Autumn. And in our temperate Sydney climate we don't quite see the falling leaves and rusts of our southern friends. Still, we celebrate the seasons. Sometimes, through food.
Osteria Balla Manfredi at The Star introduced a new autumn menu this week. It showcases the season with wonderful produce, walnuts, ducks, quails, figs, Brussels sprouts, and parsnip are part of the autumn bounty. The Balla Chefs seek only the finest in ingredients and showcase them in this marvellous new menu across Oysters and Salumi, Antipasti Before The Meal, First Courses of pasta and risotto, Second Courses or mains From The Grill, Side dishes. Each section offers four choices. Each dish is created with the utmost craftsmanship, heart and care to provide a deliriously delicious experience.
Roasted quail roll with radicchio, figs and balsamic ($22) is a wonderful seasonal example. The quail galantine embraces a luscious pâté centre with the counterpoint of tiny sweet red leaves against luscious fig quarters. The balsamic is softened with vinocotto to complete this delightful dish. It's in the antipasti section of the menu along with Grilled cauliflower truffle pecorino, cured egg yolk and macadamia, Raw kingfish with saffron vinaigrette and parsley chip, and Pan fried scallops with pea puree and corn.
There's no doubt that a Manfredi venue will do pasta well. The Manfredi family has been leading our Sydney education on Italian fine food for over thirty years. This time our hot tip for excellence is the risotto (which by the way should and is served with bite). Risotto with clams, wild fennel and bottarga ($28) is an inspiring dish that balances the seafood and fennel harmoniously in flavour yet provides wonderful contrasts of texture with the 'al dente' rice sitting somewhere between the crunch of dice fennel and soft creamy clams. The house made bottarga is gentler than that from Sardinia and is a level matching with the fennel and its pollen; they both allow the clams and the rice to be the central focus.
From the first course pastas Potato gnocchi with pork shoulder ragu is always a winner and Tagliatelle with slipper lobster, tomato, capers and oregano is worth celebrating. As the weather cools the pick of the bunch however must be Ravioli filled with gorgonzola and radicchio, walnut cream.
Dining proceeds, with mains from either Blue eye cod with green beans, potato and basil peso, Australian toothfish with cauliflower puree, Brussels sprouts, burnt onion; Pan roasted duck breast with sautéed parsnip, radicchio, mustard plum; Veal fillet wrapped in prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella and tomato; or Wagyu beef, scampi, lobster tail or Florentine T-bone from the grill.
One of the beauties of eating in the bustling Balla, with its bare table-tops and minimalist aesthetic and cutting edge modern design, is that it may seem like casual dining, but it's not. The food deliveries elegant attention to detail, and it's the same with service. Knowledgeable and professional, yet warm and friendly.
Osteria Balla also offers one of the best selection of Italian wines in town, complete with iPad regional map and tasting notes.
Desserts are incredible and with cheeses make up a list of a dozen.
And then, there is the bar.
When I think of this food, wine and service at Osteria Balla Manfredi, I wonder why so many people pay for so many inadequate café breakfasts or median nights out. This kind of experience - that is harmonious like the flavours of the risotto - sits comfortably between high end dining and casual eating, and is a perfect portrait of a modern city.