Monday, December 28, 2009

Kindergarten Cup.


What's it going to be? You're a guy, you're a little bit Italian. You're a little bit Scottish, too. You know your food, you know your coffee. You're a mile-a-minute fast-hot-flat-shot. You've been involved in 9 previous cafes, each more delicious than the next. You reach a new point in life, you marry a lovely Japanese woman. She's sweet and strong, like a good latte. She keeps you in line and is brewing what is perhaps going to be the world's most stylish baby girl. All in all, life is pretty sweet. Do you, A) Turn in the Pepe Jeans for a Paul Smith penguin suit and try your hand at the corporate thing? Do you, B) Give it all up and head deep west to a subdivided slice of suburban lawn mowing sticky-fly-swat Sunday poolside don't-forget-to-take-the-garbage-out domestic stupor on the other side of a little rainbow called the M4?... Or C), do you, do what you've always done best, don't-fix-what-aint-broke type thing and stick to your ever evolving, exceedingly excellent esspressions?


Come on, Adriano Matteoni, what's it going to be?

AB is telling you it's C. Unlike Francis Ford after Part II, thank frickin' God he just didn't stop. Ardi has traded in the Glebe Clipper digs to jointly start up the decidedly delightful Booth St Coffee Co, Annadale. In the playful spirit of his soon to be born little girl, the old, winning formula comes wrapped and bundled in a concept that is all pale colours, broken toys and butterfly-twirling whimsy. He calls this concept... (ahem): Danish Kindergarten. Forget the snot-nosed finger painting I'm-dobbing-on-you stale vegemite on tip-top taste bud trauma you lived through, this is Kindy... gone classy. Your mum might drop you off, but you won't cry at the door. Not only on school days, but every day of the week: there's singing time, there's reading time, there's recess and lunch, and there's a damn good short black, to boot.


Cafe freaks, get ready to wet your pants. School's in...
Cheerful as all fuck is this friendly little bastion of Booth St serendipity. On the far side of Booth St, away from all the other cafe riff raff is this new little start up, pretty as picture and practically peppermint breathed with the energy and the cheer of something new happening. I smiled the moment I saw it. It's fun and whimsical, more so because the main clientele are very lackadaisical 30-something sophisticates with curly haired, Nutella mouth-smeared angels. It's local, it's quirky, it's communal, and it's rocking. Come on, don't be scared, i'll hold your hand.
There's always room for some Sourdough French Toast with Sweet Labna and Maple Syrup, isn't there. Ooooh, sticky, doughy, bready, creamy child O' mine. Labna, for those of you who had the culinary misfortune to not be born Lebanese, don't scrunch your perfect little ski jump noses at this most delicious of yoghurts. Labna is thick-stick-to-mouth-deep-sharp-sharp-stun-me-creamy-make-believey mouth punch. A dense, heavy, sure footed yoghurt. Douse it in some of that nutty maple stickiness, sprinkle it with some pistachio and smear, drizzle, lavish the whole shabang on top of some richly toasted, earthen sourdough, and you've got a breakfast that is a real Cereal killer. You just try finding a cheaper thrill for 9 bucks.
Or perhaps a Goats Cheese, Pesto Omelette with Baked Mushrooms? Aloft a beautiful slab of crafted wood, and with some sourdough side kicks, this Omelette would make any chicken cross the road. The rich, generous green seeping out of the fluffy lemon center is mouthwatering to behold. Another one of Ardri's no nonsense Mediterranean mouth gods. This is rich, buttery, beautiful breakfasting.
It might be kindy, but it's definitely got enough punch to please more nuanced palates: the Haloumi, Roast Eggplant and Watermelon salad is a curious and refreshing pendulum between cool, scarlet sweetness and heady, oily, salty grilled squeak-weak-in-the-knees-please-me-with-cheese delight. Or, if your taste buds prefer things a little more ABC, there are baguettes with leg ham, mustard, tomato, brie and basil, or swiss cheese with eggplant and hommous. The Smoked Salmon Omelette with ricotta satisfied the always fussy Tats. Rich and fluffy, salmon-egg with flickers of purple onion to sharpen the heaviness. The crusty and yeasty baguette mixes well with the silken-oiliness of these organic eggs and beautiful salmon. A filling breakfast, for when you've stayed up too late the night before doing homework.

