date of visit: Saturday 4 June 2011
Something of a delay in this review hitting the web, not dissimilar to the delay in getting to the restaurant in the first place. We’ve been saying we must go to Enoteca for well over a year now and the closest we’ve come was me trying to book a table on a Tuesday night way back in late 2009. You guessed it – Enoteca isn’t open on a Tuesday: lunch is Wednesday to Friday and dinner is Wednesday to Saturday.
But we finally got our act in to gear and took some visitors from interstate there for dinner on a damp, cool Saturday night. Enoteca lives on Carrington Street in the Italian Centre (formerly the Italian Club). When I was little my parents used to eat at the Italian Club quite regularly: it was a reasonably basic setting with the restaurant at the rear of the building and food being delivered to the table on those plain aluminium platters. Not a lot of glitz or ceremony, but the food was incredibly good. Years later a friend and I held our joint 21st birthday party at the Italian Centre in the same room which is now Enoteca. Let me tell you – it’s changed quite a bit.
So many Italian restaurants in Adelaide are all about hustle, bustle, noise, clatter and Italian staples so it was an absolute joy to enter a restaurant that was still, calm and quiet. The tables are spread out and the room is divided into a couple of sections by drapes. You don’t have your neighbours in your lap, you don’t have to hear their conversation. I’m sure they could fit more tables in if they wanted but as it stands, Enoteca is a triumph of customer experience over accounting.
We settled at our table and began deliberations with a bottle of Prosecco. The wine list at Enoteca is interesting without being too unwieldy. There’s a good selection of by the glass options and they are not limited to one or two grape varieties or price points – there’s even a choice of four sparkling whites. By the bottle, there is plenty of variety across both Australia and Italy, with a few other countries making brief appearances. The wine list does need a bit of a spell check and I also question the wisdom of its alphabetical arrangement. It’s vaguely alphabetical by grape variety, but Burgundy and Petit Chablis are both listed separately from Chardonnay and Syrah and Shiraz are separated. As there are no tasting notes this makes it a wine list where you either need the help of a good sommelier or you need to know your stuff. Assistance with the wine list was not forthcoming on our visit which is definitely something that needs to be rectified.
Food wise (and let’s face it, it’s not all about the wine) the menu is a collection of dishes showing clean, simple flavours. Most things I would have been more than happy eating, but I opted to start with the whitebait and follow this with the tagliatelle con funghi svizzero (tagliatelle with Swiss Brown mushrooms).
The whitebait came with a roasted garlic aioli which was really delicate. The little fish were perfect – fresh, crunchy without being greasy or overly fishy. My pasta came with, unsurprisingly, plenty of mushrooms and was dressed with a thyme brown butter and Parmesan cheese. Now, I know to a lot of people this would be too simple but this is my favourite type of Italian food. The balance between the amount of brown butter and everything else was spot on (after all, even I don’t want my food swimming in butter) and, as with the whitebait, the portion size was just tipping towards generous. I don’t want to end a meal feeling hungry but neither do I want to feel as though I can’t move.
Around the table other dishes ordered included a prawn and crab risotto, orrechiette with sausage, char grilled prawns, gnocchi with slow braised lamb, braised veal shank (the braised meat of the day) and the chargrilled pork rib eye. We did a good job of covering the menu and all the food received a thumbs up. Unfortunately I can’t report on the desserts – we teetered on the edge and a couple of us almost succumbed (apple and rhuburb crumble with Calvados custard and cinnamon icecream anyone?) but prudence won out and we finished our meal with coffees alone.
The service at Enoteca was good but not flawless: no help with the wine list, plates of food presented to the wrong people, and some of the friendliness was a little stilted. But, to be honest, mentioning this makes me feel a little mean because it really wasn’t significant.
Other downers on the evening? Two trivial (and easily fixable) niggles: the music was just a tad too loud and the airconditioning a trifle too warm.
But a very big positive was the price which came out at around $75 a head, which, while not cheap per se, definitely marks Enoteca out as excellent value for money.
I’d be more than happy to go back to Enoteca and take guests with me. I wonder if it’s going to take another two years, because that would be a shame.
262 Carrington Street
Adelaide SA 5000
phone: +61 8 8227 0766