Our little part of Sydney seems to be on the up and up. King Street south is seeing as many closures as there are openings, and every time I walk up Enmore Road I spot something new. Mind you, Enmore Road didn’t get much of my attention in the past, but things are set to change.
The other half requested newcomer Russo & Russo as the birthday dinner pick, a blink and miss it place that looks to be your average sheer-curtained shopfront on this gritty strip. It appears to have been part of the Enmore fabric for quite some time but those window curtains haven’t even had time to gather dust.
Vinyl tunes and raised voices fill the dim, candle-lit space and some supremely warm service makes you right at home. The menu comes pasted in the first pages of old books; a little confusing to begin with but if you’ve been to one of those cafe’s that use Golden Books as menu’s, you’ll get the drift.
Yes, there’s a la carte going on, designed to share and brought out one plate at a time, but it was the chefs selection that stopped us in our tracks. 4 courses $40 or 7 courses $65. Bargain. $5 corkage. Even bigger bargain. But to state the obvious, if we chose the same dishes straight off the regular menu, the value works out the same per person. Providing the size of the dishes isn’t bigger when ordering a la carte.
Seven courses it was, and to be honest, I didn’t even look at the individual dishes. We were informed that we could pick and choose what we wanted as part of our spread. Like the sound of the ragù? Then ask them to work it into your meal. I like their style.
One thing that couldn’t be altered was the Port Stephens oyster starter. Shame. The other half doesn’t eat them so they were both mine. Apple mignonette dressing and all.
Appropriate to the current season, and appropriate to my appetite was the insalata bietola. It’s here that it became evident that kitchen ring-leader Jason Saxby did some time with some top shelf chefs. It looks pretty; artfully aligned the way chefs are presenting their food these days. Salt-baked beetroot, balsamic, cumquat, pomegranate, rye crumbs & beetroot chips. It’s artful in the mouth, as well.
When it comes to the humble risotto, many people don’t seem to get it right. The Russo & Russo specimen hit all the right places for us. Rice grains that still have a bite, and a shallow bowl that still retains its liquid. It’s far from the gluggy mess we’re all used to seeing. Jerusalem artichoke and truffled parmesan. A glug of extra virgin olive oil, some pepper, you’re laughing.
There was something about the zuppa di pesce that didn’t win me over. It comes pre-arranged in a bowl; blue mackerel, mussel, fennel, bottarga (salty pressed fish roe) & fregola, with a thick sauce/soup poured over the top. Lovely flavours and textures but it was barely warm when it was time to eat it.
I found it a struggle to share the next dish. Petto d’Anatra. Duck breast, king mushrooms, hazelnuts, cavalo nero, puffed spelt and a delicious slick of duck jus. My only gripe is that I wanted more.
It has been a while since I last enjoyed a cheese dish as much as I did with this one. Formaggio. Simple name; not so simple on the palate. We’ve got Parmigiano-Reggiano panna cotta, grapes, spiced pear, walnuts and sopa syrup. Perfection.
The home stretch, of course, involves a bit of sugar. The rocher, for starters. Some rapidly-melting milk sorbet, chocolate hazelnut brownie, milk jelly and thin chocolate biscuits. Once again, I didn’t want to share.
Finally, as we both receive some complimentary walnut liqueur, a final plate is given to us before we hit the pavement. A tuile topped with rose water-scented white chocolate & goat’s milk, candied cumquat and light dusting of salt and black pepper. A little something to remind us that we need to return real soon.