16 November, 2008

Enzo, Adelaide

308 Port Road, Hindmarsh; 08 8346 2786

John Lethlean wrote this restaurant up a year ago, saying, among other things: 'It's the sort of restaurant we don't see much of any more in Melbourne, and if we do, it's probably in Brunswick or Thornbury. It's daggy; it also has incredible soul...[it's] about rustic authenticity and generosity.'

We almost didn't get there - I rang on Saturday afternoon to book for that night. They were full, and not open on Sunday, the last night of our trip. There were almost tears....but I rang again at 6:30 and they were happy to fit us in after 8pm. Entering the brick-walled, dark-tiled restaurant, we waited a few minutes while they got our table ready in their enclosed porch area, entertained by three strapping young Italian lads with accordion and tambourines, and getting more excited by the second at the aforementioned authenticity. The generosity was evident too, then and later: they apologised about the wait as we were seated and again when we paid our bill - totally unnecessary since they'd fitted us in last minute - and the biggest downer of the night was that the servings were too enormous to feel we could do them justice.

In the normal run of things, a mixed antipasti plate of cured meats and pickled veg would have made a perfect starter. But hey, you can get that anywhere. Instead we got one each: olive ascolane for me, and capesante al lardo for SG.

Olive ascolane consists of green olives, stuffed with pork mince, crumbed and fried. They were an intriguing blend of textures: a gentle crunch from the crumbed outside, the juicy meat interior and, in between, that peculiarly fibrous yet gone-before-you've-savoured-it texture of the olive flesh. Suprisingly, given that combination, it wasn't overly salty or oily; I think quite a bit of care had been taken in putting them together and it almost seemed that the flavours balanced each other out too well: I was expecting more of a flavour hit.

Perhaps it was just because I'd already sampled the capesante: scallops wrapped in pork fat. They were awesome: four fat scallops were enveloped in a shawl of meat, each sitting proudly atop a toasted square of bread. In the centre, spinach topped with labne rounded out the plate with a vegetable and dairy component, to add the fish, carbohydrates and fat on the outside. A balanced, and thoroughly delectable, dish.

We quickly settled on the coniglio cacciatora as one of our mains - rabbit done 'hunter-style'. The fettucine dell'umbria just got the nod over lamb chops cooked over coals. Even in hindsight the latter sounds tantalising, but no more so than housemade pasta with pancetta, mushrooms and a truffle cream sauce.

The coniglio came awash in its own cooking stew: shallots, carrots and whole mushrooms fought to stay afloat.
The best part of a whole bunny was sliced in amongst them, extraordinarily tender and so wonderfully flavoured by all that goodness around it. If that's how hunters ate...how did we develop an office culture?

Enzo's fettucine was perfectly pliant, and did a fine job of holding the truffle cream sauce.
The sauce showed far more restraint than I, as I chowed down pasta in an attempt to make a dent in the serving before fullness got the better of me.

It's a restaurant to fast for: firstly, so that you can do justice to the servings, and secondly, to treat your palate by reintroducing it to the best produce, prepared simply and traditionally. The experience is made all the more worthwhile by Enzo himself, a man so comfortable working the floor that he knows what his customers need before they ask, sometimes even before they know themselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment