Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bodega: It’s been too long between drinks

My first visit to Bodega was approximately 7.5 years ago in 2006 when the Argentinian tapas bar first sprouted up on Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, just down from my former drinking hole corner pub.

Indeed, it was my work farewell lunch and for most, our first taste of tapas that wasn't strictly Spanish. I remember being a little confused with lunch – or perhaps that was just my impending unemployment.

Drinks at Bodega, Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills
In any case, it's taken me way too long to get back to Bodega. During that time they've expanded into the next door shop, gained a cult status among food-lovers and rockabillies alike, spawned a wildly successful sister restaurant in Porteño, and scored one hat in the latest Good Food Guide.

I had some catching up to do so walked in on a recent Friday night to the best seats in the house: at the kitchen counter overlooking the chefs at work, including on this night owner Elvis Abrahanowicz while his wife and maitre d', the inimitable Sarah Doyle, was also on the floor.

We started with the crisp bubbles of Cruzat Clasico and the Spanish Ambar 1900 Pale Ale while perusing the brief menu which sings and dances with creativity.

Tinned white anchovies, fish pate & water crackers
I'm slowly coming around to anchovies, especially when they're excellent specimens like the tin from Bodega on their tapas menu: lightly pickled in vinegar Spanish style and not particularly salty.

Served on rulers of house made crackers, the anchovies were almost as delectable as the airy fish pate which, strange as it sounds, was sensational. With restrained fishy, savoury and creamy flavours spread on a cracker, I'm not sure I've ever had the pleasure of anything quite like Bodega's fish pate.

Empanada filled with provolone
Empanadas, and their dumpling-like derivatives, seem to be hot around town at the moment. Bodega's provolone-filled parcel of deep fried goodness didn't disappoint with its stringy cheese innards, although it lacked a sauce or salsa on the side.

School prawns with curry mayonnaise
One of the evening's specials, the whole fried school prawns arrived as a generous pile, garnished with sliced shallots and a huge dollop of curry-hued mayonnaise; the latter of which is a genius flavour combination.

The prawns were wonderfully crisp, a few black heads aside, and were great drinking snacks that disappeared in a hurry.

Dutch carrots, fried cauliflower, smoked labna, tahini & currants
It would seem that standalone carrot dishes are making their mark on Sydney, with Bodega's featuring soft portions of the orange root vegetables with deep fried cauliflower florets, smoky labna yoghurt and sweet currants in a pool of a mild tahini sesame paste.

I had wanted the carrot dish to be a bit like a side dish to the protein main we had ordered, although it was quite a while between dishes and so the carrots were devoured on their sweet lonesome.

Corn tamale, fontina cheese, mole roja with chicken
Emerging from the oven wrapped in a leaf, the tamale of smooth masa corn meal was filled with mild fontina cheese, fresh corn from the cob and tender chicken smothered in a complex mole sauce.

With a liberal coriander garnish and fresh lemon on the side, the corn tamale was a fresh, filling package covering all the major food groups – carbs, dairy, vegetable and protein – and ideal for sharing between two.

Crispy duck, scallops, chocolate mole, Old Bay apple
Our final dish was the duck main, served with scallops in an chocolate mole sauce. I'd never thought I would have scallops with chocolate, though the sauce was better with the rich, crisp-skin duck pieces.

The paper-thin rounds of apple were the only part that didn’t seem to work – while they added a refreshing tartness to the duck and sauce, the Old Bay seasoning on each slice was just way too salty to enjoy.

We had forgotten to leave space and time for dessert on this occasion, and with a queue out the door, we didn't linger too long. But at least I've got Bodega's renowned dessert offerings, among other delicious reasons, to make sure it’s not 7.5 years between meals and drinks at Bodega again.

Bodega on Urbanspoon


Jacq said...

I've been wanting to go to Bodega for ages but for some reason I keep putting it off! That fish pate sounds incredible as well as that duck and scallop main

chocolatesuze said...

but.. there's always room for dessert! hehe their banana split is da bomb

Chris @ MAB vs Food said...

At least you've been to Bodega. I've never been myself hehe. The crispy duck looks delicious

Melanie Y said...

I have no idea why I still haven't been's been "on my list" for years! Need to fix that soon I think.

Tina said...

Hi Jacq - Definitely get the pate; it's amazing. I wonder if Porteno has taken more than its fair share of the spotlight...

Hi suze - I know... I've heard so much about their desserts - but I don't have this mystical dessert stomach.

Hi Chris - It's a great restaurant that does something completely different in the Sydney market.

Hi Melanie - Yep, that neverending list... :/

Neil Chung said...

Love bodega. Easily my favourite go-to restaurant when impressing friends. Shocked you haven't tried their iconic fish fingers but. You've got to give that a go.

Tina said...

Hi Neil - I know! I wanted to try them but couldn't fit it in this time. That fish pate was amazing though...


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