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Review - Orso

It's Sunday lunch and I am pretty chuffed to sink into the relaxed ambiance of this bayside restaurant up at The Spit bridge. It has a jigsaw puzzle marina view where pelicans paddle languidly past your table, and I love pelicans.

The decor is sandy and relaxing. Softly played music is reminiscent of a Mediterranean day spa. It suits the space, but eighty minutes later I did notice the same CD going around again. Considering the restaurant wants long languid three course lunches, it might be best to have a second similar CD.

The food is eye-catching and plating is clearly a strong suit of new Executive Chef Coop Woodside. This is Orso's Antipasto Plate of Summer Treats ($27.50) where most of the selections are drawn from the other entrees selections. The pasta, a salmon and fennel ravioli is al dente but my favourite bite is the goats' cheese terrine with the accompanying small cubes of pear jelly.

The plating is even better in entrees like the Summer Salad of Poached King Prawns ($27.50). In fact I would go so far as to say, nobody else in my memory has ever made prawns into cylinders before. Despite the bright colours, flavours across both of these dishes are quite restrained. In some of the offerings like the goats' cheese, it works because it allows the cheese to sing. In others, you find yourself wishing for a bit more taste.

The pelicans are increasing in numbers and whilst they look languid on the outside, their beady eyes give away their hungry intent. I begin to suspect the restaurant is feeding them, so I (perhaps rudely) ask if this is true, and yes, this attention is courted by the restaurant feeding them salmon carcasses. According to Silvio, they only like fish, not crustaceans. They get fed at a particular time each day. Pelican o'clock is apparently around two or three in the afternoon, and I suspect again after the evening meal. They get confused when we change to daylight saving, and Christmas Day perplexes them as well as the restaurant only serves lunch!

My favourite main was the Western Australian Scampi ($57.50). The chef has a deft hand with pasta, and this is probably the boldest dish we try in terms of flavour. 

That said, I did enjoy the delicacy of the Slow Poached Lobster Tail ($65) which let me appreciate the black caviar it was cleverly served with. The lobster is spear caught rather than caught in pots which is nice to hear.

It's starting to get crowded in the waters outside. Apparently they have between five and twenty two regular pelican visitors.

The food at this venue is pricy, and serving sizes anticipate you eating three courses; however I saw this as a positive because their Dessert Degustation Plate ($32) was a highlight, and normally I don't have room for dessert.  

My favourite bite was the pot roasted rhubarb and quince crepes with a brulee'd top and a scoop of coconut sorbet. That said, the chocolate pot containing a mandarin compote and a scoop of strawberry sorbet was also a real winner. You can have a selection of sorbets in their dessert special called 'La Dolce Vita' ($29.50/head) which takes you out on the water aboard the Orso Express... I think this is a quintessential Sydney experience that I will return for!

Despite the beautiful plates I found myself wishing for a little less restraint in the flavours. I put it down to this being a special occasion restaurant where the chef’s brief is to please a wide (read: conservative) audience. I look forward to seeing him given his head! However you could easily take your parents and grandparents here, and they'd probably be impressed and unchallenged (except by the prices).

79 Parriwi Road, The Spit
Ph: (02) 9968 3555

Orso Bayside on Urbanspoon



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 12th, 2009 03:38 am (UTC)
Special occasion is right, at $55+ for a main of fairly simply dressed seafood this would want to be mouthgasm-tastic.
Feb. 12th, 2009 03:42 am (UTC)
These were probably the two most expensive mains, but you're correct of course, it should be faultless at that price. I do however feel strongly that there is a good chef at this restaurant who is being handicapped by a directive. There was a lot of skill in making the food this subtle.
Feb. 12th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
OMG, Pelicans! *cheers* I do recall fondly.... Foster

That Lobster Tail is a definite NOM NOM NOM, I'm not interested in Scampi ... no matter what it costs... but the deserts looks delightful. And the presentation is awesome, IMHO.

What do you mean it felt like there was a good chef being handicapped by a directive...? Just curious.

I is nom-hungry.
Feb. 12th, 2009 10:29 pm (UTC)
The flavours were restrained, but the cooking behind the dishes was good. I figured he was too clever to have lost the flavour, unless that was what the restaurant owner had told him to do because he believes this is what his audience wants. By and large the audience was very conservative.
Feb. 13th, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC)
'scuse the ignoramus in me by saying this - how on EARTH could food that is that well presented with that much colour and condiments around it somehow taste CONSERVATIVE?

And as for CONSERVATIVE - when I hear that word I think of someone like Meredith. What the hell do CONSERVATIVE people contribute to anything in society, including what should be ZINGING dishes at Seafood restaurants?

Sorry bit pissed at the CONSERVATIVE - I live in Cambridge, and it's a fucking huge conservative bunker. Ooooh, nothing too outrageous, not even flavours in my food.

Fuck that shit.
Meh to conservative.
Feb. 14th, 2009 12:12 am (UTC)
Money doesn't buy 'new age' taste I am afraid. Lots of rich people don't want to be challenged when they are impressing guests with a bang up meal. They want to recognise the protein (lamb, beef, lobster) and find all the flavours familiar, and accessible (or barely notice the one that are not).

They want to know the winery labels on the wine list (this one had a very accessible wine list too - I knew and had tried almost all the Australian wines on the list, only the Italians were unfamiliar, and he told me they were ones people who had 'been to Italy' would all know).
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )