Visiting a new city is both exciting and stressful for someone keen to uncover its gastronomic secrets. There's so much eat and discover, but time and insider knowledge is half the battle.
One restaurant that was hot on everyone's lips during our recent trip to Adelaide was Press Food & Wine. Opening mid-last year, Press was awarded Best New Restaurant in the 2011 Adelaide Food Awards.
Our itinerary for Tasting Australia 2012 was packed with events, so at the first opportunity of a free evening, we hit the streets to explore the city on our own.
Downstairs at Press Food & Wine
Getting a last-minute Saturday night booking at Press was out-of-the-question but if you're willing to forgo the upstairs dining room, you can order from the same menu in the downstairs bar. We arrive at 7pm and score seats immediately, perching on high wooden stools at one of the long communal tables. Seating is cosy enough to warrant introducing yourself to your neighbours, but this also means friendly dining tips and visual previews on what to order off the menu.
Morcilla, wombok and kohlrabi remoulade $15
The menu is split in sections with "raw" and "smaller" dishes designed to be shared. Larger dishes include meat and seafood, with wood-grilled options, plus an impressive-sounding lamb shoulder from the rotisserie. It's hard to stop staring and contemplating at the offer of a half sucking Berkshire pig, a $350 banquet that feeds 8 to 10 but requires at least 24 hours notice.
Our crew of four are happy to share everything, and after placing our order, most dishes arrive with the lightning speed of a Chinese restaurant. The morcilla is the first to hit the table, a blood sausage seared on the grill to a pleasing smokiness, served with a kohlrabi remoulade that combines creaminess with crunch.
Denham Farm beef tartare with sesame seeds and toast $15
Denham Farm beef tartare is a rosy red puck of hand-chopped fillet that we ceremoniously muddle with egg yolk, capers, shallots and gherkins. It's delicious spread on thin slices of crisp toast.
The roasted pork bun with kewpie ($9.50 each), on the other hand, is less impressive. Brioche bun with fatty slices of pork that are then doused in squiggles of Kewpie mayonnaise seems like unnecessary overload, even for this cholesterol-friendly diner. Slices of cucumber and a few sprigs of rocket offer little relief.
Grilled sardines on toast with kasundi $13
The grilled sardines on toast offer gutsier flavours, whole fish daubed with a tangy tomato relish. It goes well with my Dirty Mary cocktail ($14), a spiced up bloody mary of vodka, tomato juice and secret seasonings.
Scorched corn, coriander, mint, red peppercorns and cress $14
Scorched corn sounds so much sexier than grilled corn, doesn't it? This is the Christmas tree of salads, a tangle of rocket leaves, corn kernels, grated cheese, slivers of red onion and sparkling baubles of red peppercorns that pack some punch.
Skate salad, fennel, witlof, green beans and anchovy dressing $22
The skate salad offers plenty of texture too, with blanched green beans, fennel, red witlof and salty bursts of capers.
Pan-fried lamb's brains with potato salad $16
The lamb's brains come under the offal section of the menu. These are my personal highlight, cooked just-so, ensuring the insides remain creamy and delicate. It works marvellously with the Russian-inspired potato and dill salad.
Anise-roasted sweetbreads with turnip puree and green beans $21
We finish with sweetbreads, not so noticeable with anise flavour, but excellent for mopping up a smooth and silky turnip puree.
In a city of 4.6 million people, how is it that Sydney has no dessert bars but Adelaide (popn 1.1 million) has several? Ok, I'm guessing that Sydney rents has something to do with it, but we were intrigued enough by the dessert bar phenomenon to check some out.
Macaron flower pot $10.50
We skipped the dessert menu at Press and caught a cab to The Aviary. It's desserts and drinks only here, opening each night at 8pm. We turn up at 9pm on a Saturday and have to wait 30 minutes for a table.
There are fourteen different desserts to choose from, including your choice of macaron that can be 'planted' into a flower pot layered with chocolate mud cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate soil and pistachios.
Lemon, lime and bitters $11.50
Lemon curd tart, Angostura bitters jelly and lime sorbet
We ascend the stairs to find a kind of grown-up girly cubbyhouse, cosy with bird cages, pot plants and white cast iron garden chairs. The small space is filled with couples, huddles of women and even a bromance or two.
Orders are prepaid downstairs at the register but your dishes are delivered to your table. There's a lot to like about the lemon, lime and bitters with a pool of zingy lemon curd dolloped into a crisp pastry square. Cubes of Angostura bitters jelly work well against a sharp and refreshing lime sorbet, and who can resist a rubble of biscuit crumbs.
Honey panna cotta
There's the simplicity of the honey panna cotta, served simply in an elegant glass layered with poached pears and pomegranate seeds.
