Thanks to my “sister-in-law” and her partner moving from Dulwich Hill to Bondi Junction, I’ve learned of a couple more restaurants that I’m glad I’ve now been to. First there was a Reuben sandwich I needed to try a few doors down from their apartment. Yes, needed. Another place that got our attention is located right next door to Ms K’s apartment building. In fact you can see into the kitchen from their living room window. A foodie peep-show that has no slots and requires no pocket change.
What initially caught my eye was the monthly degustation menu, displayed at the front of the restaurant. You see, every month of the year at Osteria Riva brings a different degustation. May 2013 featured selvaggina, or game. This is something I’d ordinarily struggle to ignore, so seeing it was my birthday half-way through the month, selvaggina needed to join me in my step into the second year of the fourth decade of my life.
Osteria Riva is a Northern Italian oasis on the periphery of the Frank Lowy commercialism that swallowed the Junction (causing some major indigestion in its surrounding areas). The quality of the food at Riva is exceptional. Meats and eggs used here are organically produced in Rylestone, northwest of Sydney. The pasta is made fresh daily, something that’s clearly evident, and the style of the food is that of Emilia-Romagna, a stunning part of Italy I was lucky to travel through many years ago.
Not only did the selveggina menu sound irresistible, all five courses-and-all, but the price seemed too good to be true. $70. Seventy dollars! Can I add that a glass of Italian wine was matched to each course? Anywhere else in this town and you’d be paying another $30+ just for the vino matching. Here at Riva, it’s inclusive. Crazy.
Qualie arrosto in crosta di pancetta starts off the procession of game, in this dimly-lit restaurant. Simply plated with some red cabbage, the roasted quail bound with pancetta is divine. Juicy, flavoursome and a perfect contender for a bit of finger-food action. The vino wasn’t half bad, either. A 2011 Pomino chardie.
From a delicious little bird, we progressed to a furry little rabbit. Gnocchetti con lepre, pomodorini e rosmarino. Hand-made gnocchi, sorry, gnocchetti (‘cos it’s small), tossed with wild rabbit, cherry tomatoes and rosemary. I mean seriously, could this be any tastier? Yes, I was craving a little reggiano but I got through it nevertheless. A real struggle.
Catching sight of the tagliatelle al cervo transported me back to Verona, four or five years ago. Sitting by the river, beneath lanterns and trees on the cobblestones, tucking into tagliatelle with horse ragù. Ok, this may not be horse at Riva, but the venison they used sparked a beautiful memory. Most people understand al dente. What we have here is real al dente pasta. Something the average Joe Blow may think is chalky and uncooked. All I could say was that I was in some kind of heaven.
It was at this point that a few of us at the table wondered how much more deliciously rich food we could handle. And out comes the cinghiale in umido con polenta. Oh good lord. The rich protein levels were hitting the red zone. Aside from the glasses of wine that joined the culinary party, the slow-cooked beauties that joined them were leaving an indelible mark.
Simple words. Stewed wild boar with polenta. Not so simple when it’s sitting on a plate infront of you. I feel bad. I didn’t plan on leaving food behind, but my stomach was verging on maximum capacity. When swine has a firm clutch of the defeat card, I have no chance. This was a first.
And along comes crema con frutti di bosco e scaglie di mandorie. A saviour to the deliciousness we’d just consumed. Thick crème patissière topped with stewed strawberries and almond flakes. A 2007 Vin Santo closed the deal perfectly.
I have no energy to rub my belly.