Pilu at Freshwater is an Italian fine dining restaurant on the Northern Beaches, with a focus on Sardinian cuisine. The day we visited was unfortunately a rainy one, but it was still a very picturesque setting overlooking Freshwater beach. I could only imagine how amazing it would look on a summery day.
Perusing the menu, we opted to go for the 7-course degustation ($125pp) but decided to start with half a dozen of Sydney rock oysters. These gems are from Pambula and are served with apple cider and cucumber. Sweet and plump, they were gone in a flash.
Soon after we were presented with the complimentary flat bread with house made ricotta and truffle oil. The flatbread was deliciously crunchy with a good sprinkling of salt and rosemary, perfectly paired with the creamy ricotta.
Onto the first course and it's a Smoked mullet and celeriac panada with Dill oil, apple and cucumber gel and horseradish cream on the side. An interesting blend of ingredients, the dill oil together with the horseradish cream tied the dish together.
The Ravioli of ricotta with a sea urchin emulsion and tarragon oil was unfortunately a little underwhelming. The ravioli is a traditional Sardinian version, quite different to the shape of the usual ones you see in an Italian restaurant. The skin was a bit too thick for my liking and the sea urchin flavour wasn't as strong as I had hoped.
The Fregula risotata is a toasted Semolina pasta and together with the pecorino cheese, charred onions and wild garlic puree made for a very tasty vegetarian dish.
The Barramundi in smoked ham consomme was delicious and I enjoyed the unusual textures of the sea herbs. The smoked ham consomme was crystal clear and packed full of flavour.
The Roast suckling pig is one of the signature dishes at Pilu and it's not hard to see why. The suckling pig has the great mix of crispy crackling and tender meat. The accompaniments of black olive tapenade, poached paradise pear helped in countering the richness of the dish, and I loved the flavour of the pistachio mortadella.
The palate cleanser of Pimm's and strawberry consomme, cucumber granita and mint delivered - it was light, fruity and refreshing.
The final dish of our degustation was a Sardinian pastry filled with ricotta and sultanas, drizzled with honey from nearby Forestville. The pastry was delightfully crispy and the flavours of honey, the dehydrated orange and ricotta blended superbly together.
It's the perfect place for a lazy long lunch at a beautiful location. I enjoyed some dishes more than others, so would probably opt for the a la carte option next time.
A Tavola in Bondi is the second restaurant of its name, after the much-loved original in Darlinghurst. The restaurant looks bright and inviting, with giant copper lights and a long marble communal table which is also where the pasta gets made daily.
Before getting to their famous pasta, we opted for a couple of entrees to whet our appetite. We started off with the Burratina, which was paired with dehydrated beetroot, fennel, orange segments and pea shoots. It was a light, summery dish and I couldn't get enough of the creaminess of the burratina.
The Lamb involtini was a delicate dish, with tender pieces of lamb backstrap stuffed with Tuscan kale. The salsa verde also managed to pack a punch of flavour.
The Squid ink ravioli looked striking as it hit the table. It definitely tasted of the sea and the mussels were incredibly plump and tender.
The Pappardelle with wagyu ragu was definitely the highlight of the meal.
The pasta was silky smooth and the ragu was wonderfully rich, and a very generous serving too. It was one of the best pasta dishes I've had in Sydney.
The Red Cabbage Salad with raisins and walnuts was incredibly tasty and a great play on textures. It has just the right amount of acidity to cut through the richness of the pasta dishes.
A Tavola is a great spot if you are looking for some amazing fresh pasta in Sydney.
The empire of Fratelli Fresh seems to be ever expanding, including an outpost in Crows Nest on the bustling Willoughby Road. There are a few set menus available but we decided to go for the a la carte option.
We started with the Fratelli House Salad with butter lettuce, avocado, nashi pear, radish, gorgonzola and sliced walnuts. It was a refreshing salad, perfect for a hot summer's day.
The Beef Carpaccio was nicely seasoned but I felt the wild mushrooms didn't really complement the dish, so would probably have been better without them.