Ice cream sundae $9.50
Death by chocolate and sticky rice
There are thirteen ice cream flavours to choose from tonight, ranging from lychee and durian to passionfruit sorbet. K is fascinated by the sticky rice ice cream, studded with crunchy bits of black rice. The death by chocolate ice cream isn't as ominously rich as it sounds, but there's plenty of distraction in the accompanying garnish of strawberries, nubbins of hazelnut and almond praline, and lashings of chocolate sauce.
Toasted banana and peanut butter sandwich served with maple syrup, banana
and bacon crumble and peanut butter ice cream
There was no question about what I'd order. The Graceland had my heart racing at the first mention of banana and peanut butter (also maple syrup, peanut butter ice cream and BANANA AND BACON CRUMBLE).
This is the kind of late night sandwich dreams are made of. Two slices of banana bread (like the cake) slathered with peanut butter and then sandwiched around slices of banana. It's pan-fried until crispy on every edge then dusted with icing sugar like it just fell from heaven.
The cutest pitcher of maple syrup makes everything even better. Eat alternate spoonfuls of banana bread with peanut butter ice cream and get as much of that banana and bacon crumble into you as you can.
Devour Dessert Bar
We hit Devour Dessert Bar in the north of Adelaide with local foodblogger Christina. Devour opens at 6pm every night and is run by Quang Nguyen, a young chef known for his keenness to experiment with eclectic desserts.
Lemon meringue pie, lemon curd mousse, lemon marshmallow and sable crumbs $12
If dim lighting and sugar are the key to romance, then Devour must be the mandatory pit-stop for every dating couple. There are a few large groups of friends (mostly female) but tucked away in the corners are the couples on date night. The menu has six options with a tasting plate for two ($25) offering a chef's selection of desserts.
The lemon meringue pie is oozing with sensuality, an artistic arrangement of marshmallow curls, puffs of meringue and lemon curd mousse stabbed with a sable biscuit. It's visually impressive but feels more like a triumph of style over substance.
Lychee, avocado, cider jelly, pine nuts, almond sponge and maple $12
It takes some chutzpah to combine lychee with avocado and pine nuts, but I quite enjoy the textural contrasts in this dish. The cider jelly has an acidic tang that none of us really take to, and while I don't know that everything worked together on the plate, it's bizarre enough to warrant repeated investigation.
Chocolate fondant, peanut butter ice cream and pouring cream $12
The ubiquitous chocolate fondant makes an appearance, but admittedly we primarily ordered this just so we could have the peanut butter ice cream. The fondant is cooked to squidgy perfection, the crackled crust protecting a fudgy centre, but the peanut butter ice cream is on the achey side of sweet.
Donut sundae $12
Salted chocolate fudge, vanilla bean ice cream, honeycomb and raspberry
A donut sundae brought visions of a parfait glass piled high with donuts and ice cream but instead we're presented with another deconstructed version of a dessert. The donuts are a little hard on the outside (presumably reheated) but the sugar-crusted orbs hold a runny chocolate core.
It's hard not to give into sugar overload, snacking on shards of honeycomb in-between spoonfuls of vanilla bean cream scraped up with raspberry sauce and salted chocolate fudge. As Homer Simpson once said, "Donuts. Is there anything they can't do?"
Grab Your Fork on Radio National
And if you follow Grab Your Fork on Facebook, you would have seen details on my segment on Radio National's First Bite that aired on Saturday. Last weekend's edition focussed on food writing, and I was interviewed for the Short and Sweet segment talking about food blogging and Grab Your Fork.
Want to hear the interview? You can listen online here.
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Press Food & Wine
40 Waymouth Street, Adelaide
Tel: +61 (08) 8211 8048
Monday to Saturday lunch and dinner 12pm til late
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Devour Dessert Bar
96 Prospect Road, Prospect, Adelaide
Tel: +61 (0)411 536 343
Tuesday to Thursday 6pm-11.30pm
Friday to Sunday 6pm-11pm
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The Aviary Dessert Kitchen
227 The Parade, Norwood, Adelaide
Tel: +61 (08) 8332 4646
Tuesday to Sunday 8pm til late (closed Mondays)
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Tasting Australia 2012 - Inside a Bee Hive + Adelaide Showground Farmers Market
Tasting Australia 2010 - Adelaide Central Market
Tasting Australia 2010 - Enoteca Restaurant with Antonio Carluccio
Tasting Australia 2010 - Lunch with Maggie Beer
Tasting Australia 2010 - Taldy-Kurgan Russian piroshki at Adelaide Central Market
Tasting Australia 2010 - The Manse Restaurant with Stephanie Alexander
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5/14/2012 02:34:00 a.m.