Our team goes undercover to suss out the latest and most talked about restaurants in town
Our expectations were high. After all, the menu was conceived by one Michelin-starred Italian chef Davide Oldani of Restaurant D’O in Cornaredo. Add to that its address within the iconic Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall. Sadly, both our meals there were dismal.
Our request for an additional bag stool was met with irritation and the look of annoyance on our waiter’s face was hard to ignore. There was nary a flicker of interest as he handed us the menu and stood by our table nonchalantly while we perused the offerings. Though his poor attitude left a bad taste in the mouth the service team’s saving grace came in the form of the sommelier and the elderly Hainanese waiter (the owner’s uncle, we found out, and a Harbour Grill and Gordon Grill alum), who were attentive throughout.
Food-wise, there weren’t many dishes that left a deep impression. Between the starters of iced lardo with honey and roasted polenta, and the baccala mantecato with ginger and crunchy bacon, the former was more enjoyable. Silky, unctuous slivers of lardo paired beautifully with the honey, while the salt cod cakes, though fresh, didn’t excite. The broth for the lobster soup with pisarei and roasted pineapple was intense and briny but could do without the tiny bread dumplings, which didn’t soak up the flavours of the broth. The highlight of our lunch (and an apt showcase of Oldani’s culinary wit) was the risotto: the surprise addition of blueberries, coffee and sesame seeds to the perfectly cooked carnaroli grains yielded a delightful contrast of textures and flavours, and the shaved bottarga lent the necessary umami.
For dessert, we enjoyed the lemon curd with meringue, lettuce ice cream and cocoa crumble. The tang of the citrus curd and the judicious amount of meringue set against the pristine flavours of the lettuce ice cream and earthy nuances of the cocoa crumble yielded a more interesting dessert that the Zuccotto FOO’D – essentially caramel mousse with feuilletine.
Of the dinner dishes, the caramelised onion with 20 months added Grana Padano was the star. Layers of tender sweet onions< first steamed then baked, sat atop crisp puff pastry but what elevated this dish was the addition of gelato and hot cream made with Grana Padan Riserva, which gave the humble onion ‘tart’ a lush creaminess.
The evening’s risotto – with homemade sourdough breadcrumbs, peppercorn, Marsala and Umbrian truffle – paled in comparison to the lunch version. What fared better was the Sardinian fregula served with uni cream, diced mango and roasted cashews, an unlikely combination that worked. Forget the sea bass with lettuce velouté, vegetable and squid ink caviar, and the beef cheek with red wine reduction and trout pearls. Though tender, the beef was surprisingly bland and we didn’t get the idea behind the trout pearls, which were added “to lend a fresh element to the dish”. By then, we were hoping that the desserts could save our dinner. Unfortunately, they couldn’t.
For now, the best bit about FOO’D is its confident wine menu, with a predominantly Italian list and all wines by the glass from The Boot. #01-01 Victoria Thetra & Concert Hall, 11 Empress Place. Tel: 6385 5588.
Average dinner bill for two, with drinks: $350
Must-tries: Caramelised onion, 20 months aged Grana Padano; Toasted seeds, coffee powder, blueberries, bottarga, year-old aged rice; Sardinian fregola, uni, mango, roasted cashews.