June 25th, 2008

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Review - Sobo (CLOSED)

I am sad to report that Sobo has closed down since my review posted on the 15th June, 2008. Apparently it has closed at least for winter, possibly permanently. What a shame, I had a totally lovely experience there! These are tough times ahead...

I had so much to say about this restaurant, I struggled to condense it into a short review - suffice to say, I really liked this restaurant, and I hope to see it get a hat for its trouble soon. One of the things I really liked was the original (made for the restaurant) graphic art by designer Mark Stott.

This two year old restaurant provides a stellar experience down to the little touches (like L’Occitane products in the bathroom) and a million dollar view. There’s a designer element to the warm, intimate space. There is a banquette running down one side of the space, and a stucco wall that gives it texture, plus mirrors that open it up, and break up the lines and symmetry. I liked the lights which looked like glass valves, and the low, warm level of lighting in the space.

Start with a signature Peach Bellini ($16) which came complete with a touch of molecular gastronomy - as you drank it, you were surrounded by the intense aroma of orange peel.

It's probably a tad par for the course, but the amuse bouche was a pumpkin soup (I only say that because recently Restaurant Sojourn and The Balmain Bug both did similar soups as their amuse bouche). Ignore me - I'm just jaded - the soup with toasted pumpkin seeds was lovely.

We started with something from their specials board - a plate of carefully selected Coffin Bay Pacific Oysters ($18/ half dozen), which are CLEARLY shucked to order, and delivered fresh daily. They were excellent, and presented with a muslin wrapped lemon, and a red wine and eschallot dressing passed separately.

Their menu allows you to create your own combination from a list of small plates ($4-$13), entrees ($16-20) and mains ($27-$32). Though they have great small plates, I recommend skipping to the entrees. We did try one small plate, which was a Salad of Wild Rocket, Corella Pear, Fennel and Shaved Parmesan ($8) as an accompaniment to the main, and it was a very nice salad.

From the entrees,  I liked the a trio of Seared Sea Scallops ($20) presented three ways with pea puree, pork belly, and most interestingly with chicken confit, the best. Plating was beautiful, perhaps the three ways should have related more to each other to reach perfection, but overall I liked the dish.

The Jamon Iberico with Figs and Leaves ($18) had lovely jamon iberico and it went well with the figs. I thought the leaves were a bit redundant - not unpleasant, but they added nothing to the dish in my world where Jamon Iberico is a stand-alone sublime pleasure.

I enjoyed the perfectly al dente Wagyu Beef Cheek Angnolotti ($17), perhaps a tad more presence from the Taleggio might have been nice.

Save room for a main of Lamb Loin, Cutlet and Braised Breast ($32) – it’s a revelation with superbly cooked lamb, baby carrots, peas, potato fondant and wood ear! I loved the fungus with this dish, and it's certainly an innovative idea.

The small list of seven cheeses held surprises even for a cheese snob like me. I was DELIGHTED to see three cheeses that I hadn't tried, particularly the Artavaggio ($22/3 cheeses) which I have now sought out to purchase.

Service is warm and professional; and owner Steve Wales is particular informative about wine – I loved the blush pink 2007 Carlei Pinot Gris ($62) he recommended. The list is very much his own doing - it's not following trends, which I really liked. This is really a restaurant to check out.

70 a-b Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach
Ph: (02) 9300 8898

Sobo on Urbanspoon
Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Review - Ravesi's

With the closure of Sobo which I'd have to give my highest Bondi accolade to, I have one remaining restaurant recommendation for Bondi - Ravesi's!

Overlooking iconic Bondi Beach, Ravesi's is a stylish restaurant, situated on the first floor of a boutique hotel by the same name. As far as the restaurant's decor is concerned, a simple shell motif extends throughout, starting with lit shell wall hangings as you walk up the stairs.

The theme continues in the softly lit white dining room with light fittings, chairs and large lit plaster spirals overhead.