From the pasta section, we went with the Linguine with Prawns, Lemon, Pangrattata, Chilli and Garlic. Beautifully cooked pasta, sweet juicy prawns and a classic flavour combination - needless to say, it was delicious.
The Tuscan Kale and Oyster Mushroom pizza come with a creamy white base and is another exhibition of simple yet delicious flavours executed well.
For dessert, we opted for the Vanilla bean panna cotta with cherry sauce and crumbed brownie. The panna cotta had a very smooth texture and I enjoyed the crunch from the crumbed brownie.
Fratelli Fresh doesn't deliver the fanciest, most adventurous food, but it is consistently good. The fit out is great and bonus points for all the booth seats they have!
Expectations were high when I was heading to Mr Liquor's Dirty Italian Disco - a six month pop-up from the creators of the famed Pinbone and Merivale. The eatery is located in an old drive through liquor shop in Mascot, not where you normally expect to have a top-notch dining experience.
Upon entering, I was struck by the disco balls, the music videos being projected onto the wall, the hand drawn cartoon drawings and the neon lights. There's a walk in fridge for you to pick your own alcohol or you can also order at the table. The menu is concise but everything on it sounds delicious.
I opted for the Beef tongue, porcini and tomato as a starter. The thin slices of beef tongue was simply divine, perfectly seasoned and just melted in my mouth. The porcini topping was packed full of flavour and I couldn't help but have a smile on my face as I demolished the dish.
For mains, I chose the Spatchcock with lemon and tarragon butter. Little did I know I would get an entire spatchcock - a very generous serving. The spatchcock was perfectly cooked with crispy skin, soaking up the lemony and buttery sauce. Next time, I would probably get a side to go with it as I felt it needed some vegies to complete the meal.
Sadly I was too full for dessert but all the more reason to come back before this pop up closes. Mr Liquor's Dirty Italian Disco has a fun vibe and offers a great dining experience.
LOT.1 is a three-level restaurant/ bar in the heart of Sydney's CBD. The decor is modern and striking, and the service was warm and inviting. The menu is heavily Italian inspired, though our first dish featured a take on the French classic of steak tartare. The Wagyu tartare, anchovy mousse, buckwheat crisp and pickled hazelnuts was simply delicious, with the anchovy mousse adding the creamy component normally provided by an egg yolk.
The Chicken liver pate with choux pastry and mostarda was equally impressive. The choux bun was soft and fluffy, the sweetness of the mostarda complemented the liver pate well.
A pasta dish for $42 is hard to justify, but Lot.1's Spaghettini with spanner crab, chilli, garlic and wakame was one of the best I've had in Sydney. The pasta was silky and cooked to perfection, and the wakame really added an umami boost to the dish.
For the final saoury course of the night, we had the Duck breast with witlof, persimmon, coffee and a cured yolk. A curious combination but one that worked. The persimmon was finely sliced and provided the sweetness to contrast the slight bitterness of the witlof. The coffee component was neither here nor there, but the cured yolk was a nice touch to go with the duck.
You can't go wrong with Tiramisu for dessert - the coffee flavour was intense and it was not overly sweet. A few more Savoiardi biscuits to mop up the mascarpone would have made it perfect.
Impressive food, with superb service from start to finish, it's definitely worth a visit.
I had tried ACME's amazing brunch dish of Fried chicken, ube waffle and maple syrup a little while ago, so was keen to check out their restaurant in Rushcutters Bay. All the dishes are made for sharing and my friends and I opted for the Crush Me menu at $65 per person.
First dish was the Baloney sandwich. A beautiful potato milk bun, paired with a house made tomato relish and delicious slices of mortadella - a very satisfying snack.
The Grilled shitake were perfectly tender and dressed with a bone marrow vinaigrette which provided some robust, punchy flavours.
ACME's version of the Japanese miso Roasted eggplant dish was delicious, with some added crunch provided by the puffed rice.
