It's here. After years of plane hopping to Melbourne, Sydneysiders now have a MoVida to call their own. Frank Camorra's long awaited expansion to Sydney has finally hit Surry Hills, opening in the former site of Jared Ingersoll's Cotton Duck on Holt Street.
Movida bench seating
The dining room has been given a complete overhaul, a cosy arrangement of cushioned timber booths, tables and bar seating anchored by a glassed-in kitchen that gives a sneak peek of all the action. There's plenty to look at, from the chalk-scrawled blackboard that wraps its way around the bar, to the gleaming cabinet groaning with fresh seafood and a glass display of hanging smallgoods, waiting to be eaten.
Moritz lager Barcelona $9
The one page menu is split up into five sections: embutidos or cold meats; tapas; racion or entrees; a la parilla or from the grill; and verduras or vegetables. Half a dozen specials are listed on a separate print out. The wine list arrives as a bound compendium - there's a strong emphasis on Spanish wines of course, but I'm straight into the Moritz lager from Barcelona which is clean and refreshing.
Anchoa $4.50 each
Artisan Cantabrian anchovy with smoked tomato sorbet
But first, let's talk about the anchovy with tomato sorbet. If there's one signature dish by Camorra, surely it would be this one. Pairing tomatoes with anchovy isn't new, but it's the refinement of each component that makes this one such a winner on my books. It's the brittle crunch of the wafer against the delicate saltiness of the hand-filled Cantabrian anchovy fillet, and then the bewilderingly cold but silky smooth quenelle of smoky and sweet tomato sorbet, accented with salty pops of caper.
Our waitress takes pains to explain that the sorbet should be spread across the entire fillet. It glides effortlessly across, and really it's just as gloriously good as I remembered, that I order another one for dessert. Seriously.
Manchego custard with burnt onion and truffle consomme
The caldo, or Manchego custard, is like a Spanish riff on Japanese chawanmushi, a gentle huddle of slippery soft egg custard tinted with the rich saltiness of Manchego cheese.
My only quibble would be that the truffle oil is a little overwhelming and unnecessary, but otherwise it's a sexy sensual dish.
Ostra al Microhondas $6 each
Camorra isn't afraid to mix things up on the menu. Lex's oyster kilpatrick is nothing like you'd expect, served out of the shell and garnished with a crisp sliver of jamon.
Gamba ahumada $7 each
House smoked South Australian prawn with piquillo peppers and bortagga
Similarly, the house smoked prawn comes elaborately plated, propped up with salty slices of cured mullet roe. The prawn itself has an incredible smokiness although the generous dusting of paprika tends to stick to the tongue.
Jamon serrano $16
Suze is all about the jamon, and while we're happy about the fattiness of each paper thin slice, it seems a shame the ribbons have been cut into tiny squares while a hunk of bruschetta has to broken into more manageable pieces.
Bocata de buey $12 each
Air baguette, roast beef wagyu, tocino de cielo, pickled and black garlic
And then there's the undeniable prettiness of the wagyu beef air baguette, draped with fatty slices of meat and decorated with a garden of edible flowers, chives and bursts of black garlic.
Beef cheek in Pedro Ximenez with cauliflower puree
We move onto more substantial fare with beef cheek, slow cooked with Pedro Ximenez sherry until soft and unctuous. The gravy is a highlight, but so too is the cauliflower puree, pale and wondrously creamy and smoother than a baby's cheek.
Tripe cooked in traditional Madrid style with chickpeas, chorizo, tomato and a touch of spice
The callos, or tripe, tastes just like the kind of dish your Spanish grandma would make, a heartwarming serving of chickpeas, chorizo slices and treasures of tender tripe cooked in a rich tomato sauce.
Patatas bravas con mojo $14 each
Smoked potato bravas with faux bacon dust served with mojo picon
Crispy pigs ears with guindillas
Crispy pigs ears are another standout dish. Where pigs ears elsewhere are so often deep-fried to a indiscernible crunch, here they're sandwiched between parmesan crisps and fried so there's still a tacky chewy resistance - in a good way. These are so moreishly good Suze orders another round for dessert.
Calamares relleno $19
Local baby squid stuffed with black rice
We conclude our mains with the baby squid stuffed with black rice, so tiny they look like they've been kidnapped while still in kindergarten. The squid look more like mini rocket ships but they are enviably tender, stuffed with a fragrant squid ink black rice, interspersed with grains of puffed rice that add textural crunch.
Creme caramel served with pestinos
We finish with creme caramel, elegantly smooth and cooked to a perfect wobble. It's simple but masterfully executed, and worth fighting over the last spoonful.
There's no doubting MoVida will be a hit - it's worth arriving before 6pm if you don't have a dinner booking. Some dishes are a little on the pricey side but there's enough creativity and value to keep you fed well if you order wisely.
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50 Holt Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8964 7642
Monday 5pm til late
Tuesday to Friday 12 til late
Saturday 5pm til late
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10/15/2012 12:00:00 a.m.