Home made baked beans with Labna make a little bit more of an affair out of the old baked beans than Mr Heinz has taught us to expect. Sweet and rich and spicy, tomatoed and broth-hot with a light olive oil spiked richness. Blend in a cool and creamy dollop of Labna and let the saltiness and the whiteness of it all surrender into your wonderful little clay pot of dreamy beans. My much loved flatmate Bowie had to cut a Playstation session of FIFA a bit short to join us for brekkie (God, forbid), the scowl didn't completely disappear from his face until he'd sampled a little of this. But the amazing menu is only a part of it.

The Booth St Coffee Co still has that Ardri touch, anachronistic objects that draw you into a sense of space and time that makes you forget who you are and the world you come from, if only for a moment. I particularly love Ardri's approach to cafes because it has never just been about the coffee and the food for him, he wants you to have an experience, he wants to draw you into a little corner of his mucked up mind. This is cafe as theatre, it's Leg-Hamlet, it's a Midsummer Night's Cream. After all, the world's a stage...

...a stage with beautiful ingredients: organic eggs, bountiful Bonsoy, carefully selected cheeses and meats and vegetables. Thoughtful salads and punk rock sandwiches. Snappy service. A little bit Middle Eastern. A little bit Italian. A little bit French. And a lot Lovely.

The coffee, like liquid Pacino, never puts a foot wrong. It's beauty as beverage, it's Hoo-Hah! for the mouth, for the throat, for the belly it warms and for the self it wakes to life. Delicious, solid, true. They are selling their special blend in store with little pamphlets that tell you how to Try This At Home. Delicious and nutty, welcoming in deep, dark swirling creamy brown lattes and caps. They line up for it, the Have Here's and the To Go's.

Good foodies are generous by nature, and I simply love all of the freely accessible jars of peanut butter and plump, scarlet pots of perfect hanks jam. All up for grabs, all there for you to smear it onto warm toast as thickly or as thinly as you please. Sharing and trading and the passing around of jar after jar. I felt like a gleeful five year old being able to dip into the big jars all by my abandoned self. Delicious globs of luminous jam staining a silver fork: it's these images i'll take to the grave!

My favourite, as always, is Ardri's stunning Arabian Bircher w cream, fruit and pistachio. I had it today with delicately poached peaches, argh!! So good. Agony as Yumminess. The smooshiness of cream and silken oats swirls so voluptuously into and out of globs of moist, sweet summer-drenched peach. Like emerald fairy dust, a ground pistachio cloud dances all over the dish, lending nutty-crunchy-livid green flickers of texture to the melting smoothness. Eating Ardri bircher is like dozing in bed on a rainy Sunday monday, you're semi conscious- you hang on to each and every blissful moment-you go soft and gooey, you smile, you sigh, you twinkle your tootsies...and then you wake up as your spoon scrapes the bottom of your pretty dish.


Bountiful, beautiful breakfast bircher, it sits there all coy in a pretty bowl and blushes as it peers up at you, all Oaten and Flirty.

I was hoping it wouldn't come down to this. But as a blogger, honesty is what I promise you. Now, as much as I enjoy the finer things in life... you should probably know that part of me will never loose the ability to go absolutely bloody gaga over a big, gooey, sticky jar of Nutella. If there was a giant jar of Nutella in front of me and I was driving along in a car and there were babies crossing the road, well, you just finish that sentence off how you like. I love Nutella. Nutella is chocolatey-hazelnutty Italian Crack. Screw Rome, Screw Roads, Screw Culture and Civilization. Nutella is the best thing those Italians have come up with, and Ardri had several big, bountiful jars up for grabs. You just know this is going to get messy...

Nutella is tall dark and handsome. It is sweet. It is gooey. It is sticky. It is messy. It is delicious. It is Everything Anything should ever Be. Order some sourdough, get a butter knife, and don't be shy, stick your knife at least half way into the jar, at least a good 7cm from the surface, deep, deep into the recesses of the Nutella subconscious scrumptiousness. So you've got the knife in far, now wiggle it around it a bit, get it under and up and through and, glory of glories! avail yourself of thick, smearing after smearing of brown, hazelnutted perfumed gaga-glutton-glue. Grow dizzy on the spreading of it. Let your hand pass the knife over the warm surface of the toast surely, slowly, teasingly, from knife to hand, from hand to arm, from arm up through neck around the back of the ear and to mouth...feel it before you taste.

