ACME, I thought that maybe the owner was a fan of  the Road Runner and Wile E Coyote cartoons I used to watch when I was little with its ACME brand explosives that never worked. But no, the name was born from the four initials of the four partners, with M being the head chef, Mitch Orr. I met him at the Young Gun’s dinner series, and he seems like quite a character, which is reflected in some of the left of centre food coming over the pass. Yes there is pasta made in beautiful Italian tradition – which has no doubt been a big contributor to the hat earned in the recent awards – but it may be paired with a little Filippino, Korean or Japanese flavours.

At first glance the pricing seems reasonable – snacks and entrees go from $5 to $24, and the pasta dishes from $12 to $24, but be warned the serves are small. If you’re hungry you may need entrée, main, dessert and then some, so it is not as good value as you would think, or may require the Macca’s pitstop on the way home. Service though, is top notch and the staff are warm and friendly. Out for a team dinner, we had a group banquet for $60 (not including dessert) in the lovely space downstairs which can be used for private dining, which meant we got to try quite a few dishes.

We start off with the baloney sandwich. It isn’t something I would have automatically ordered, and I’m very glad they chose it for us. A soft fluffy roll, delicious mortadella, and some tangy relishACME (1)

The pippis too are nicely done and not tampered with too much, a little bit of lime and pepper, lovelyACME (4)

The following two vegetable courses though leave me a little uninspired. Fried parsnip is just ok though the mayo has a bit of a kickACME (2)

The pencil leeks are chewy, but the seaweed butter is decadent, would have been nice to have some crusty bread to spread it onACME (3)

In between as a bit of a cleanser is a combination of blood orange, pomelo and mascarpone. Its not a combination that works for me.ACME (8)

But we get a comeback with the pasta dishes which shine. The wonderfully thin linguine and given flavour and texture with burnt chilli and black garlic, and it’s a table favourite.ACME (5)

So too is the maltagliati (that’s “badly cut” for the non Italians) with rabbit and pistachio, silky pasta and nicely braised rabbitACME (7)

The only pasta dish I’m ambivalent about is calamari with Korean Bolognese, it falls in the “interesting” category and I’m not quite sure if I like it.ACME (6)

But the macaroni with pigs head and egg yolk proves another winner.ACME (9)

ACME, 60 Bayswater Road, Rushcutters Bay, Ph (02) 8068 0932
http://weareacme.com.au/
ACME Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Three Michelin Star Italian? Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong

It has taken me a few months to write this post up, which I suppose tells you something. I was in Hong Kong for a couple of days last December, and after a busy day of meetings, a few colleagues and I decided to try the Three Michelin Starred Otto e Mezzo Bombana, so named after Federico Fellini’s 1963 movie, and executive Chef Umberto Bombana.   It’s the only Italian restaurant outside of Italy to get three whole sparkles, so I was expecting big things. It is in a shopping centre which does make for somewhat of an odd window view if you sit in that section of the restaurant; in Australian shopping centre fine dining has failed miserably.  But in places like Hong Kong, a city of giant interconnecting malls and hotels, that is where you’ll find a lot of the high end eats. There is an a la carte menu but most opt for the degustation, as did we. I wouldn’t call it traditional Italian, rather Italian influenced.

There were moments of brilliance, but only moments, and for A$280 each with only one glass of wine, we do much better in Sydney. Service was faultless which took it up a notch, but I doubt Jill Dupleix and Terry Durack would hand over three toques so readily.   So here was our menu:

Broccoli puree with house mortadella. Interesting combination – good as an amuse bouche – don’t think a big serve would have workedottoemezzo (2)

Seared red tuna with fennel pollen, tomato and citrus emulsion, calvisius elite caviar. Looked pretty, but unremarkable flavour. ottoemezzo (3)

