Whilst I respect a restaurant's right to uphold a no-bookings policy, it does require the tedium of organisation, a willingness to dine early and a contract with friends to arrive on time (rah!) unless you're prepared to queue.
That's partly why it's taken me so long to get to Bodegas Tapas Bar. Despite all the rave reviews and glowing endorsements, it had always seemed that little bit too difficult to get there.
Then along came Lady Luck, and suddenly, magically, everything seemed to fall into place.
Lady Luck came in the form of Kitchenwench, a food blogger from Melbourne who was looking for dinner and company during her recent stay in Sydney. Not only was she looking for a feed in Surry Hills, she had a hankering for Spanish, and thus the planets aligned, our appetites were whetted and there we were outside Bodegas at 5.55pm: Kitchenwench, Reemski, Chocolatesuze and I.
The no-bookings policy is understandable when you see the space. It's a narrow restaurant made up only mainly tables for two, a short counter along the window and only one large table running down the middle. Several tables line the pavement outside, but it's the huge artwork on the walls inside that catch the eye: a bold striking mural of a prancing bull embellished with bursts of text and starbursts that add a wonderful sense of energy and liveliness to the place.
Jamon Serrano $12
The jamon serrano is the first to arrive, thinly shaved and gloriously melt-in-the mouth, this pale pink porcine that is soft and supple.
Bread with olive oil
We make quite a sight, four cameras hovering over each dish at such a small table. When the bread arrives, we all trill with girlish delight at the platter, a chocolate brown rectangle with built-in trough for the olive oil.
Argentinian-style beef empanadas with salsa criolla $13.50 for 4
Argentinian-style beef empanadas are a hit as well. The little golden crescents are delivered to our table piping hot, the pastry thick but flaky, the insides generous with paprika-scented beef, olives and hard-boiled egg. The accompanying salsa criolla is the perfect complement, a tangy vinaigrette made with tomatoes, onion, capsicum and red wine vinegar.
Fish fingers $16
Sashimi kingfish on garlic toast with cuttlefish ceviche and mojama
The request for fish fingers had been unanimous. It's a playful name for a dish that marries thick planks of toast with hearty chunks of raw kingfish. Topped with a fine dice of cuttlefish and mojama (salt-cured tuna), a generous splay of raw onion isn't as harsh as you'd expect, presumably salted and then rinsed to remove its trademark heat.
It's a dish that's both rustic and sophisticated, the simplicity of raw fish enhanced by the crunch of garlicky toast and the sweetness of onion.
Mushrooms in garlic $12
It was the arrival of the mushrooms in garlic at the table next to us that prompted its inclusion on our order. The smell that accompanies this dish is simply intoxicating. A heady aroma of garlic, mushrooms and olive oil leaves a tantalising trail throughout the dining room, and we relish the moment it finally lands at our table. The garlicky mushrooms are satisfying thick and chewy, really like meat for vegetarians, garnished with highlights of caramelised garlic cloves still in their wrapper, little presents of sweet garlic paste which we relish with glee.
Bodega chorizo with sofrito paste $12
The Bodega chorizo is the last to arrive but it's worth the wait. Again we marvel girlishly over the platter, a curved half-pipe that seems purposefully designed for the congo of chorizo slices. The chorizo is incredibly meaty, densely packed with tender chunks of pork and globules of flavoursome fat. The sofrito paste has a welcome depth of smokiness and the mellow heat of pimento peppers.
Banana split $14
Cream flan, dulce de leche ice cream, ginger biscuit and banana
As always, I'd been looking forward to dessert all evening, especially having analysed at length the Bodega menu on their website all day. The banana split is not what I'd envisioned--evidently evolved from its depiction on their website--but it's a delight regardless. I find the cream flan a little too firm and the dulce de leche ice cream is overwhelmingly sweet, but I lovelovelove the square of banana marshmallow, so light and fluffy it's like a banana mousse, with a surface that's been blow-torched to a satisfying caramelised crisp.
Chocolate terrine with fresh fig, Cava jelly and yoghurt ice cream $14
Reemski is the only one who caves into the waiter's pleas to try something different, and happily the chocolate terrine with figs suits her to a tee. The deep intensity of the dark chocolate terrine is lightened by the inclusion of fresh ripe figs, the zing of Cava wine jelly and the mild tang of yoghurt ice cream.
Amazing tapas with flavours that really do live up to its hype.
Get there now.
Said with no reservations :)
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Bodega Tapas Restaurant and Bar
216 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9212 7766
Lunch: Thursday and Friday from 12pm
Dinner: Monday to Saturday from 6pm
No bookings accepted. All diners must be present to be seated.
Closed on public holidays
This has been included on Grab Your Fork's Top 10 Sydney Eats for Tourists. Read the entire list here.
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Bodegas Tapas Restaurant and Bar (Sep09)
Spanish - Encasa Restaurant, Sydney
Spanish - Miro Tapas Bar, Sydney (Dec 06) and (Aug 04)
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4/08/2009 02:15:00 am