Chez Frederic has been getting a lot of my business lately – I’d forgotten how amazing it is, and this is no more evident than in my new favourite dish – the Aglio e olio ($12), one of the simplest, but most delicious, pasta dishes I’ve had in Canberra. There’s not too much to write here – this dish is authentic in its simplicity, with extra virgin olive oil, parsley, garlic and chilli, plus your choice of pasta, but somehow these ingredients come together in an explosion of flavour that takes me back to Italy. The pasta was cooked al dente, and the portion was huge – although I was greedy and ate most of it! There is a lot of oil, which makes the pasta nice and glossy, and the kick of chilli is lovely at the back of the throat. I can’t believe that so much flavour is extracted simply from parsley and olive oil, but there’s nothing else there to do it. Magic. I also treated myself to a side of garlic bread ($3.5), which was super garlicky and very, very yummy (useful to balance the chilli too). I’ll be back for this again soon.
Chez Frederic: 4/14 Lonsdale St, Braddon ACT, http://www.chezfrederic.com.au/
Attempting a Godi la Vita cheese wheel dish has been on my to do list for a while, so we headed in for a family dinner. To start, Mum and I shared half a dozen natural oysters ($15), served with a range of condiments, including a particularly good salsa verde and chilli sauce. Yum! For my main, I ordered the Tuscan pecorino cheese wheel special, with walnut, pear and balsamic glaze, and added Italian sausage on top. You’re invited to the counter to watch the chef tossing your pasta in the cheese wheel, which they set alight to soften before adding the pasta. It’s great restaurant theatre, and heightens anticipation of the meal. The dish itself was to die for – the pecorino was slathered in a rich coating across the al dente pasta, and the balsamic glaze added a great tang to the overall flavours. The walnuts were fresh and the pear was a nice touch of sweetness – just enough for balance. Adding the sausage is recommended for carnivores, as the meat is high quality and abundantly served. The only downside was a bit of confusion over Dad’s dessert order, which the staff sorted out quickly. Delicious food and a fun atmosphere.
Godi la Vita, 162B King Willliam Road, Hyde Park SA, http://godilavita.com.au/
My love for The Potting Shed knowns no bounds. I mean, where else can you be beautifully surrounded by plants, hang out with a macaw AND get great food? Seriously, if you know somewhere else, I’m there. Anyway, my parents and I stopped in after I got back from South America, and I ventured away from burgers and sandwiches, and ordered the Wild Mushroom Pappardelle ($28), with a soft-boiled egg and burnt butter. Firstly, this dish is so pretty it should have its own fan club. With tonnes of mushrooms (including several different varieties, like oyster, Swiss brown and enoki) and silky, slithery pasta, the luxury of an egg only upped the already excellent flavour game. The portion was a great size for lunch, although my jet-lagged stomach struggled to finish it, despite my best efforts. I also enjoyed a fresh juice with orange, pineapple and passionfruit – it was large, tasty and had fresh strawberries inside too (bonus). I’m planning to come back for this dish again when I have more stomach space. And to see the macaw, obviously.
The Potting Shed at The Grounds of Alexandria, Shop 7A, 2 Huntley Street, Alexandria, NSW http://groundsroasters.com/
I met a friend for dinner at Molto Italian, where we were warmly greeted and seated at the bar. I’d already scanned the menu and picked what I wanted to try – the Maccheroni Matriciana ($28), with cured pork cheek, slow cooked tomato ragu and pecorino romano. Matriciana is one of my favourite dishes – I make it at home a lot – but this was a whole other level of sophistication. The ragu was just enough to coat the pasta, with a little extra for mopping up, and wasn’t too rich. I loved the crisp pieces of cured pork cheek, which added a great meaty flavour, as well as a kick of saltiness, to the meal. The combination of the sauce and pork took me right back to northern Italy. The pasta was cooked as al dente as it comes, which I found utterly delightful. I was worried that the portion would be too much – it’s huge, so definitely great value – but I finished it easily and didn’t get that ‘oh I’ve eaten too much pasta’ stomach-heaviness that lower quality pasta can induce. Sadly I didn’t have room for dessert, but I will certainly be back for more authentic, top notch Italian very soon.