Fresh porcini salad. I love fresh porcini, which had no doubt been flown in at great expense (this was an extra dish we ordered and not part of the degustation). I thought it had some kind of tiny egg on it, but it was actually a curd which I thought was unnecessary. ottoemezzo (4)

Artisanal trenette – scampi and Mediterranean flavour. I’m not quite sure what the “Mediterranean flavour” consisted of but this dish tasted strangely sweet, almost like it had sugar in it. Odd. One of our non-scampi-eating group had the ragu, and I had order envy – that smelt devine.ottoemezzo (5)

Roast blue lobster – winer salad, topinambur (that’s Jerusalem artichoke for the layman), lobster and mushroom jus. Nothing special here, the quality of the lobster was disappointing.ottoemezzo (6)

Maruya beef sirloin signature series – roast root, aromatic herbs and natural jus. Outstanding beef, perfectly cooked. Finally we’re talking.ottoemezzo (7)

Montebianco – marron ice cream, meringue and Chantilly. Loved this dessert, original, not too sweet, just the right size, good texturally. We end on a high note. What I did find odd is that an Italian restaurant would use marron in the name, the French word for chestnut, rather than castagna.ottoemezzo (8)   The price included some (fairly pedestrian) petit fours and tea and coffee.ottoemezzo (9)

Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Shop 202, Landmark Alexandra, 18 Chater Road, Central, Hong Kong, Ph +852 2537 8859

http://www.ottoemezzobombana.com

LuMi Bar and Dining, Pyrmont

With a name like Federico Zanellato you couldn’t be anything other than Italian. But don’t go to LuMi, Pyrmont’s new waterside diner, expecting Fede’s take on Nonna Rosaria’s gnocchi or Zia Maria’s tiramisu. Having worked in some fine dining establishments in Italy and throughout Europe, followed by Japan and most recently as head chef at hatted Ormeggio, Australia is now his adopted home – how fortunate for us. He realised our multicultural and food adventurous society would be willing to explore a fusion of Italian and Japanese, which on the face of it sounds a little worrisome. But any concerns are completely unfounded. He pulls it off. Beautifully.

Dinner is an eight course degustation for $95. Waterside, with nicely spaced tables, lovely crockery, and handsomely plated food, it is well worth it. In the style of Momofuku, the chefs deliver the plates to you and talk you through the course, which sound so much better accented with Italian (Zanellato’s brother is also in the kitchen, and his wife on the floor). And we both agree we’d rather come here than Momofuku across the road, which is double the price, any day of the week.

First up is a plate of “snacks”: a cheese tartlet with corn and parmigiano; salt and vinegar rice chips; and a potato and rosemary focaccia, the last probably being the closest thing you’ll find resembling traditional Italian. I enjoy them all, and the interesting flavours and textures make you look forward to what’s coming.

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Chawanmushi, a Japanese egg custard, in a savoury style with tomato water. Texturally perfect custard with a tomato accent, I love it.

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White cucumber with apple and sour cream. So pretty on the plate and a refreshing dish.

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Veal tartare with tarragon mayo roasted capsicum, buckwheat.  This is the only one that didn’t do it for me (and normally I love a good tartare) but just a personal flavour preference, my partner in crime thought it was great.

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The fragrance as each of the pasta dishes hits the table is incredible. Our first pasta course is spelt ravioli with burnt butter, pumpkin, Avruga caviar, and chives. Its a rich dish so just the right size.

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Our second pasta dish is spaghetti alla chitarra with orange buerre blanc, bottarga, and scampi. “Alla chitarra” refers to how the pasta is made, a stringed contraption that looks like a guitar (chitarra).

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We adore the Pork Jowl with, Celeriac, Quinoa, hidden under a layer of spinach. It’s a knockout dish and one of the stars of the night.