And again. On the second Piece. Spread it slowly, delicately, sensuously over that warm willing toast. Let the warmth from the toast seep a little into the chocolately mess, let it breathe slowly, silently against the Nutella and then let it all happen: let there be loosening and melting and sinking and drowning. Let the hazenut and the chocolate explode into each other and inside your mouth. Jesus Christ. Nutella. I'm honestly batty for this stuff. Not just the taste, the texture...it's got just enough give, and just enough stay. It's smooth, but it has shape. It's whipped and gooey and I swear if you hold it close enough to your nose and close your eyes you just start automatically swaying. You sway. Just you. Just you, and the Jar. Just you, and the Jar in the crowded cafe with Bowie and Tats. Don't be all grown up about it, get it all over your grubby face and all over your greedy hands, that's what serviettes and loving boyfriends are for.

...Just sit with that for a bit...

Oh, Ardri. We love the Booth St Coffee Co. We love you. We love Nutella. Breakfast, lunch, coffee. Quirk, whimsy and Innocence. Take the child in you out to tea.

Thank you, Adriano. I'd wish you luck, but the joint is already as jam packed as a Hank's jar.

I started this piece by saying it was all old dogs doing old tricks. The theme was not of changing but of doing old things well. It does, however, seem that there is a bit of a first here...


...Cake + knifelings, I give you: photographic evidence of Ardri, with his mouth shut. Can you imagine? Booth St Coffee Co happens at 78, Booth St, Annadale (just near the intersection with Johnstone St).

Booth St Coffee Co, let them finger paint all over your taste buds.

Gold star for Ardri!

Oops! Ghastly oversight...Gold Star also for part owners:

Barrister of the dark tee's, first year philosophy student berets and calm cappuccino moves Daniel Jackson, who makes amazing tea to exacting specifications. Also, to sometimes fireman, but otherwise smoking cook of Kazbah fame: Aaron Callander. xx A.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Konnichi-Wow! (aka, Cafe Ish, Surry Hills)...

Japanese Story, for those of you who have not had the pleasure, told the potent tale, in the unrelenting ochre of the Australian outback, of the awkward (and then intense relationship) that formed between Sandy, played brilliantly by Toni Collette, and Hiromitsu, played with equal effect by Gotaro Tsunashima. As the plot arcs over you there is an immersion with the desolation of both the landscape and the characters, and the silence between them. In all of this charged emptiness, you hurtle unknowingly, but inevitably, towards an ending as sudden as it is rending of heart. The movie is replete with words not said, with ideas unformed, full of so many unspoken lessons, the most obvious of which is: mix Japanese with the Australian outback, and somebody's probably gonna get hurt, big time, mate...

That's Josh, who, along with lovely partner and co-culinary houdini, Ai, owns the Albion Alimentary Astounder: Cafe Ish, which is where Sydney's more knowing taste buds go to play some tantalising twister. We're all friends, so let's be honest, here: Josh looks like many wondrous things, but the bloke doesn't really have the kind of mug that would lead one to conjecture that he's an alacritous advocate of existentially haunting motion picture, so perhaps he missed out on Japanese Story and never got the warning that Jap + Bush = tragic results, and thank the bloody Flavour Gods for that! Cafe Ish is a love story all of its own. It is Josh and Ai's story, it is JapBogan, and, Bloody Oath, is it delicious. Make no mistake, this is a foodies cafe, it is where cafe owners and fuss pots, people who want good food they can't make, come back, time and tubby time again for a menu that is as unique as it is impeccable. This kitchen is not only rocking out amazing food, it is featuring dishes, ingredients and flavours you won't find any where else but Ish. So, my covetous little CakeKnifeAroos, are you ready for an Intrusion of Fusion That Will Leave No Confusion? Do you want me to show you, to tell you, to tease you with just how sublimely divine a thing it is, To Ish?

Shall we Advance Australia Flair and go, just a little bit... bush? Hai!

Mmm-mmm. Order the bunya pancakes, and you might think you're dreamtiming. Jesus Christ. Bunya pancakes with roast apple, muntahries, caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream, to be precise, are an Ayers Rock of Ravishing delight. This is a kaleidoscopic extravaganza of toffeed torture. Sticky, luscious, rich, gooey, glistening, dripping thick-sink-cut-lick-moan. Madness. These are the most perfect pancakes I have ever laid lips on. I started to levitate above my chair just eyeing them breathlessly off. The gluten free bunya flour comes from a tree that is more Australian than getting drunk at the cricket. It is a lovely, moist flour that makes the actual pancakes themselves dense, luscious and agonizingly textured. These are not dry, desultory pancakes hiding beneath or relying on an over sugared topping to distract you, these are the real, golden, rich, chewy, moist, spongy, buttery pan fried deal. The pancake is sublime, it absorbs stickiness, moisture and flavour and releases it so readily with the slightest bite.

