Review: Bistrode CBD (The Other Bits, Crave Festival dinner)

Crave makes October an overwhelming and expensive month for us foodies. Most of us would love to attend to at least one event per day, but the reality is we can’t. At least I can’t. I’d be broke, sick and obese by November if I did. This year I’ve been lucky and the few events I’ve chosen so far have been totally worth it, including this one.

Jeremy Strode’s The Other Bits dinner sounded too good to miss. I’ve been wanting to try stuff from “the other bits” section of Bistrode CBD‘s menu for a while, so this was the perfect opportunity to sample not one but five dishes at once. “The other bits” refer to offal and other not so common animal parts, which fortunately are starting to appear in more and more menus. Why is it a good thing? Well, for starters it means that there’s less waste of food, which is great from a sustainability point of view, and from a business point of view. The second reason is that those bits are often tastier than the most common cuts because they’re surrounded by connective tissue (bones, cartilages, etc). Last but not least, organs (especially liver) have way more nutrients than pure muscle.

Dinner costed $75 with optional matching beverages for $45. My plan before getting there was to buy a glass of all-purpose red but when I saw the pairings in the menu I realised it’d be virtually impossible. Given it was a cheat meal, I decided to go with the full package.

Dinner started with bread which I politely rejected. The first course was not paired with wine, but with a Matilda Bay Alpha Pale Ale from Dandenong, Victoria. Beer! I hadn’t have one since early September. I love beer but not the effects it has in my body, however for me a good ale is very hard to resist. The appetizer was a piece of pork skin cracker and a mini tongue sandwich. The crackling was good, although I’m not the biggest fan. The tongue was awesome: super tender and very flavourful. It was placed on a leaf of what I think was baby spinach, and the bottom slice of bread was smothered with creamy horseradish. I, of course, scraped it with my knife and smothered it on the tongue (the ox’s, not mine). Yummo.

Pork skin cracker, tongue sandwich

Tongue sandwich, pork skin cracker

This is the perfect moment to rave about service. I was served by a number of people and all of them were great: friendly, attentive, and able to explain the details of the menu. The waitress deserves a special mention: she noticed I didn’t eat my sandwich’s bread and asked if I was gluten intolerant. I said “no, just a bit sensitive but prefer to avoid it”. She told me there was gluten in the lamb’s ‘hearts & minds’ dish (the brain was crumbed or battered), I said it wouldn’t be an issue. I did stop drinking beer in anticipation, even when the amount of gluten in it is minimal.

The next drink was a 2009 FX Pichler Grüner Veltliner from Wachau, Austria. A very nice fruity white, with more body than most wines that are usually paired with a fish course. The roast kingfish head & green sauce (aka “salsa verde”) was one of my favourite dishes of the night. I scraped all the tasty flesh that I could, especially from the cheek. The fish which went equally well with the garlicky green sauce and with juice from the provided lemon wedge. The edible bit I didn’t eat were the eyes, unlike my granny I don’t find them very appealing.

Roast kingfish head & green sauce

Roast kingfish head & green sauce

The third drink was a 2009 Pittnauer Blaufrünkisch Rosé from Burgenland, Austria. I’m starting to realise that those Austrians make really good wines! This one paired the famous lamb’s ‘hearts & minds’. The waitress announced with a smile that the guys at the kitchen had found a uncrumbed lamb’s brain. Awesome! The lamb’s heart had been roasted and very thinly sliced, it was much more mild in flavour than cow’s heart. The brain was surprisingly fatty (my only experience eating brain has been cow’s) and nicely flavoured. A salad with parsley, green beans cut lengthwise and almonds was a great complement. I enjoyed this dish a lot, as well as the wine pairing.

Lamb's 'hearts & minds'

Lamb’s ‘hearts & minds’

The next wine was a spicy 2008 Vinea Marson Sangiovese from Heathcote, Victoria, served to match a warm salad of dried pig’s liver, egg & radishes. I love cow’s and chicken’s liver, but unfortunately found the pig’s liver flavour too intense. There were strips of crispy pig’s ears that were more to my liking. The salad was good, with a whole radish (leaves and roots included) and a “deconstructed” hard-boiled egg wedge (white and yolk apart from each other).

Warm salad of dried pig's liver, egg & radishes

Warm salad of dried pig’s liver, egg & radishes

The final drink was a 2004 Outpost Estate Zinfandel from Howell Mountain, California, USA, which I found the least enjoyable, both on its own and paired with food. The dish was a Wagyu beef steak & kidney pie, which again was customised for my gluten avoidance: with no pastry base and with the “lid” placed on top to be removed if I wanted. I did and ate the filling and the mash (it was a cheat meal, after all) savouring every forkful. Great crustless pie!

Wagyu beef steak & kidney pie

Wagyu beef steak & kidney pie

I was offered dessert but I was stuffed and wanted to keep my cheat meal within sensible parameters. I did hear the two couples at the next table raving about theirs.

Bistrode CBD
52 King Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9240 3000
www.merivale.com/#/cbd/bistro