Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Osteria di Russo & Russo, Enmore - 18 July 2014


I love a great suburban restaurant - a more casual, relaxed experience in an intimate dining room that is buzzing with chatter and positive energy. Unfortunately I don't have one in my own neighbourhood; so this brings me to Enmore, the home of one of my favourite suburban restaurants in Sydney, Osteria di Russo & Russo.

The man behind the pans is young gun chef, Jason Saxby, a former winner of the Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year award, who has had stints at Quay, Pilu, Bridge Room, Per Se in New York and The Ledbury in London.

Jason Saxby's Instagram feed is a tease for truffle fanatics like myself. There is a quote: "truffles are limited only by the imagination of the chef". Saxby is a creative chef so I doubt he is going to have too many problems finding ways to use truffles. In fact, he seems to come up with new truffle dishes on a weekly basis. No other reason was required for a repeat visit to Osteria.

The dining room at Osteria
The menus at Osteria is stuck to pages of second hand books, in our case a worn-out cookbook containing recipes for microwave dinners; our waiter assured us that there is no microwave in the kitchen. The food at Osteria draws on classic Italian flavours but Saxby uses modern cooking techniques and local ingredients to add his own twist to the classics. The courses are designed to be shared; there is an a la carte menu and a chef's selection of 6 courses for $65, which can be adjusted to cater for my wife's vegetarian diet. We decided to go for the chef's selection and opted for the special truffle course to be included, which attracted a $7.50 truffle surcharge per person.

Course 1
House made ricotta, beetroot, balsamic rye, bitter honey, basil, quandong
The first course was a sharing plate of house made ricotta and beetroot. This was no ordinary beetroot and cheese salad. Soft, creamy curds of ricotta with the sweet, earthy beetroots may be an obvious pairing, but the addition of balsamic rye crumbs, bitter honey and quandongs turned this into quite an exciting and balanced dish. We're off to a great start!

Course 2
Chargrilled veal tongue, Bagna Cauda, house truffled dwarf peaches, pickles, smoked salt
The next course arrived as 2 separate plates, so my wife and I would not be sharing. The chargrilled veal tongue was stunning; imprinted with beautiful grill marks, the tongue had a wonderful charred, smoky flavour and was so tender that it literally melted in the mouth. The tongue came with a creamy Bagba Cauda dipping sauce, house truffled dwarf peaches and pickles for acidity.

Charred eggplant croquette, zucchini, preserved lemon, green olive, lemon myrtle ash 
My wife's charred eggplant croquette was deep-fried deliciousness. Inside the crispy exterior was a creamy, smoky eggplant filling that would wow vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Zucchini, preserved lemon, green olive and lemon myrtle ash all bring contrasting yet complimentary flavours to the dish.

Course 3
Carnaroli risotto, nettles, mushrooms, Manjimup truffles
Then the dish that I came for arrived: a luscious, green Carnaroli risotto with nettles, mushrooms with Perigord black truffles from Manjimup in WA. Problem was, the moment I went to the bathroom, Jason Saxby arrived at the table with truffle and micro-plane in hand ready to freshly shave the truffle over the risotto. After Jason discovered that I had gone to the loo, he asked my wife whether he should come back, to which my wife responded, "I think you should, Chris won't want to miss this". Haha, thanks, you know me too well!

Any way, was the truffle risotto good? You bet! The heat from the risotto released the heady aroma of the truffle, which perfumed the entire dining room and had me swooning. I was in heaven with each spoonful of this rich, creamy risotto with its al dente grains of rice, which carried the intoxicating earthy flavours and umami of the truffle. Unfortunately this course had to be shared because I wanted the whole plate to myself! 

Course 4
Pork cheeks, Jerusalem artichoke, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, prunes, spelt and hazelnut crumble
My last savoury course of the night was inspired by tiramisu. This seemed strange at first but the combination of chocolate, coffee, alcohol and cream was used to form the basis of this dish. The result was a rich, tasty dish but really well-balanced and had a great use of different textures. 

There were cocoa nibs, which were the chocolate element, and coffee caramelized hazelnuts (absolutely loved these!) and chicory root powder, for the bitter coffee flavours. The alcoholic element was from the prunes agrodolce and the cream from the Jerusalem artichoke puree. All these sweet, savoury, and bitter elements went remarkably well with the slow cooked pork cheeks, which were amazingly tender and delicious.
 
Charred heirloom carrots, radicchio, buffalo yoghurt, golden raisins, spiced walnuts
My wife's last savoury was another enjoyable dish with a great balance of flavours and textures. The heirloom carrots were sweet, earthy and flavoured with spices. The radicchio provided bitterness; the buffalo yogurt was tart and creamy; the golden raisins added sweetness and the spiced walnuts added another bitter element as well as texture.

Course 5
Monte Veronese, quince, pine nuts, pane carasau
The fifth course was a cheese course. Luckily for me (since I have a dislike for strong, pungent cheeses), this cheese was quite mild and to my taste. The Monte Veronese was soft and creamy - great with some quince paste, candied pine nuts on a thin, crispy pane carasau.

