Thursday, November 14, 2013

Anatoli brings modern Greek to The Eastern

Modern Greek cuisine exploded onto the Sydney dining scene over the last couple of years and it's been nice to watch it develop and grow, now into the eastern suburbs with Anatoli at The Eastern.

Pork moussaka from Anatoli, Level 1, The Eastern, Oxford Street, Bondi Junction
The Eastern in Bondi Junction, adjoining the mammoth Westfield shopping centre, has this year undergone a barely recognisable transformation; from multi-level pub to a multi-venue attraction with two distinct restaurants, four bars (with food) and a lot of good eating and drinking to be done.

The bar at Anatoli
Anatoli on Level 1 of the four-storied complex features a breathtaking, cliché-free fitout with a large, marble-topped bar splitting restaurant and bar seating for a significant 150 patrons.

With an array of Greek wines on offer, it's hard to go past the very fruity recommendation of 2010 Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko Athiri from Santorini by the glass (tip: always get a recommendation when you can’t pronounce any of the wine labels or grapes on offer).

The restaurant at Anatoli
Chef Matt Fitzgerald (ex Bentley Restaurant & Bar and Bather's Pavilion) heads the Anatoli kitchen, as well as the upstairs Mexican venue, El Topo.

The Anatoli menu is grounded in great local produce with classic Greek influences – proffering a uniquely modern Greek-Australian take on shared plates, which I think is the perfect way put together a menu for today’s modern Australian palate.

Eggplant, tzatziki & hummus mezethes with grilled pita
One of my all-time favourite ways to start a meal is mezethes dips and addictive, fluffy wedges of grilled Greek pita bread – a sufficient amount too, which rarely seems the case.

The hummus, excellent as it was, was no match for the smoky eggplant dip, which in turn was no match for my absolute favourite dip – tzatziki, the classic Greek refreshing dip of yoghurt, garlic, lemon, cucumber and loads of fresh mint.

Spiced school prawns & smoked chilli mayo
Whole fried school prawns are becoming a regular sighting on Sydney menus, and I can say definitively that these were the best I've had across town.

The generous pot of prawns had the crunchiest possible coating and pleasantly trimmed whiskers, themselves seasoned to salty, spiced perfection. There was the smoked chilli mayonnaise for the creamy condiment-inclined, while we also requested lemon wedges for some extra zing.

Wild mushrooms, kohlrabi & roast pinenuts
There was a sprinkling of Greek influence in the pan of wild mushrooms; I think oregano through the shiitake and King Browns, topped with raw enoki mushrooms. The fungi were supplemented by a creamy puree of kohlrabi, with added texture from roasted pine nuts.

Pork moussaka with eggplant & gruyere
I was seriously excited to try Anatoli’s moussaka – classic Greek comfort food drenched in a white sauce. The moussaka comprised with a high quality mince of pork, soft eggplant slices and home-style seasoning, all topped with rich, creamy béchamel sauce and gooey, melted gruyere cheese.

The little cast iron pot deceived the eyes but not the stomach; densely-packed with the rich meat mixture and luxe, creamy sauce, it was a surprising struggle to clean up the entire petite pot.

Slow cooked shoulder of lamb, roast onions, braising juices & tzatziki
For our other main we elected the slow-cooked lamb shoulder, served as a neat block with sweetly roasted Spanish onions and hearty, goodness-filled juices from the braising process.

The lamb had a delightful fall-apart texture, simply using the force of a fork. The flavourful meat was lightened and enhanced with the excellent tzatziki on the side in an array of classic and clean Greek tastes.

Roast Brussels, hazelnut, haloumi & filo
The order of roast Brussels sprouts came out logically with the mains, without request. Lightly cooked and arranged prettily with roasted hazelnuts, filo pastry shards and shaved haloumi cheese, they were a nice foil to our heavy mains (though hard to rank against my and Sydney’s favourite Brussels sprouts).

Ouzo with ice
We ended up with leftovers as we were warned early on to leave space for desserts. To help digestion along, I had a nip of ouzo, served however the drinker likes.

I like to add a cube or two of ice to the liquor, just so I can play around and see the ouzo go cloudy, while the aniseed-flavours are perfect with dessert and as a digestive, especially post a big meal.

Chocolate mousse, hazelnut & burnt Gerakas honey ice cream
The chocolate mousse was a particularly pretty dessert arrangement featuring the creamy, dark chocolate mousse on the bottom, and scattered with roasted hazelnuts, delicate chocolate curls and an exquisite honeyed ice cream in a forest floor look.

Milk pie, kumquat, honey & sesame halva
The milk pie dessert was a less sweet option with a fantastic halva ice cream and glazed kumquat pieces adding a very unique citrus aspect. The milk pie itself was a soft, creamy square that matched nicely with the crisp bits of kataifi pastry.

On the whole – food, drinks, atmosphere and service – Anatoli was one of the best nights I've had out recently. No one aspect stood out acutely but the entire experience left me completely satisfied and smiling. 

The departing thought was that if this is the towering levels of modern Greek-Australian cuisine in Sydney, despite challenges in the industry, Sydney dining is in a really good place.

Food, booze and shoes dined at Anatoli as a guest, with thanks to Savannah PR.

Anatoli Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I've wanted to go here for a while! I should pay it a visit as I love school prawns and moussaka :D

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Those school prawns look delicious! And the slow cooked lamb shoulder sounds amazing.

Sherrie Huang said...

Oh wow all sorts of comfort food!

Tina said...

Hi Lorraine - I would highly recommend the prawns and the moussaka!

Hi Helen - They were, quite seriously, the best I've had yet.

Hi Sherrie - You're right, but it's all done in a quite modern, clean and pretty way.

Rex said...

Ouzo is everywhere right now! Love that fruit though!


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