Located on the very busy Spit Bridge, it is the gateway between the hectic lifestyle of the city and the residential suburbs of the north. Where civilian yachts come in to dock at the end of the day and businessmen retreat for the holidays. More importantly it was where we were going that night.
Ormeggio is a recently awarded 2 hatter waterside restaurant located in Mosman hidden away behind a boat shop. It was a shame that it wasn't day light savings and for the darkness and rain to spoil the views. No matter.
|warm sourdough - freshly churned sour butter - sea salt 8|
Bread was quite good; super crusty on the outside, warm and fluffy but sadly let down by the bottom; which was burnt and imparts a very unpleasant and unexpected bitterness. You've got to admire the wave of butter with its softness slight cheesiness.
Cheeses play hero in our beginning snacks in the form of a fascinatingly crispy mushroom tapioca with cheddar, cream cheese and dill along with a crumbly parmesan cracker with horseradish cream and surprisingly neutral radish. They serve their role to rev up our taste buds and get them going for the upcoming courses.
|blue mackerel - buttermilk - mussels powder - pickled onion|
The cured blue mackerel isn't so rich that it really needs the tart pickled onion but it really does help lift the freshness of the cut. It tastes brilliantly like the ocean, especially with the help of the 'mussel powder'.
|flinders islan wallaby battuta - watermelon rind - amaranth - chorizo powder|
Let the cold courses continue with a course of wallaby. I've had kangaroo before and it's always been so incredibly dry and tough for me but there's no risk here as it's in the adventurous form of a tartare. Whilst i'm still lost on the amaranth (white powder) which feels like a grain, the watermelon rind is smartly used here to give it a little crunch and subtle sweetness that goes nicely with the fresh and tender cubes of wallaby.
|tortelli filled with burnt eggplant - spicy pistachio - pyengana cheddar - mint|
I usually love my cheese but the cheddar was far too powerful. It's got fairly sharp and salty taste, with almost a blue cheese sort of characteristic, that's a bit jarring on the palate especially in such large quantities which leaves me desperately searching for something more neutral or sweet to balance it out. Smoky flavours of eggplant were definitely there but remain a mere afterthought.
|canaroli risotto - buffalo mozzarella - tomato - capers - olives - basil|
The risotto feels heavy because of slight over seasoning and similarly suffers from the same fate, albeit to a much lesser degree. I do, however, very appreciate the twist on the usual tomato, basil and mozarella formula. The risotto is cooked in tomato water and seasoned simply with salt and pepper. With this; a remarkable amount of tomato flavour, with its acidity and frutiness, is injected into the rice and not with any red in sight! Again I've noticed how Italian fine diners like to under cook their carbs and many have already commented how Ormeggio 'undercooks' the rice so that it has a definite chew to it. Purists will claim it to be the definition of 'al dente' whereas opponents will claim it to be heavily undercooked. I've been used to the more cooked version and both have their merits but I still remain mixed. Curious...
|pink snapper - macadamia - leek - jalapeño - salicornia powder|
A gentle fillet of snapper is steamed to a lovely velvety texture that just flakes beautifully. Underneath the snapper hides a torrent of jalapeno that almost threatens to overwhelm the delicate fish save for the creamy macadamia cream that softly balances out the heat.
|charcoal beef flank - watercress - baby beetroot - sesame seeds|
The wagyu flank is sou vide for 4 hours which resulted in a marvellously tender meat whilst still retaining a bold meatiness, helped along with a fair hint of charcoal. Fresh greenery and crunchy tart beetroot cuts through it all rounded with black sesame to create a beautiful combination.
|suckling pig - parsnip purée - pickled rhubarb - roasted onion shell - mustard seeds|
I, however, suffered main envy because the wagyu easily pales in comparison to the pork. So much so that I kept stealing small slivers of crackling from a very irritated girl and I don't even like pork! There's a certain richness that the completely unctuous meat imparts to the palate, from easily shredded slab of suckling pig to the thin yet crunchy crackly that doesn't break your jaw. Pickled rhubarb and onions cups balance it out with their tartness and mustard seeds complete the dish.
|pomegranate - yoghurt - rye biscuit|
Our pre-dessert presents itself as a very nice transition between sweet and savoury. It's a restrained combination of tart creamy yoghurt and crumbled rye biscuits finding itself comfortably meddling between a piquant pomegranate jelly. It's almost like a much more refined version of the froyos popping around all over the place boasting a marvellous myriad of textures and flavours.
|carrot - fennel seed ice cream - farro cream - vinegar caramel|
Farro, fennel seed, micro herbs, carrot and vinegar all seem to be ingredients that belong on a savoury plate more so than sweet but somehow the pastry chef seems to make it work and similarly emphasizes how unique the restaurant is. Like an interesting cheesecake of sorts, there's enough sweetness from the dense viscous caramel to remind us it's a dessert which oddly it doesn't taste really sour. The dense carrot cake absorbs it all bitter, savoury and sweet flavours it seems like the risk has paid off well.
Buon Ricordo remains, to me, the penultimate benchmark for fine dining service and after that night, Ormeggio is right alongside it. "Can I take a picture of the kitchen" I innocently ask. The waiter went into ask the chef and Alesandro Pavoni himself, the owner and chef of Ormeggio, came out and invited us to come in. He went a step further and beckoned one of the waiters to take a picture of us with him. He is a charming man, evidently extremely photogenic, and quietly confident in his own abilities. Our waiter for the night was similarly so; amicable and conversational, occasionally amusing and always informative. It seems like after ever sip, cups are subtly filled and when we ran out of butter, they brought along another entire wave. Hah! Win.
There's a a few inconsistencies here that can't be ignored but it's still a labor of love that's technique driven and most definitely exciting. Oceanside views, contemporary Italian food, impeccable service and a 30 percent discount from http://www.restaurant.com.au/; Ormeggio is a testament to how good 'modern' Italian food can be and presents itself as a very appealing dining option that may transcend beyond the usual 'for a special occasion' affair.