Monday, July 2, 2012

Osteria Balla: Rustic food in a futuristic setting

I’ve rounded out my dining experiences at The Star, with a meal at Stefano Manifredi’s Osteria Balla; a new take on the classic osteria cuisine of Milan – where chef Manifredi hails from.

Neighbour to Black by Ezard, Balla is positioned at the new front of the casino facing Pyrmont Bay. It feels quite apt to pass by an iced display of fresh seafood in the open kitchen when entering the buzzing and interestingly-spaced dining area.

Inside Osteria Balla, The Star, Pyrmont
The interiors feel decidedly mod, influenced by the futuristic artworks of Giacomo Balla and helped along with the iPad wine menu, both aspects which fit the dining mandate rather well.

There are plenty of wines by the glass to please the early week drinker and I had fun scrolling through the red wine styles.

Sydney rock oysters
Seated overlooking the bay view, we’d decided to go with a range of starters and entrées to share. The Sydney rock oysters, shucked to order, were incredibly salty with their briney seawater but lightened with squeezes of fresh lemon juice.

Slow cooked octopus with potato and Tuscan olive oil
It seemed a strange combination – octopus and potato – but it actually appears to be quite a normal Italian salad combination.

The circles of sliced octopus tentacles were impossibly tender after their slow cooking treatment and will convert any octopus disliker. The rest of the well-seasoned salad supported and enhanced the octopus experience rather than standing out on its own.

Veal terrine salad
The beefy hit of the veal terrine cubes in the salad should have been expected but it was really an unusual twist to see veal in this form rather than the much more common pork. The rich beefiness contrasted nicely with the tartly-dressed celery and tomato of the inspired salad.

Prosciutto di Pino and Salamino Balla served with Balla grissini
I still find it hard to go past salumi selections, especially when you walk past a cabinet of hanging cured meats around the outside of the restaurant.

Balla has an impressive range of salumi, which is entirely appropriate for eating on their own with a drinking partner, including some in-house cured goodies and some from Pino’s Dolce Vita.

The ribbons of Prosciutto di Pino had us in raptures over the flavours, silky texture and balanced fattiness, while the thickly cut Salamino Balla had some great chunky bite to it.

Strozzapreti with prawns, broccolini and chilli
The pasta at Balla is all made in-house and daily so it was a joy to see one of my favourites – strozzapreti – on the pasta section of the menu.

This buckwheat version isn’t quite as silky in texture as a normal pasta, but was paired with a dreamy, bisque-like sauce and scattered with chopped prawns and bright green stems of broccolini.

Wood-grilled whole fish of the day (snapper) with salsa verde and salsa salmoriglio
One glance at the main menu of meat and seafood shows that Balla’s woodfired grill is put to good use. Utilising 100 year-old seasoned ironbark, the kitchen produces a range of grilled fish, crustaceans, poultry and meat that is hard to resist.

One of the fish of the day options (two fishes of the day this evening) was snapper that I’ve so recently learnt to cook and enjoy.

This smallish, whole grilled snapper is well-sized for one, and served simply with lemon and two dishes of classic Italian green herb sauce: salsa verde and salsa salmoriglio. I had trouble differentiating the two, although one had more of a spicier bite than the other.

wood-grilled whole spatchcock with garlic and chili, grilled radicchio
The whole spatchcock was a more substantial plate with the succulent butterflied bird dressed in garlic and chilli, served alongside bitter grilled radicchio leaves. There was something very rustic about the combination of flavours and ripping into the spatchcock properly – with fingers.

Baked slippery jack mushroom
A special of the day on the sides menu (quite necessary with the grilled protein only mains) were slippery jack mushrooms, baked with wine and herbs in paper. The two large mushrooms were almost meaty, in a silky smooth fashion, and were altogether deliciously stunning.

Dessert tasting platter
I had every intention to skip desserts after quite the large and varied meal, although I quickly changed my mind when offered all of the desserts – makes no sense, but who can resist a dessert tasting platter when it looks so good.

I skipped the profiterole with pistachio gelato, though I hear the pastel green-hued gelato within was pretty spectacular. The Amadei chocolate crunch showcased some of the world’s best chocolate in a mousse-y slice form.

Dessert tasting platter
The passionfruit gelato was exemplary and the perfect refresher while the crème brulee was my favourite – a petite serve of the smoothest, creamiest vanilla bean speckled custard with a cracking toffee top and biscotti to boot.

There was every temptation to just curl up on the banquette for a nap after the rather huge feast we'd indulged in; one that was completely unlike any Italian dining experience I've had in Sydney or indeed Italy. With its rustic tastes and mod interiors, Balla might just be in a class of its own.

Osteria Balla on Urbanspoon


Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

Congratulations on dining out at all the places in The Star. I've only done seiobo haha. What a lovely meal you had. Definitely reminds me of the food served up in Italy. The flavour combinations aren't your usual but at the same time it's not suprising.

chocolatesuze said...

i've never tried strozzapreti but it sounds incredible and lol skip dessert? haha never!

Billy @ A Table For Two said...

The spatchcock is how I'd expect at Jamie's, with bones!!! bonessSs!!!! But that slippery jack sounds delicious!

john@heneedsfood said...

Wow you've eaten at all of the restaurants at The Star? Now that's determination! I quite liked my meal at Balla and despite the posh surroundings I found the food as honest as you'd get in Italy. I guess Manfredi wouldn't have it any other way!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I had the most divine pasta here and Steve explained how they took ages to squeeze the water out of the pumpkin. I can still taste that dish! :)

joey@FoodiePop said...

I'd come here just for the dessert platter! Gawd it looks impressive.

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

I've only been to Sokyo but would like to eventually work my way through the list :) as a dessert lover that platter has caught my attention!

penny aka jeroxie said...

Bravo from rounding up the places at The Star!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

Seeing the fish like that makes me feel a bit uneasy :x I need to eat at Balla to complete my round at The Star's restaurants! Though the food seems like it would be best going with a group and sharing

sugarpuffi said...

omg i love the veal terrine at balla! have to order it every time!

Tina said...

Hi Tina - Not sure congrats are in order... but thanks :) Have actually not done the Seiobo deg...

Hi suze - Indeed, often. I go nuts on entrees and mains so dessert is usually an afterthought for me.

Hi Billy - I take it that the Jamie's version was deboned...? Arguments for both sides ;)

Hi John - Determination or convenience at times ;)

Hi Lorraine - Some unique and inventive pasta dishes here, which is great to see.

Hi joey - Ha, the sweet-tooths are out in force :)

Hi Angie - Sokyo would be up there as my fave of the Star lot :)

Hi penny - Cheers!

Hi Vivian - Is it the head? Eyes? Teeth? Post my cooking class with a gigantic snapper, I'm actually alright with whole fish now :)

Hi sugarpuffi - It's a bit special, isn't it?


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