October 11th, 2010

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Review - Aperitivo

Aperitivo time in Italy has been going on for much longer than the tapasisation of Sydney, so it’s strange that we don’t have more of it; but ooh-la-la have we got a fantastic intro here! I am totally kicking myself for not getting here sooner. It's five minutes from my house, and between 5pm and 7pm they offer up FREE FOOD with your normal priced after-work drinks.

Small, modern Italian plates from Joe Cavallo (ex-Mezzaluna) show an extraordinary lightness of touch. He combines flavours seamlessly - Cappesante ($18.50) seared scallops wrapped in pancetta on celeriac puree with port wine jus prove my point. Note that the pancetta is not over-cooked, allowing the unctuous texture of the scallop to roll around in your mouth uncontested. Nor is there too much pancetta, which can dominate combinations such as this.

I’m going out on a limb here and declaring his Tonno ($19.50) of impeccably seared yellow fin tuna with watermelon, watercress and wasabi the taste of Sydney’s imminent summer. I must eat this again. I must also make a cocktail at home involving vodka, watermelon and wasabi... Staying focused - it was a brilliant combination, the slices of watermelon explode wetly on your tongue against the textural beauty of the tuna with a slight bite from the carefully applied wasabi - fire and ice.

In my normal review I didn’t have room to dribble about his house-smoked Duck Breast Prosciutto ($15.50) but here I can, are you ready? The little bowl is Taleggio Mousse (I know, the mind boggles). At first I was quick to condemn it for not being hardcore enough (I love my stinky cheese) but that was because I tried it without the house-smoked duck prosciutto (yes, on my finger, my bad). The genius part of the dish is: the smokiness of the wafer thin duck breast slivers bring out the funkiness of the cheese.

This is the Carne Di Cervo ($22) – venison, chocolate, blueberries – need I say more? Okay, if you insist - the saute potatoes were spot on too, and it was the first time I'd seen the blueberry/chocolate/Bambi combination. I think it just beat Daniel Puskas' dish which has remained my best venison combination - chocolate soil, pumpkin puree and Denver leg - since 10 January, 2007 way back HERE!

All that aside, I just had Sydney’s best Neapolitan style pizza! (Yes, it’s the review of big calls.) I bow to the skill of Francesco Spataro and his truffle paste (who knew?) masterpiece, the Tartufo ($21). As you can see, it's a white pizza with cream of ricotta, Parmesan, Pancetta, Rocket and truffle paste - which basically as addictive as crack in a tube. Must buy - well when I have $65 odd dollars to blow on something other than...

I’d feel bad if I didn’t mention the owner Giuseppe Zagari is on the floor and oozes charm… but I am tired, so you’ll have to choose your own drinks. They’re great! Start with an Aperol Spritz ($12), it’s traditional; then leave yourself in Sydney Duckett’s (ex-Eleven) oh-so-capable hands. I am hoping to return to uncover his story later on... let's just say he was brave enough to say that he had been to (the) El Bulli, and he was bummed that they couldn't match wine to the onslaught of courses. When it's four disparate courses per matched wine, I wonder who could, but it gave me pause for thought! Must learn more...

163 Norton Street, Leichhardt
Ph: (02) 9564 0003

PS: If (like me) you don't have all those pesky Italian varietals and the location of each region sorted nicely in your head, seeing this in the wine list might make you very happy.
Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Haverick Direct

If you read my weekly columns, you might have seen me talking about Haverick Direct. If you've missed the point of my excitement, Haverick Meats are a restaurant supplier who have opened up their wares to the retail market. What's more, they've done it without the prices that normally come with glam butcher shop fit-outs that include Himalayan salt tiles and the like.

As you can see they have a really lovely Truffle Salami ($10.99/100g), as well as Wagyu Bresaola ($7.99/100g) and the more luxurious imported Spanish Jamon Iberico ($20.99/100g) which I enjoyed very much with my eggs last Sunday.

Of course the real attraction is the beef - check out their live dry-aging web cam HERE. You can buy pre-cut selections like steaks, or you can go for larger cuts. We decided to break my usual grass-fed ultimatum and try a well-priced Riverine Grain Fed Beef Rump ($56.93/5.180kg) with a marbling score of 2+.

What's even more exciting is that they have butchers ready and waiting to cut them up to your specifications if you'd like.

They even have acclaimed chefs on hand to give you that little edge in the kitchen - while I was there I chatted to Detlef Haupt who used to head the culinary team at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre. However I had my own ideas about what was going to happen with this bone-in Free Range Lamb Leg ($24.27/2.208kg). I wanted a roasted lamb, pine nut, pumpkin, baby spinach, pear and goat's cheese salad.

Luckily the home chef was amenable... so it wasn't long before I was eating one.

The rump has since been converted into six lovely steaks and a wonderful beef curry, with a picanha at the ready to rotisserie for next weekend. We got about twenty serves in all from it. I definitely think the prices and quality of the produce make this a worthwhile meat stop, and with Brasserie Bread Bakery Café less than five minutes away, you can combine it with a spot of breakfast, some sourdough shopping and a decadent Bourbon Vanilla Eclair.

One final destination that is also around the corner from this market (and great for a spot of lunch) is Agapé Organic Restaurant & Bar, which is Australia's largest organic restaurant. I have a review coming next week, so you'll have to wait to see why. But my advice is, take a large freezer bag so you can safely leave your meat in the car while you enjoy a gala day of produce shopping and eating in this budding foodie paradise!

Haverick Direct
13 - 15 Green St, Banksmeadow
Ph: (02) 9316 8900
Hours: Saturdays 9am-2pm

Brasserie Bread Bakery Café

1737 Botany Rd, Banksmeadow
Ph: (1300) 966 845
Hours: Saturdays 8am-2pm

Agapé Organic Restaurant & Bar
1385-1387 Botany Road, Botany
Ph: (02) 8668 5777