We've been riding a little voucher wave of late, snapping up the too-good-to-pass-up meal bargains on various websites. Coincidentally we're back at the St Margarets complex for another one. Previously it was Wasabi Bistro and now, just a limp-wristed stones throw away (we are in Darlo, darling) is Morena, home to modern Latin American cuisine with a leaning towards Peruvian flavours. I don't remember the food being this delicious in Peru, but then again we were on the Inca Trail with backpacks strapped to our bodies. I do vaguely recall eating some fab grilled ox heart and guzzling way too many pisco sours in Miraflores, however.
Our Peruvian degustation kicks off with an amuse of citrus sorbet vamped up with the mild heat of aji amarillo, a yellow chilli from South America that will appear a few times in the dishes ahead. It's cool on the palate and gives a light chilli caress as it melts on the tongue. Originating from Arequipa in southern Peru is the Solterito salad, featuring Andean cheese made onsite, dried olives, lightly poached cherry tomatoes, peas, white corn and vibrant aji amarillo dressing. The corn is nothing like the soft and sweet stuff many of us are used to, instead being more like a firm chickpea in texture.
The first time I ever came across a non-fish ceviche was here at Morena. While I'm a little confused as to how only vegetables can be used in this dish yet still call it ceviche, what we got here was divine. Shimeji mushrooms, artichoke, asparagus, micro radish leaves and gorgeous citrus marinade. My favourite culinary beast, Ms Pork, gladly made the meal set in all of her belly glory. Chicharon is normally a stodgy dish of fried pork, often just the skin, served up as a street snack or plate of finger food. Chef Alejandro Saravia glams it up by using perfect squares of tender belly riding a smear of sweet caramelised onion purée, apple brunoise and crisps of sweet potato. To follow is a pair of Queenslander king prawns, flambéed in pisco, more aji amarilo and panca chilli and julienned cucumber. Man I wish there were more of these babies. Just beautiful. Stunning flavours of prawn and chilli balanced out with cooling cucumber and dabs of coriander mayo to the side.
Another highlight dish, most of them were mind you, is an animal we don't usually see on our plates in this country. Alpaca shoulder, constructed much like the lamb that I relished at Newtown's Spencer Guthrie, is presented on tooth-gritting slate brushed with pumpkin purée, some herbed Peruvian chillies and a delicious salad of yellow, gold and black quinoa. The flavour of the meat is similar to lamb and beef combined but with another depth as well. It's rich, beyond tender and bloody brilliant. Following the alpaca we sample a quick shot of pisco sour jelly before ending with tres leches, a soft semolina sponge cake soaked in condensed and evaporated milk and cream. This was one hell of a cake served with pineapple laced with cinnamon and sadly let down by pineapple ice cream that had a heavy bitterness to it.
Overall a fantastic meal featuring an animal that I hope the average Aussie won't shy away from.Morena425 Bourke StreetDarlinghurst 20100405 902 896Lunch: Fri-Sun 12pm-3pmDinner: Tues-Sun 6pm-latewebsite