Sala Dining

Jackie McMillan
27th Aug 2023

Amid the gloom and doom of interest rate rises and the cost of living crisis, there has been something of a dining renaissance taking place. Sala Dining represents a return to Sydney’s dining heyday, where fine dining was about a sense of wonder, with complimentary bread plates, roving trolleys of martinis, cheese and petit fours, expertly delivered by career waiters. Here your amuse bouche is hand-carved at the table from a fillet of Tasmanian salmon that has had salt, sugar, and seven days of love invested in it. Letting it melt on my tongue in a dining chair not designed to force a rapid table turn watching the lights come up on the Sydney Harbour Bridge reminded me why I choose to live in this expensive ol’ town. A well-made negroni ($24) helped too. 

Dragging house-made grissini through an urchin-shaped bowl filled with Western Australian scampi and prawn tartare dressed in bright orange oil extracted from their heads lifted by fennel pollen, was another seminal moment. It’s the centrepiece of the Sala crudo per due ($88). On seaweed foraged by the chefs, this wondrous adventure traverses through 21-day dry aged ocean trout, Hiramasa kingfish, caviar-topped Merimbula oysters, and crumpets bearing tuna crudo and shaved truffle. The same head-oil flavours the standout cocktail sauce sitting alongside pickled rhubarb and apple mignonette. Alternate sauces with each glistening curl of fish and sips of the 2021 Laissez Faire pinot blanc ($80). 

I’ve been eating crab-meat stuffed squid ink tortellini ($39) from renowned Italian chef Danny Russo for nearly two decades. This version, in roast tomato, lemon and capers, is his best iteration yet. His cheeky Aussie humour shines through in anchovy-topped potato scallops ($14/3) done with tomato like gnocco fritto, and the ‘Sunny Boy’ pasta ($37). You won’t need scissors to cut into these toothsome, vibrant orange pyramids of wagyu short rib dressed with porcini mushrooms and smoked cocoa oil. As always, Russo’s dishes reflect generosity and respect for the key ingredient, all the way down to the humble flat bean, grilled and piled high under anchovy, pine nuts and ricotta salata ($14). The roving digestif trolley is a wonderful final surprise.