There's a wide wrap-around balcony on two sides, and it looks straight out onto Bondi Beach. The optimum time to dine would of course be daytime, on the weekends. According to our waiter, piled high plates of salads like Tempura Soft Shell Crab ($25) are popular during the day, particularly outdoors.

For an innovative tipple try a Bondi 8 Ball v.2 ($15.50) - it was great all the way to the cinnamon sugar rim and crisp apple garnish. According to their website, the cocktail contains "a hefty measure of spiced Bacardi 8, agitated for a long count with sour apple and cinnamon schnapps, fresh lemon, spiced syrup and egg white to fluff" it up.  In my photo below, it's the one on the right, and one of the best cocktails I have had for a while.

On the left in my photo is the Burnt Orange Margarita ($15.50) which I thought was less successful. According to their website, it's composed of "Herradura Reposado shaken with Grand Marnier, a murmur of Campari and spiced syrup, fresh blood orange, lime and a dollop of lime marmalade." I am not a Campari fan, and the murmur was still too bold for me.

To eat I tried an oyster sampler, showcasing all except au natural. Of the varieties I tried, I suggest the two winners were the Oysters with Chilli Lime Dressing ($24 / six) or an upmarket Kilpatrick grilled with Jamon and Pedro Ximinez ($24 / six). For the record, the oysters I had at Sobo were better, and didn't need as much dressing up - but as far as dressing up oysters goes, the chilli lime ones were very good.

In small plates, Trout and Ginger Dumplings ($18) show off the natural flavour of the fish. Take no notice of the serving size, they were not something I ordered, rather they were a sample of a dish sent out by the chef. I could see why he sent this dish - they were lovely, and I haven't seen Trout used in dumplings on a menu before.

Another small plate, the Duck Pancakes ($18) shine with a well-rendered hindquarter of duck. They looked nice on the plate - what you can't see is that the duck is sliced up to the last segment which had the bone in it.  The only thing I missed was a slice of chilli. I'd call this Asian influenced, rather than an Asian dish, and I liked the way it was different to the garden variety duck pancakes on offer everywhere. The Hoisin was excellent, I suspect it is the same one they use at BBQ King).

The Salt Squid with Chilli Lime Sauce ($18) is tender and tasty. It beat the preceding night's offering of the same dish at Subsolo hands down.

Ravioli is a signature dish here, so the chef prepared me three different tasting portions (so again, ignore the serving sizes). The first was a Chili Prawn Ravioli ($15/sm $25/lg)  with prawns and garlic chives, bathed in a lemon-wine sauce. It was a nice dish, but surpassed by both of the other types of ravioli.

The second tasting portion of ravioli was a Lamb and Rosemary Ravioli ($15/sm $25/lg) in a red wine sauce, topped with Pecorino Romano.  This was, as I mentioned, even better than the first type.

The option that was the best was the one recommended by our waiter (good job) - Sweet Butternut Pumpkin, Goat’s Cheese and Sage Ravioli ($15/sm $25/lg) with a burnt butter sauce. It is unusual for my dining companion to agree that a vegetarian option was the best, yet he did! This is an excellent vegetarian dish!

I loved the main Venison ($35) served with golden eschalots, fat little pillows of truffled (oil only I'm afraid) gnocchi and morello cherries. This main justified the price tag. It was excellent.

I liked the side we had too - Green Beans ($8) which had been fried in a wok with a chilli and black bean sauce. Desserts sounded good, but by this point, I was stuffed to the gills. Damn that last ravioli for being so good I finished the portion!

Despite being responsible for meals throughout the hotel’s venues, the white-jacketed chefs in the immaculate open kitchen didn’t break a sweat the whole evening. You can get food in the main downstairs bar (it's a different more accessible pub menu), and in the funky Drift bar in my photo above. The menu for Drift shares some dishes in common with the menu I tried, but not the mains. I walked away from this meal happy and satisfied.

118 Campbell Pde, Bondi Beach
Ph: (02) 9365 4422

Ravesi's on Urbanspoon