Friday, September 5, 2008

here, fishy, fishy, fishy..

2005 was a very happy time for me. I was a younger, simpler version of yours truly, head over heels in love and headed for a hell of a time in New Zealand. It was two weeks of North to South that changed my life. I gushed over the bluest rivers and lakes i'd ever seen, went green with envy over verdant forests and skies so open you could fall into them, listened to Maori legends about mountains that made my heart huge and swore my absolute head off at some of the most pathetic examples of driving in general, and merging lanes in particular, that i've ever seen. I spent pretty much the entire time wanting to eat Kiwis for being so adorable. To this day, I still haven't gotten over enjoying their accent. If you're a kiwi person with something to say, sit by me and speak into my good ear, don't expect me to actually pay any attention to the content of your words, but for your accent and your have an eternal audience. I will sit there for hours and giggle and beam at you for all your little quirks of speech. I didn't actually end up eating any cute speaking Kiwi people, so I had to settle for their food, hello! They can't talk proper, but they sure can cook! I like simple food, always have. New Zealand is the bees knees for really good produce cooked without any pretension and a lot of good old fashioned know how that just makes you feel like you're tasting fish and lamb and greens for the first time . I knew Kiwi's were behind Garfish even before I had the fact confirmed. Cake + Knifelings, meet my all time favourite place to eat in Sydney.
I REALLY have to stop hanging around architects. Cindy and Tats not only always manage to look good in subtly quirky ways, they manage to inadvertently go with each other AND the actual decor of the place, photogenic bastards. Honestly, if they weren't such good friends I would've dropped them ages ago. Cindy is a vegetarian that eats fish, whatever you call those, and Tats is an appreciator of nice food and a Riesling, so we all converged at the Kirribilli branch of Garfish (the smallest and my most favourite branch) to show you how it's done!

I always order off the specials menu. It's like an academy award nominees list of the best fish at market from around Australia and New Zealand. Pink Snapper, Wild Barramundi, Tuna etc..provided it hasn't sold out by the time you have arrived, you select the fish you'd like, how you want it to be cooked (steamed, grilled, roasted) and with which mouth watering garnish on the side. The above photo is a woodfired Barramundi wearing some delicious imam bayildi. It was fish to die for. With very few exceptions, I have never had fish at this beautiful little restaurant that has been dry or overcooked. Fish loses it's flavour both when it's not fresh and when it is cooked for too long. Good chefs know the trick is to undercook it just a little, especially the red varieties like trout and tuna, it allows fuller flavour. Good fish should never taste fishy, the fishy taste is actually a sign that fish, or any seafood for that matter, has started to go off.
The garnishes are almost always different every time I go, the staples of great chipslemontartare and potatomashtomatorelish are usually available. It's the best place I know to try a variety of fish you haven't had before, the surprise is almost always a pleasant one. The glorious garnishes are where the real variety lies, they do variations on gnocchi and rice and vegetables, all sorts of combinations, like the stunning wood roasted bull horn peppers with chickpea, herbs and a tahini and coriander dressing. Reading the garnish list makes me go a tad Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. The garnishes themselves are available as sides, that's if the wonderful beetroot and goats salad or the steamed greens with a lemon oil infusion don't take your fancy.
Tatsu has reassured me that the food off the normal menu is divine as well. Snapper Pie, whole crisp fried barramundi and aromatic kingfish curry are all goers. The Manly Garfish goes one step further and features a wood roasted section on the menu, out of which the Oysters kilpatrick almost kilamanda, with delight, of course (are you cringing or laughing at that? heh). Most meals are in the 20 to 30 range, very consistent in quality and amazing flavour for a decent price. I love that eating out at Garfish doesn't have to be expensive, i've done the 3 coursers with wine for more elaborate or special occassions, and I have also just stopped in for a simple, light, small lunch with some sparkling water.
There are fancier and more refined way of telling you that the chips are kick-bloody-ass, but we know each other well enough by now, don't we. They are thick cut, not too salty, of impressive rigidity and boasting great sauce and mayo on the side. I am finding them progressively harder to resist each time I go there. They lend the perfect base for the spectacular fish and chips, which you can always get to take away and eat by the harbour, or by the beach if you are unlucky enough to miss out on a table, or lucky enough to be in an outdoorsy honeymoonish youngcoupleinlove kind of context. You can just hear me sniffling, can't you!
One of the reasons that I love Garfish so much is that the food is, predominately, so, so light. I always leave feeling satisfied and never like I need to recover from the meal. Even when I order a heavier garnish, there's never so much of it on the plate, it's the right amount to colour the flavour of the fish without going into calorie overkill. That said...The dessert...
Can you marry a waffle? No? Not even if it's a perfectly rich, dense, crisp on the outside and chewysoftsnuggly on the inside waffle? What! Not even if it comes with the best gooeycreamymakebelieve hokey pokey ice cream you've ever had and murderous lashings of tender caramel and almond flakes? Come on! And once you've agreed to love that waffle, for ever and ever, until the end of your days, in stickyness and in health, can you then have a bit of the best Vanilla Creme Brulee EVER on the side? Dessert here is just plain mean. It's like there's some sadistic little pastry chef behind the scenes, I picture him as a sort of short and mischevious Mexican looking chap with a moustache and a glint in his cheeky eye, he knows I shouldn't eat sugar and he just wants to watch me crack. And crack I do. Again and Again and Again. I love this place for dessert. My Uncle Victor has come back after being taken here for just the waffles and great coffee. I have not actually tried licking the dessert menu itself, but i'll bet it's rocking some wicked infusion of heavenly flavour.
Oh yeah, AND they have some of the most decent coffee going around (not that you should drink it), they open for breakfast too. The service is lovely, quick, sharp, friendly. They have cosy orange blankets for you to spill waffle residue all over when it's cold out and little streeter heaters that keep you all snuggly as you scoff, scoff away. They have an impressive chai for a restaurant as well, but they don't have bonsoy. It's like the man of your dreams with a hang nail,  So what.

Garfish. Kirribilli. Crows Nest. Manly. You've got me hook, line and sinker.

Garfish Crows Nest
Address: 6/29 Holtermann Street
Phone: 9966 0445

Garfish Kirribilli
Address: 2/21 Broughton Street
Phone: 9922 4322

Garfish Manly
Address: 1/39 East Esplanade
Phone: 9977 0707


Unknown said...

fish eating vego ... pescatorian.

Hope you're good Amanda!!

Anonymous said...

mmm waffles.. heh your description of the pastry chef cracks me up =D

sealegs said...

icing on the cake with that last sentence amanduh. hope all's cool w/ you. when is the next installment (sp?) due?