Now that I’m studying full-time and working part-time my superfluous food expenses (i.e. foodie festivals and fancy meals) are saved exclusively for special occasions. The most recent one was our third anniversary in Australia (one more year to go for the citizenship, yay!), which we celebrated in family (Al, Gladys and I). I had a handful of options that I really wanted to try, and after much internal debate I chose Orto Trading Co..
After reading several reviews, my expectations were high. Unlike other times, when I know there’s a 50% chance of disappointment, this time I was very confident that dinner would be amazing. It was almost as if I had already been there. Bad move.
These days I usually pick restaurants that clearly identify gluten-free items in their menus, and Orto Trading Co. ticked that box. But the magic word in the menu was marrowbone. Offered as in the “bites” section, along with oysters and other small dishes, it sounded like a delicious and nourishing start of the meal. The roasted marrowbones were covered with a very tasty lemon and parsley salad, made with thin strips of lemon peel and radish. We were given cute tiny forks, which worked fine for salad, but not for the marrow. I’d preferred a tiny spoon, or even better: a straw. Seriously. Marrow is something you definitely want to suck completely from the bone. The marrow wasn’t salted and there was no salt on the table. We didn’t bother asking for salt and waited for the rest of the dishes.
Marrowbone with lemon and parsley salad ($4.50 each)
Gladys and I had a glass of red wine each. We asked the sommelier for suggestions and she offered us a taste of a couple of options, which was great because we chose different wines according to our taste, and both of us were happy with how they went with the food. The wines were poured in proper (big) red wine glasses, and costed, if I remember correctly, $11 and $12.
The menu has regular (individual) mains and mains for two people. We chose one of each: the duck two ways: roulade and confit glazed in quince syrup with fig, walnut and raddiccio [sic] and the lamb three ways, which were not the ways described in the online menu but, if memory serves: liver pate, confit and slow-cooked shoulder, served with red cabbage and raisins, and celeriac puree. Both sounded delicious and included some of my favourite ingredients.
We ate the duck first. Both the roulade and the confit were good, the syrup and walnuts went really well with the meat, although we were not big fans of the radicchio. In general the dish was good but didn’t blew our minds.
Duck two ways ($38.00)
Next we attacked the lamb. We had already double-checked with the waitress that the dish was gluten-free, because not all the elements looked like, for example the “crackers”. I think they were made with some sort of nut meal and egg whites, but I could be wrong. They were crunchy, but a bit too thin to not crack under the pressure of smearing pate on them. Speaking of the pate, neither of us liked it. The other suspicious bit was the rectangular box on top of which the confit was placed. It turned out to be some sort of potato cake with cheese. We didn’t like that one that much, either. The cabbage was good (cabbage is always good in my book), the meats were good but didn’t impress us. There was something missing flavour-wise. We eat a lot of homemade meals and we’re all decent cooks, so for us a restaurant meal has to be better than anything prepared by us, especially if the price tag is high. This dish definitely missed the mark.
Lamb three ways ($78.00)
Our mains were accompanied by the fresh autumn vegie [sic] salad, which was a lovely mix of roasted baby carrots, brussels sprouts, baby turnip, okra, and steamed broccolini, sitting on top of what I think was a sweet potato puree. It was perhaps the highlight of the meal.
Fresh autumn vegie salad ($12)