human behavior

Catalonia Restaurant

Posted in Reviews, Sydney by humanb on April 4, 2010

I’m not a food enthusiast. I tend to view food as more a necessity of life than an indulgence. I’m not really a food explorer either. I’m pretty happy with the non-nonsense basics of the American or Mediterranean diet. I like my flavors simple with no surprises. As a rule, I don’t like “dishes”. This implies a cook has taken something as simple and inherently flavorful as a good cut of beef, and smothered it in random vegetables, fruits, or sauces, generally to no good end.

My husband calls me a Philistine, mainly because I go nuts over candy corn, pork rinds and powdered donuts. Fair enough.

But Friday night we went to a newish tapas restaurant called Catalonia in our neighborhood and I found myself developing a whole new appreciation for food.

We ordered the tasting menu at $50 per person. Cheap, no, but appropriately priced in the end. Since I’m no gourmet, I won’t embarrass myself by attempting sophisticated descriptions of each dish. I’ll be simple.

♦   ♦   ♦   TASTING MENU   ♦   ♦   ♦

Serrano ham with endive, fig, honey and sherry vinegar jelly, and walnuts

This is a classic example of the kind of dish that I would normally shun. There were several flavors here, when the flavor of prosciutto or Serrano ham alone would normally satisfy me immensely. Well this dish was delicious. Fun. Light. Interesting. And the Serrano ham had such a strong flavor that it was never threatened by the other ingredients.

Zucchini flowers with goats cheese mousse and honey (pictured above)

Wow. Deep fried with a thin, crispy shell, and seeping the most wickedly savoury sauce with each bite. I could’ve had a few more of those.

Suzuki Mulloway with gnocchi, basil pudding and guincale

I don’t generally like fish but this tasted as good as the best fish I’ve ever had. Rich but light. I didn’t eat it though. My husband finished mine, but I wouldn’t let him near my gnocchi, which were golden and ever-so-slightly crisp.

Smoked duck, fennel, blood orange and almonds

Success! Again with the multitude of flavors combined that I tend to prefer alone (although I haven’t a clue what fennel is). This salad struck me as being carefully and lovingly thought-out and prepared. I felt like the chef at Catalonia really cared about my food experience when he prepared this dish.

Crisp pork belly with mojo verde, roasted romaine, radish and tomato compote

I don’t have the words for how good this was. The crackling was one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth.  Underneath it was a thin layer of soft fat that dissolved on the tongue too quickly. And the meat was tender, juicy and succulent. This was easily my favorite dish, and it’s a good thing I was getting full at this point, or I would have been miffed that we weren’t given a larger portion.

Prawns with ajo blanco, sobrassada and ‘rossejat’ catalan fried pasta

I only vaguely remember this dish, which I suppose doesn’t recommend it. But I remember everything being surprisingly good, so it must have been too.

Wagyu beef brisket, glazed turnips and beetroot relish

We were given a good sized portion of this very tender and juicy cut of meat. The flavor could have been simpler, but it was prepared very well.

Chocolate tart with toasted almond and sea salt ice cream

Just the right size tart and the salt on the ice cream was inspired. A perfect finish.

♦   ♦   ♦

The restaurant is small and simply decorated with red tones and dark wood. The lighting is cozy and mellow. The open, glass-panelled front wall offers a charming view of one of Kirribilli’s side streets, and the atmosphere is causal and carefree – neither too loud nor too subdued. The wait staff were fine. But none of this really matters much. In the end, Catalonia Restaurant was a great restaurant because with every dish it surprised me – revealing the true ‘art of cooking’ and potential joy of food.

4 out of 5 stars

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