Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A day of eating: Part III (Vini, Surry hills)

Vini, a gem on Holt St, Surry Hills

As you can probably tell, we not only ate a lot, but all our meals were at Surry hills. Yes. Surry Hills is foodies heaven. The quiet residential area gets transformed at night where troves of people gather at this little area for food and drinks.

This was our second time at Vini and we were looking forward to a night of good food. Tuesdays are special at Vini because the chef would focus on a particular Italian region’s food. On our Tuesday, we had Sardinian food.

Sardinia is the second largest island off Italy and it’s considered one of the most distinctive of Italy’s regional cuisine. However, their philosophy in food doesn’t differ much from mainland Italian food; they believe in the freshest ingredients cooked simply so as not to overwhelm the food’s natural flavours.

The two specialities of Sardinia featured on tour degustation menu: Carta de musica (Translates loosely as ‘music paper) which is a thin and crispy flat bread and Pecorino sardo cheese (ewe’s milk cheese).

The dark, minimalist interiors

Asti Moscato

My dining partner-in-crime and I were excited by the prospect of having a try at Sardianian cuisine. We started off with a simple but lovely anti-pasti platter of pecorino cheese, fennel salad, crackled pork belly and carta di musica.

The pecorino cheese was more delightful than what I had the last time. The flavour of the ewe’s milk is rich, texture is hard, much like parmesan. The crackled pork belly was fatty, tender, juicy with good crackling. The fennel salad had a really refreshing vinaigrette.

Antipasti platter

While the antipasto was simple and good, it was the other dishes that were truly mind-blowing. Our next course was freshly made tagliatelli with saffron sauce with Balmain bugs. This is the first time that I have ever tried or heard of Balmain bugs.

We were told that this dish was traditionally cooked with lobster meat but since we are in Sydney Australia, it’s replaced by the Balmain bug, a type of slipper lobster found off the coast of Australia and New Zealand. In fact, its name is derived from Balmain in New South Wales.

The tagliatelli was wicked! Fresh pasta with such delicate flavours of the saffron together with the surprisingly sweet and succulent bugs completes the dish.

Saffron Tagliatelle with bugs

Poppy breadsticks with green and black olives
The next dish took my breath away as well. The flavours of the chargrilled quail with the tang from the lemon infused jus. The fregola, also one of Sardinia’s export, is somewhat similar to the couscous. It is made from semolina and water and the fregola served at Vini perfectly complemented the quail. I love its texture compared to couscous with hints of chewiness

Chargrilled quail with fregola

Dessert really attracted my attention: Sebadas with ricotta, pecorino, mint and honey sauce. Interesting. Sebadas is simply a deep-fried ravioli. I’ve eaten many cheese and honey combination as desserts and I loved them. This one was equally lovely. The deep-fried ravioli was crispy without being oily. The sweetened ricotta gave it a smooth, melt-in-the-mouth center while the pecorino gave it the sharp hints of saltiness. The honey sauce balanced the dessert with that smooth, calming sweetness.

We finished off the meal with an Italian dessert wine, Moscato from Asti. This is my new favourite- a moscato without being overpowering on the syrupy sweetness.

The day of eating has ended but there were more plans being hatched on new areas to discover and explore.

And since good food and wine should always be shared with the people you love, I made reservations for two for a Degustation Tuesday one month from now.

Sebadas with ricotta, pecorino cheese, mint with honey sauce
3/118 Devonshire Street (On Holt St), Surrey Hills
Tel: 9698 5131

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