Course 6
Mandarin, Vividus olive oil sponge, sheeps yoghurt, black olive, lemon balm
The dessert course was called mandarino on the menu, so no prizes for guessing what this dessert tasted like. There were 5 different preparations of mandarin and the entire fruit is used including the seeds: there were fresh segments, sherbet, gel, meringue and sponge cake. This was quite a refreshing and enjoyable dessert since mandarins are my favourite seasonal winter fruit  My favourite was definitely the sherbet, so tangy and intense in flavour. I did find the olive oil sponge slightly rich and I thought a scoop of mandarin sorbet would have gone nicely with the cake.

After dinner smoke? Petit fours of house made "Ferrero Rocher"
And for petit fours, we were served Osteria’s own version of "Ferrero Rocher", which tasted remarkably similar to the actual thing. And in their light-hearted way,  these were presented in an Imperial Club Virginia Cigarettes tin and the bill was slipped into a book titled "Modern Sex Life".

This was another fantastic meal at Osteria; the food this time round impressed me even more than my previous visit. It is clear that Osteria is going from strength to strength, so repeat visits are certainly in order. The $65 chef menu with six different courses is amazing value and not one to be missed.

Verdict
Highlight: Truffles!
Lowlight: The dim lighting. Fantastic for mood but the bane of all food bloggers' existence.
Overall: I think Osteria di Russo & Russo is one of the more under-rated restaurants in Sydney. I really enjoy the casual, relaxed atmosphere and friendly service. The food delivers in a big way with big flavours and great textures. I don't think Osteria would look out of place with a chefs hat. 8/10 (Excellent)  

Osteria di Russo & Russo
Address: 158 Enmore Rd, Enmore NSW 2042
Contact no: (02) 8068 5202
Website: http://www.russoandrusso.net.au/

Osteria di Russo & Russo on Urbanspoon

26 comments:

  1. Did you say house made "Ferrero Rocher"??? That's crazy! I really like their presentation. I am very keen to visit this place :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi nessyeater, yeah love the quirkiness with the presentation of the food and the funny menus. You should try, Osteria's great :)

      Delete
  2. Mmm... would have a hard time to choose between all these delectable dishes! The Chargrilled veal tongue sounds divine and of course the Ferrero Rocher is a winner :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Judit + Corina, I really enjoyed the chargrilled veal tongue, it was fantastico :D

      Delete
  3. House Made Ferrero Rocher????? How do they do that!!!! It looks fabulous!!!!!!!! I loved strong and pungent cheese but my husband cannot bear them… and strangely, since we've met, I'm starting to dislike strong roquefort! (Still, my love for other strong cheeses remains) haha :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Olivia, I run a thousand miles at the sight and smell of blue cheese. Roquefort, gorgonzola and stilton are my most hated cheeses lol

      Delete
  4. That truffle risotto dish would totally lure me too. And I'm glad that she asked him to come back because watching truffles rain on food is such a pleasure!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lorraine, I think I would have started crying if he shaved the truffle onto the risotto when I wasn't there to see it! Watching truffles rain is an essential part of the truffle experience :D

      Delete
  5. You and your truffle again! All the dishes look great - especially that veal tongue and the risotto. The dessert looks delicious - how did they use the seeds?! This restaurant has been on me and maggie's wishlist for ages and you've just totally convinced me (again).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi delectablydegusting, of course! I gotta make the most of the Australian truffle season whilst it’s here. Otherwise I will have to wait til next year…

      The seeds are slowly simmered in sugar syrup to make a mandarin syrup, which is then used to compress the fresh segments.

      I hope you and Maggie enjoy your meal there when you do get a chance to go :)

      Delete
  6. I was v v happy with all my dishes this time :)))
    "Modern Sex Life" = 194x. Next time we go back I should read more of the book LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I was very happy too with all the food. Will definitely read more of the old books they use next time. They make for a good laugh!

      Delete
  7. We never got around to asking Jason about his experiences at Per Se and Ledbury BTW... :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Next time! Brett Graham's a legend and such a nice bloke :)

      Delete
  8. i am a sucker for veal tongue and risotto, i think ill be very happy there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Amy, yes me too - thats why I was so happy! And there was truffles, my favourite! Could not ask for more

      Delete
  9. All that truffle, and for such a low price as well! Tempting...tempting...but I just got 1KG of truffle butter :S

    As for those Ferreros, wonder why go through the effort to remake them, only for them to taste similar to the actual thing? A bit flummoxed by that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Michael, how are you going with that truffle butter haha? I don't know if its possible to get sick of truffle, but 1 kilo of the butter might test that theory :P

      The choc-hazelnut combo is always enjoyable for me and they are made fresh so I wansn't complaining about the Rocher :)

      Delete
  10. been going to Enmore a lot lately. should check this out one night

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like Enmore - so many cool little stores and restaurants and of course the Theatre. Definitely check out Osteria; best to call ahead and get a booking cos the restaurant is tiny (seats about 30 in a cosy space)

      Delete
  11. It looks delicious, pictures are great!GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow ~ it looks really cool!http://www.shoemeno.com/

    ReplyDelete
  13. House made Ferrero Rocher!? yummm :) I like the sound of eggplant croquette too !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Felicia, yeah who doesn't like a Rocher :) the eggplant croquette was very good. My wife was happy with it.

      Delete
  14. The veal tongue sounds incredible! Love the plating here too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Helen, the veal tongue was incredible. The chef is really smashing it here, would love to see Osteria get more recognition :)

      Delete