Dining District

Monday, 27 June 2011

This post has been a long time coming I know... Haha, you better get used to it!

What better way to spend a four hour layover in Sydney than to hit the city's dining district? By that, I mean Surry Hills. And yes, I can half claim it as my hood. This stopover was planned well and well in advance, thanks to mon père. A booking was made for District Dining, which is a stone's throw away from Central Station. By the way, what is with all these restaurants that don't take bookings? It is such a pain in the butt. Never before, have we had to have an eatery Plan B. Why not go for organised chaos instead of just chaos? To illustrate my point I have probably tried, at least 4 times to get a table at Vini (another Surry Hills local) and failed. Now, I can't help but boycott the place! Is it any good?! Someone please let me know.

District Dining has Warren Turnbull, of Assiette fame, as its executive chef. The bistro has a sleek modern vibe with elegance in simplicity. I'm a bit of a fan, and they did well to convert a distinctly triangular building into a workable dining space. The triangle tip of the building is converted into a bar area, which is sectioned off from the main restaurant. As with a lot of restaurants, they have jumped on board the dim-lighting-is-god trend. I don't really want to start naming names here, Jimmy Liks.  But basically, I want to be able to read my menu and see what I'm eating. Is that too unreasonable to ask? I'm sure I have Mr Terry Durack on my side!

The restaurant interior
Photo from District Dining

We were sat at a fairly small table, considering all the food we were about to order ;) Space must have been at a premium or something. Anyway, being part of the first sitting at 6pm, we were probably the first cab off the rank to get our order in. Not too long after, we received the bulk of our order at once. The efficiency was likely helped by our enthusiasm to get out the door. Bon appetit!

Here's the run-down of our Autumn feasting:
1. Seared scallops, jerusalem artichoke, crispy panchetta and prune* - these deserve a special mention, they were delish. I wish I had the plate to myself!
2. Blackened king salmon, orange labne and spiced eggplant
3. Rabbit stew, pappardelle, green olive and pangrattato
4. Lamb rump, ras el hanout, chickpea and tabouleh
5. Steak with salsa verde and french fries
6. A side order of green beans
7. Bread and butter pudding, poached pear, prune and armagyac ice cream
8. Chocolate fondant and white chocolate ice cream
9. Poached quince, apple custard and toasted honey oats

Before you go making any assumptions about the amount that we eat, these dishes are designed as shared mid-sized plates so we portioned up everything (with exacting precision). Except the steak which my brother scoffed in about a millisecond. I got a fry. Thanks, A. My pick from the menu was the rabbit pappardelle. Rabbit is certainly not an everyday meat for me and my philosophy is to try and order something that I can't make at home (well if I really set my mind to it anyway). If I had my way, I'd eat out all the time (budget is my limiting factor) but sometimes it's nice to whip something up yourself.

Melt-in-your-mouth rabbit pappardelle. Sorry for the dodgy photo, the camera was struggling under the low-light (see above)!
The best thing about most restaurant pasta dishes is that their handmade. There's something about fresh pasta that just can't beat the dried stuff. This pappardelle in large sheets was so soft and silky (is this sounding like a loo paper advertisement?) - no chewing required! The rabbit was tender with the fresh tomato sauce to counteract the 'gameyness'. Next in line was the lamb rump, done with middle eastern flavours.   Again, the lamb was cooked to perfection and went down swimmingly.

Get on board. Hah, it really does look like we were eating in darkness.
I'm one of those, look-at-dessert-selection-before-contemplate-main kinda people. Being a tad brisk outside, I went for the bread and butter pud option. To my surprise, this rendition wasn't the stodgy and bread-dense brick that I'm used to (oh, college). The bread layers were probably half the thickness of usual, making it nice and light. Add ice cream to the mix, and I can't say a bad word about you. Well played, DD.  

I'm on holidays now and off to Melbourne for a few days. There's much more on the way!


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