Molto Italian, Element Building, Eastlake Parade, Kingston ACT, http://moltoitalian.com/
Provini has been on my to visit list for a while, and it moved up the list after reopening with a new look and refreshed menu. I started with the pig’s head slider ($8 each), mostly because it was the most exotic-sounding item on the menu. The meat was tender and perfectly crumbed, sandwiched between two knots of panini and enhanced by the sweetness of roasted peppers. Tick. Next up was the meatballs ($16), which came with four meatballs in a pot of delicious sugo topped with cheese, and a large chunk of bread. This was the pick of the night – the pork and veal meatballs were perfectly cooked and packed full of flavour, the bread was excellent and perfect for mopping up what little sauce remained after we devoured it on the meatballs. We chose a pasta to share for the main, opting for the pappardelle ($26), with pork, veal and a white wine ragu. Unfortunately the dish was only just warm when it arrived (after quite a long wait) and there was no real ragu to speak of. The meat was lovely – it had been pulled into tender strips – and the pasta was al dente, but it needed much more sauce. We certainly didn’t leave hungry though!
Provini, 50 Bunda Street, Civic ACT, http://www.cocu.com.au/provini/
Ruby Red Flamingo (RRF) is a lovely hideaway in North Adelaide and was packed out when we went on a Friday night. The staff here are really friendly and welcoming! I started with a mocktail, the Cicciolina, with pineapple, orange, lemon and soda, packed with fresh orange, lemon and lime wedges for extra freshness. Dish one was the beetroot cured salmon carpaccio; elegant and fresh, although I would have liked a stronger salmon flavour. The fresh fennel on top went well. Things only got better with dish two – the BEST ARANCINI I’VE EVER HAD. Seriously. The perfect balance between crisp, moist, tasty, cheesy and with a really moreish flavour combination. Please go and eat many, many of these for me. Next up was the utterly heavenly eggplant pasta – thick, flat tubular pasta doused in a rich tomato-based sauce with perfectly-cooked pillows of eggplant throughout, and plenty of parmesan for bite. The only thing that could have made this better was some kalamata olives, for a salty boost. Last up was the whole chicken, splayed and served with amazing roast veggies. The chicken was tender and succulent, whilst the veggies (especially the potatoes) were super tasty. I know I over-ate, but when the food’s this good, I dare you to try and stop!
Ruby Red Flamingo, 142 Tynte Street, North Adelaide SA, rubyredflamingo.com
I always like visiting people’s favourite places – it usually means they’ve scoped out the menu, which is exactly what my friend had done at Il Portico. He recommended the Boscaolia pasta (available at lunch and dinner, $20), with porcini mushrooms, Italian bacon and a creamy truffle oil sauce. I picked the Proscuitto pizza ($21), with rocket, proscuitto, parmesan and olive oil. Always trust the local. Both dishes arrived together a short interval after we’d ordered. The pasta dish was utterly divine and definitely my favourite. Silky smooth pasta (although not house-made), utterly perfect, salty Italian bacon and seriously the creamiest, loveliest pasta sauce I’ve had in a long time. The truffle oil would have had something to do with that, but I also loved the way that the mushrooms were cooked without shrivelling up or drying out – yum. The pizza was delicious too, with plenty of paper-thin slices of proscuitto, generous amounts of rocket and parmesan, and a not-too-cheesy-or-tomatoey base. The base itself was fairly thin, and had a nice amount of crisp to it. The service was attentive and friendly – this is a lovely spot just back from the Foreshore for a quiet, quality meal.
Il Portico, 71 Giles Street, Kingston ACT,