The Lamb tartare was tasty but didn't reach the heights of some other dishes. It was missing a creamy element for me, although I did enjoy the freshness provided by the artichoke and mint.
Then onto the pasta and it's clear that this is where ACME shines. We started with one of the vegetarian options: Fusilli with jicama, chestnuts and sage. The pasta was al dente firm and the chestnut puree worked well with the crunchiness of the jicama (Mexican turnips) chestnuts and sage.
The Fettucine with the octopus puttanesca was equally delicious. The puttanesca sauce with capers, olives and tomatoes was very aromatic and the octopus was beautifully tender.
I normally associate macaroni with mac 'n' cheese. ACME's Macaroni with pig's head and egg yolk has definitely taken it to another level. The meat from the pig's head is crispy, gelatinous and juicy, with a great intensity of flavour. There's a hint of sourness to the dish, which stops it from being overly rich. The egg yolk is an inspired addition and there's a hit of chilli just to give it an extra kick. It's clear to see why this is ACME's signature pasta dish.
It was time for dessert. The Parsnip ice cream was silky smooth but it was hard to pick out the parsnip flavour. The pear granita, on the other hand, was delightfully fresh and I discovered cajeta for the first time, the Mexican version of Dulce de leche.
The final dessert of Marshmallow, buttermilk sorbet and passionfruit was a great balance of flavours and texture. The combination of toasted marshmallow and sorbet is not one I've had before, and it works brilliantly.
Definitely not your ordinary pasta and wine bar, ACME offers top quality pasta dishes with a few Asian inspired twists. The Crush Me menu was good value and allow you to try all of their signature dishes.
In the newly refurbished Gateway building in Circular Quay lies Popina, a collaboration between Salt Meats Cheese and Shuk. The meeting of Italian and Middle Eastern influences results in some exciting dishes.
We started off with the Stracciatella with figs, smoked almonds and apricot vinaigrette. Stracciatella is a soft, creamy cheese that's at the centre of burrata and is a perfect match for the slices of the sweet, ripe figs. The almonds added a crunchy texture and it was all tied together by the zingy apricot vinaigrette. This dish definitely put a smile on my face.
For a taste of South America, we had the Beef Empanadas which were served piping hot, straight from the oven. I enjoyed the crispy pastry and the juicy filling, but the sauce could have done with a little more oomph.
The next dish of Yellow fin tuna with Kibbeh nayyeh looked striking thanks to the wafer thin slices of watermelon. I wasn't sure about the flavour combination on paper but was convinced once I had a taste.
From the mains section, we opted for the Raviolidi ricotta with lamb backstrap and pistachio crumb. The ravioli with the creamy ricotta filling was delicious and the lamb was cooked perfectly to medium rare, but I did wish there was a bit more of it!
For dessert, I couldn't go past the Aljafor, a Dulce de leche mousse sandwiched between the buttery, crumbly shortbread and accompanied by a scoop of coconut ice cream. Both the mousse and ice cream were silky smooth and it was a great way to finish off the meal.
Popina brings together a great melting pot of flavours from around the globe and offers great service too. Definitely a great addition to the dining scene in Circular Quay!
Northern Italian smokehouse? I was immediately intrigued and decided to pay Grolla in Neutral Bay a visit. Nearly all the items on the menu have a smoked element, from appetisers to desserts.
My friend and I started with the Smoked duck breast. The smoked duck was beautifully prepared, paired with ricotta and a caramelised fig sauce. You can't go wrong with this combination.
The Smoked kingfish carpaccio is one of their signature dishes. The smokiness was subtle but noticeable. It presented beautifully with a drizzle of olive oil, flying fish roe and a sprinkling of beetroot powder.
Onto the mains and we went with the owner's recommendation and ordered the Smoked beef rib. The beef rib was incredibly juicy and melted in my mouth. The Mojo Verde packed a punch of flavour and really freshened up the dish.
Similarly, the Smoked pork jowl and cheek was infused with great flavour from the smoking process. Each mouthful, with the smooth, creamy cauliflower puree was a joy to eat.
