Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A little birdy told me

I've been told repeatedly that overindulgence, especially overeating, is not a sin at this time of the year. Rather, it is to be expected. It doesn't make me feel any better physically, but if everyone's doing it I suppose we're all in the same slowly sinking boat.

Admittedly, my eating festivities started a few days before Christmas (and will surely extend into the New Year). Dinner at Bistro Ortolan followed a long work lunch function, so I'm not sure how my stomach managed but it did.

On the outdoor balcony overlooking the relatively quiet Marion Street in Leichhardt, there's a slight air of eating at someone's terrace in the suburbs. That's taking out of consideration the two chef's hats, the impeccable service and the very Marque tablecloths.

Amuse bouche - Iced tomato essence - from Bistro Ortolan,
Marion Street, Leichhardt

The amuse bouche was the seemingly ubiquitous tomato water or essence - an iced version which would have been delightful were we having the summer weather we're supposed to be having. With the addition of basil and olives in the glass, and anchovy toast on the side, this was quite the savoury starter for the palate.

Rare loin of yellowfin tuna with almond and sherry veloute
and blue swimmer crab remoulade

Perhaps in some part due to the presence of the word 'bistro' in the name, I had rather expected hearty plating and servings of the dishes. So I'm very impressed with the artful and delicate appearance of our entrees at first, and it seems everyone else was too as there was reluctant and little sharing of dishes.

The tuna was rare with a seared seed crust; delicate and fresh in flavour atop the round of veloute. The crab flesh was somewhere on the plate, and small as it was, sweetness it packed.

Seared Hervey Bay sea scallops with caramelised calves
sweetbreads, green vegetables and truffled potato

Like the crab, I didn't see the sweetbreads that had turned me away from the scallop entree. The large seared scallops were robed in what seemed like dumpling wrappers, or round pasta sheets. The spears of green asparagus and the fluffy, lightly truffled potato played formidable side roles but the plump juicy scallops were the star of this show.

Feuillete of baby spinach, fontina and lyonnaise onion with
softly poached duck egg and truffle beurre blanc

My tart of spinach, caramelly onions and richly melted fontina cheese verged on 'too pretty to eat' but the heady aroma of truffles strongly encouraged otherwise. The demure, and surprisingly hot, puff pastry tart was almost a little strange bedfellow to the poached egg. However, the truffle butter sauce diplomatically brought the two together nicely in a plate wiping fashion.

Crisp-skinned fillet of saltwater barramundi with a
fricassee of yabbies, baby turnips, and foie gras

The wait for mains certainly gets the appetites back with gusto and luckily so, because the hearty 'bistro' promise delivers. A beautiful, golden-skinned fillet of barramundi sits amid a plethora of baby turnips and yabbies, and beneath a crunchy wrapped parcel of foie gras it seems.

Roasted loin of organic Berkshire pork and a croquette
of confit neck, with snails and sweetcorn

A vibrant yellow sweetcorn puree introduces the pork main; two thick cut slices of roasted loin with a crackling skin garnish. The confit neck croquette appears to be the favourite on this dish, with the snails in hiding - probably with good reason.

Butter-poached fillet of blue eye trevalla with squid and pea ‘risotto’,
tomato confit and baby vegetables

Another fish dish and another Marque-esque moment with the squid and pea 'risotto' - which was deliciously sweet and briney. The trevalla was cooked to perfection with the magnified-taste of its tomato confit topping - alas, another case of dish envy for me.

Rare spiced loin of Cervena venison with bone marrow gnocchi,
chanterelles and white apsparagus puree

My ambitious choice of the venison followed lunch, when I chose lamb over fish to arrive at dish envy case #1 for the day. Nonetheless the rare cubes of venison were lightly spiced so that all I could taste was the tender, jucy meat rather than any gaminess or bloodiness. The bone marrow gnocchi could have not had its title ingredient for all I could taste in the oddly floral herbs or spicing, although there was a small slice of quivering pink marrow served at the back. The chanterelles and puree were supremely rich, hence my preference for the white asparagus and its puree.

We'd also had sides of brocollini with anchovy butter and fresh tomato, and crispy roasted potatoes with tarragon and horseradish so by the time the dessert menu descended, the Christmas bellies were already out in force. Probably with thoughts of gingerbread and fruitcake in mind, we skipped the sweets in support of the collective protestations of the stomach; showing clemency for the time as more plans for festive overindulgence were stewing.

Bistro Ortolan on Urbanspoon


SK said...

That "Rare spiced loin of Cervena venison" looks especially tender. Such a nice colour on the meat.

Julia @Mélanger said...

I was greedily eyeing off all that seafood. Looks delicious!

Tina said...

Hi SK - It was a definitely a vivid 'rare' ;)

Hi Julia - I know; I had total fish/dish envy... :)

joey@FoodiePop said...

Love Bistro O, although I was told the chef did not like people taking photos of the food because of "bad experiences". The venison wasn't on the degustation menu when we were there, but it looks so good!

Tina said...

Hi joey - We were on the upstairs balcony - maybe that's how we got away with it :)


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