There was only one thing we wanted. Pasta. In a giant pecorino wheel. Could a humble plate of spaghetti arrive with any more spectacle?
It's the promise of this glorious vision that brings us to Buffalo Dining Club, a tiny slip of a place just off the hubbub of Victoria Street, Darlinghurst. No bookings means an early arrival is crucial - at 6pm on a Friday the place is empty but by 6.40pm it's practically full.
Scrabble tiles above the bar
It feels more like a small bar with the option of eats in this narrow terrace. Seating is on stools around modest tables, with the menu chalked onto the blackboard on the wall. A wall of wine bottles is grouped by region labelled with Scrabble tiles. There's a little more seating in a small room upstairs.
Buffalo Dining Club is brought to you by Michael Fantuz, whose earlier projects have included Sticky Bar and Table for 20. This latest venture is a celebration of buffalo cheese. Need we say more?
Pala Vermentiono Di Sardegna, Italy $13 glass
The wine list offers a broad selection that leans heavily on Italian wines but includes representation from Australia, Germany, Spain, France and the USA (a 2009 Seghesio zinfandel for $65). There are 14 wines available by the glass ranging from $12-$16.
We stick with whites tonight, starting with an Italian pala vermentino ($13 per glass) and a sauvignon viogner ($12 per glass) from NSW vineyard Two Italian Boys.
Burrata 100gram $15 with choice of two sides
The burrata comes in 100 gram portion sizes, served with your choice of two sides from the blackboard. Our bundle of cream-filled mozzarella looks a little more nugget-like than blooming when it arrives, and when Suze stabs (a tad too gleefully) into it with a knife, there's little presence of cream inside. Later in the evening we notice another order of burrata served at another table, and the ball is so round and orb-like it looks like it's about to explode.
Honey roasted fennel and white anchovies with burrata $15
The honey roasted fennel offers a different texture to the usual thin crisp shavings you find in salads. It's a little more fibrous, but still satisfying, with its aniseed flavour noticeably muted.
White anchovies are our other side of choice, delicate fillets that are deliciously firm and salty.
Miniature breadsticks, a few slices of tiny toast and a small dollop of a fiery chilli sauce are also provided.
Did somebody order cheese?
"I can smell cheese." Suze sits bolt upright and peers eagerly toward the kitchen. It's hard not to bristle with excitement when the giant pecorino wheel enters the dining room. Perhaps it's just us.
Mixing the spaghetti in a pecorino wheel
The dish is listed simply as spaghetti cacio e pepe on the blackboard, translating as 'spaghetti with cheese and pepper'. I think it should be written as 'spaghetti that comes in a giant pecorino wheel!' because surely that's half the fun.
Alright stop. Spaghetti time.
The cooked spaghetti is tossed around inside the hollowed-out pecorino wheel, catching little scrapings of cheese from the side as it's scooped out with tongs.
Inside the pecorino wheel
The cheesy spaghetti is then lovingly transferred to your waiting plate - it's ceramic but endearingly resembles a metal pie tin.
Spaghetti cacio e pepe $18
It's a rustic tumble of spaghetti, the short strands studded with bits of cheese, garlic and errant disbursement of salt and pepper. I love my pasta dry like this, moistened only with a splash of olive oil.
House white $7
We move onto the house whites for our second (and ahem, third) round of drinks. At $7 per glass, it's a much more budget-friendly option, and the pinot grigio (made by friends in Griffith, we're told) is perfectly light and crisp.
Buffalo ricotta gnocchi $15
More cheese? We toss up between the Buffalo burger and the buffalo ricotta gnocchi, but the gnocchi wins out. It's a plate of cheesiness, with a generous amount of parmesan adding oomph to the light pillows of ricotta.
We couldn't possibly eat any more cheese...
... unless it comes in the form of dessert.
This is an old fashioned tiramisu just the way we like it - savoiardi fingers sandwiched with mascarpone cream and dusted liberally with grated chocolate. It's a little light on the coffee flavour but it's a fitting end to a night of cheese.
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Buffalo Dining Club
116 Surrey Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney
Opening hours: Wednesday to Saturday 12pm-11pm
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4/02/2012 01:45:00 a.m.