Enoteca Italian Restaurant, Adelaide

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.

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262 Carrington Street
Adelaide SA 5000
phone: +61 8 8227 0766

Pride of India, Glenelg

date of visit:  Sat 28 Aug 2010

With our dinner at the Yakumi well and truly stymied, our group of six was left to wander the streets of Glenelg looking for food.  At around 8pm on a Saturday night.  The Glenelg BBQ Inn, which would have been our natural fall back, was packed. Everyone was grumpy (some more than others) and people were getting thirsty.

As curry usually keeps everyone happy we headed down the road to the Pride of India to try our luck. We were lucky, in that they could accommodate six – taking the restaurant to approximately half full. Frankly, that’s about where the luck ran out …

It soon became apparent there was something wrong … I’m going to be kind and suggest that the restaurant had been left in the lurch by staff calling in sick. There appeared to be two ‘proper’ waiters – a man and a woman who were both wearing a uniform, and one of whom clearly knew what was going on. There seemed to be two other ‘waiters’ who had been drafted in. I suspect they may have been delivery drivers, given their very casual dress, and, in the case of one, absolute cluelessness about front of house restaurant service.

I do genuinely feel sorry for those dropped in a professional situation for which they are ill-equipped. However, I also feel sorry for me, when I’m at a restaurant and my waiter REALLY is Manuel of Fawlty Towers fame. So, drinks were ordered by pointing to pictures of beers on the menu. Our bottle of sparkling wine arrived and was placed on the table unopened. In some circumstances we’d have been worried about the grubby fingerprints all over our glasses, but we had to get that bottle open first …

As you might expect, the food ordering process was pretty shambolic. Our group tried to keep it as simple as possible but moments later the waitress (who knew what was going on) had to return to our table to clarify our meal: clearly the delivery driver cum waiter hadn’t been briefed on how to take an order.

So – service-wise, I’m sure you get the picture. Things did improve slightly as the meal progressed but there are obviously some very serious staffing issues at the Pride of India.

All of our food did arrive, and as ordered. The main courses were far superior to the entrées, which we mostly found to be a little unexciting. My mixed pakora was OK, but a touch salty and certainly nothing to rave about. Salty seemed to be a common complaint around the table.

Main courses were much better. I chose the dal gosht – lamb and lentils, along with a bhatura (deep fried bread … how can you go wrong? While I definitely enjoyed my main more than my entrée, I’m not such a fan of the use of kidney beans in dal and a hungry eater might complain that the portion was a little light on meat. For me, it was pretty much the perfect size.

Other main courses ordered included the tandoori lamb chops, the hot Malayalee prawns and the lamb nawabi. Everyone was in agreement that their main courses were superior to the starters … but no one was convinced that the experience was worth the effort. As I’ve mentioned of the Taj Tandoor, curry in a restaurant just can’t be ho-hum. While I can’t vouch for the authenticity of any curries made in our household, I do know that they’ll be tasty, the meat will be tender and the meal will be cheap. If I’m paying $20 for a main course, I need to feel that somewhere along the way, something is being value added. And I’m not talking about comedy service.

The evening wrapped up, costing just under $50 a head. Unsurprisingly, we were in the restaurant quite a while, so I wouldn’t recommend Pride of India for a quick meal. In fact, I’d only recommend it for potential comedy value …

Comedy service, average curry

The food just wasn’t good enough to make up for the amateur service …

Rating:2.0 stars

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Yakumi, Glenelg

date of visit:  Sat 28 August 2010

Yakumi, a tiny Japanese restaurant on Jetty Road, Glenelg has been something of a favourite venue amongst my extended family for quite some time.  So much so that my uncle and aunt actually booked out the whole restaurant for my cousin’s 21st birthday.

So you might be thinking that you’re about to read about the family’s latest, greatest experience, eating fabulous Japanese food and enjoying an all round top night out.

You could not be further from the truth.

There aren’t many seats at the Yakumi as it’s popular and, as we were planning a Saturday evening sortie, my father rang the Tuesdsay beforehand to book a table for 6 people for 7:30pm.  The phone was answered, the booking was taken (including name and contact number) and the family promptly put the date in its collective diary.

And when we arrived at the restaurant on Saturday night we found my uncle and aunt on the footpath … apparently not a record of our booking in sight.  With a full restaurant there was nothing that could be done except leave and find somewhere else to eat – always a handy thing to do as it pushes 8pm on a Saturday night.

So there’s no raving about the food here, just a comment on how truly awful service is at the Yakumi.  Taking a booking isn’t rocket science … 6 people, 7:30pm, Saturday … I’m pretty sure even I could manage it.  And if I ran a restaurant, I’d want to keep both potential customers happy and I’d be making sure that repeat customers keep on coming back – and that starts by not messing up bookings.

I’m prepared to accept that mistakes happen and bookings do get lost … but this isn’t actually the first time my family has had this experience so we can only conclude that while whatever happens in the kitchen at the Yakumi might be good, front of house leaves a lot to be desired.

Perhaps you won’t mind the embarrassment and hassle that a misplaced booking causes but for us, it’s more than a good enough excuse to check out some of Adelaide’s other Japanese restaurants.


Terrible Service

If your front line staff can’t take a booking, customers will never have the opportunity to try your food. The eating out experience starts when the phone is first answered …

Rating:0.5 stars

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