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The “Evergreen” pre dessert – Sorrel,Lemon Basil, Mint, Shiso, parsley – is like walking in to a delicious cold pressed juice bar, imparting a feeling of good health.LuMi (11)

Zanellato generously sends over an extra dish, his take on strawberries and cream – strawberry granita with whipped cream and ice cream. It’s a good lead in to dessert.LuMi (12)

To finish is a ginger ice cream, white chocolate, passionfruit, yoghurt crumble. Its thankfully not too sweet and the crumble gives it texture. LuMi (13)

I doubt I’m making a big call when I say there’ll be a hat or two coming LuMi’s way in the next Good Food Guide line up. The phones will start ringing like crazy when then happens, so go discover it before then.

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LuMi Dining, 56 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont, (02) 9571 1999
http://www.lumidining.com

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Sud, Concord

It’s no secret that Italy has been in some fairly dire economic circumstances in recent years. This has meant there has been an exodus of its young, highly educated workforce. I was surprised to find on a trip to our Hong Kong office last year a cluster of people from Milan and Rome – extremely talented, they couldn’t be in an environment more different from home (“have you seen the price of prosciutto here!” one of them said to me), but necessity has meant they had to leave it behind and find employment elsewhere.

Australia has also been the beneficiary of this exodus, particularly in hospitality and food. Attracted by our climate – which is not that dissimilar to Southern Italy – our great produce, and an existing large Italian population (they’re bound to find a long lost relative or a cousin somewhere), we’ve seen some very talented Italian chefs, pizzaioli and gelato makers arrive on our shores. Paolo Gatto is one of those. He and his wife Rita arrived in Australia in 2008, and opened Gatto Matto in 2011. It has gotten better and better since my first visit, driven by Paolo’s passion (the name Crazy Cat is no coincidence) and Rita’s warmth. They have now opened a second venue, Sud, which simply means South. Southern Italian street food is the order of the day – it is where they are from, and it is the food close to their heart.

We arrive relatively early but within half an hour the place is buzzing, pretty good just one week after opening. While I sip my Bellini we peruse the menu, which is charmingly smattered with Sicilian dialect, and debate what to order – over-ordering would be very easy here because there is plenty to tempt. Fortunately most dishes are for sharing so we get to try quite a bit, though I see plenty of other dishes emerging from the kitchen, including a fabulous large antipasto platter for a big group, that we will have to try next time. The pizza bases are excellent and so are the toppings. But one of the favourites of the night is the baby octopus that comes with the spiedinu. I find out that it has undergone six hours of confit – if that’s Sicilian street food, unemployment be damned, I’m moving there; the rosemary flavoured wedges that accompany it are delicious too. The trofie cu sugu is also another winner (if it is nonna’s recipe as it says on the menu then to be expected), a fragrant, rich, robust meat sauce.

We are wondering what to order for dessert and aren’t convinced when the raviolo di ricotta is suggested to us, but decide to give it a whirl and we love it. It is a giant raviolio which can easily serve 4, and I’m glad the honey is on the side because I don’t think this light dough with a gorgeous creamy filling needs any further embellishment. The cuzzoli, light ribbons of dough to be dipped in the accompanying Nutella, are a crowd pleaser, but anything with Nutella always will be.

With generous serves, great flavour, and an attractive price point – the most expensive menu item is $28 – you’ll find a great little slice of Southern Italy in downtown Concord.

Arancini – deep fried rice balls filled with ragu and peas
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Panzerotti fritti – fried calzone filled with mozzarella and ham
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Calamari and chips
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Pizza Margherita
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Pizza vegeteriana – fiordilatte mozzarella, mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini and truffle oil
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Pizza Italiana – fiordilatter mozzarella, prosciutto, rocket, cherry tomatoes, parmesan
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Trofie cu sugu
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Spiedinu di pisci – prawn and swordfish skewer with baby octopus, salad and potato wedges
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Raviolo di ricotta – sweet ravioli stuffed with candied fruits
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Cuzzoli
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Sud, 10 Cabarita Road, Concord Ph (02) 9739 6120
http://www.sudfood.com.au

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