Onto dessert and the food continued to impressive, both in taste and aesthetic appeal. A beautiful glass ornament landed at our table. Lifting the lid, we were greeted by our first dessert: Macadamia nut Lemon myrtle Coconut ice cream, corn puff, pistachio, smoked salted caramel. The ice cream was creamy and refreshing, and I loved the crunchy texture of the corn puffs. The smoked salted caramel tied the whole dish together.
The Mascarpone semifreddo looked equally stunning. The mango and lime curd center was simply divine. The semifreddo was topped with a sprinkling of the strawberry dust, and of course the smoked caramel sauce. I was impressed Grolla has been able to incorporate smokiness into desserts and actually elevate the dish, rather than being a distraction.
Grolla is definitely worth a visit, offering beautifully presented, fusion cuisine with unique flavours and personable service.
Why worry about Monday when you can have a Stressless Sunday? That's the premise at Ormeggio at the Spit, where you can have a six course dinner for $79. Amazing value for a two hatted restaurant. The beautiful view of Mosman Bay is not bad either.
The menu changes each week, depending on what seasonal produce is on offer. We started with some Sourdough and whipped ricotta with a sprinkling of chives. It's good quality sourdough, served warm and the whipped ricotta was a great alternative to butter.
We started with the Eggplant and tomato consomme, a very delicate and fresh dish. The eggplant was incredibly soft and the consomme, whilst there wasn't a lot of it, packed a punch of flavour.
Next was the Pan fried kingfish with puffed rice, broccolini powder and mussel water. The fish was cooked remarkably well and the puffed rice gave it a nice crunch. Although I didn't get much of a mussel flavour, it was still a very delicious dish to eat.
The Tagliolini was also cooked to perfection. Whilst the serving looked small, the mascarpone made it an incredibly creamy and decadent dish. I loved the hit of umami from the bottarga (fish roe) too.
The single meat dish of the night was the Lamb with coffee crumble. The lamb was braised, formed into thin sheets then fried, giving it a crispy crust on the outside. The coffee flavour was strong but not overpowering and worked in harmony with the sour cream emulsion and the black garlic puree.
Dessert was simply titled Textures of lemon and almond. It consisted a lemon and almond sponge, with almond ice cream lemon and almond puree, vanilla crumble and lemon granita. It was light and refreshing, but felt a little bit more like a palate cleanser/ pre-dessert than a full dessert.
All in all, Ormeggio is a great showcase of modern Italian cuisine. With friendly and professional service, water views, it's not a bad place to spend a Sunday evening.
Via Alta means High Street in Italian, so it made perfect sense that this restaurant was located on High Street in Willoughby. From the same group that brought us the fine dining Ormeggio, Via Alta is a more casual Italian trattoria serving some great seasonal fare.
We started with the Crab meat bruschetta. The crab meat was beautifully cooked and had a lovely flavour from the burnt butter sauce, complemented by the crunchy macadamias. It was a great teaser to whet our appetite.
Next was the Bresaola, a form of air dried beef, served with some caper berries. I love cured meats, and this had a nice saltiness to it without being overpowering.
Risotto, as we've all seen on Masterchef, can be easy to get wrong. This Saffron risotto had a great aroma as it hit our table. It was cooked al dente and was paired with the luscious, red wine braised beef cheeks. A simple dish executed to perfection.
The Grilled flank steak was another highlight of the night. The beef was just simply stunning, cooked to a perfect medium rare. The roasted beetroot puree added a great depth of flavour and I also particularly enjoyed the potato gratin. Often, it can be too creamy and heavy, but they got the potato, cream and butter ratio just right. The dish just tied together so beautifully.
For dessert, we opted for the Tiramisu. Again, it was beautifully executed. Not too sweet, not too much alcohol - the balance of the dish was just perfect and it was surprisingly light.
Via Alta is a great Italian eatery serving some beautiful dishes. It's worth the drive to Sydney's north even if you are not a local.
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