The roast apples are toffeed treasures, not at all candy sweet, but beautifully old school, drunk and rich with a golden subtle-sweet-treat flavour and the perfect balance between gently poached yieldingness, and just enough restraint and form that you still need to bite into them. Nullifying. The muntahries are bush berries that Josh says taste just like soft, roast apple to bite into, and by george, they do! And all of this absolutely drowning in a delicate, thickened haze of incandescent caramel and finished off with a shimmering halo of organic CreamDream Lobotomy-via-Mouth Gundowring pure vanilla bean ice cream. Channel a Zen monk and try to exhibit some restraint for a few moments, and let the ice cream, Be. It's not against the interests of crazed gluttony that I beseech of you to do this, but rather in them. You see, if you leave that ambrosial little ball of bacchian bliss for just the littlest of earthly whiles, all crammed and cosy in there, snug in the fine company of some podgy appled friends, and atop the bunya-pancakey warmth, something will happen. It will be gradual at first, but then, it will be relentless...

Oh, C+K'ers, there will be melting! There will be maddening melting, vanilla bean infused angels-may-weep melting. The ice cream will loosen, it will liquify in the warmth, from the fibers of its luscious being and seep succulently out, all in mesmerizing motion, dreamily onto and through, deep, deep inside, all the way into the bunya pancakey heart. It will mix and swirl and sway in coils of curious, caramelled abandon... and when you pick up a trembling fork, and bring it to a mouth that knowns nothing but desire: oh, you will fall. There will be no stopping and you will fall. Like Carthage, you will fall! Jesus Christ. PancakesIsh. So, so, so Great. Mouth-To Heart-To-Butter-A-Flutter.

From pancake dyspepsia, to boab root fritters, as you do, mate. Boab is a tree that grows only in the Kimberley, and Josh imports the root when he can (it's up for grabs for 3 months of the year, which means Josh doesn't get to root as often as he'd like, but then again, who does). But all year round Josh has it pickled or in jams, it's delicious, it traverses the divide between sweet and savory, effortlessly. Boab is reminiscent of the sharp and delectable daikon root, and therefore translates very easily into Japanese methods of cooking. However, my favourite Japanesque menu special occurs when a Barramundi fillet finds itself, suddenly and deliciously, trapped inside a steaming, fluffy omelette...

Bloody Hell. Tats warned me this was a mouth bomb, and indeed, it goes down as the most original and delicious savory brekkie I have ever had. A tender fillet of barramundi, rich and light and not at all dried out from overcooking, is encapsulated within a perfect cocoon of gentle, eggy omelette. Avocado salsa, chilli, soy and ginger all bang it out, and, along with a hemisphere of livid lime to squirt and cut the richness, you have got yourself a fabulous fished egg salt-burn-sting song.

This is divine, so perfectly poised between richness and saltiness. The gentle flavour of the fresh barramundi leaks beautifully into the omelette wrapping. The thick and potent chilli gives it a zing that mixes without haste into the sharp soy and tangy ginger, a familiar Asian line up, happening all over an entirely original dish. Not always on the menu, this is a special, if you (tragically) miss out when you happen to Ish, the standard Kara age crab version is always available. Why would you sunny side up, when you can have yourself a flame flickered roll of egg wrapped Barra with soy and ginger and lime. This one just eats itself. If This Ish is more fish than you wish, why not omelette with spinach/WildThymeMushrooms and tomato relish? There's also fine omeletting to be had with soboro pork minced pumpkin, spinach + rice and deep, deep mayo. Holy Cow, hens would never believe they're doing this with eggs!

When it comes to salt, you have to choose between four, so there was no way the menu was going to be meagre. There's a Toast-Ish section, with little muffins and bits of egg and salsa and native jams, there's Sweet-Ish, with a lush breakfast trifle in a native fruit compote and house made muesli, or why not vanilla risotto with ume stewed apricots, prunes, riberries and brown sugared yoghurt? Croc sausages can be had (think of it as Aussie Outback Revenge), as well as house made, free range pork hock, braised steak, free range eggs and even the beautiful Bennedict Ish with crisp soft shell crab. SandwIsh? Chicken with green tea and aniseed myrtle? Gyu Don? Saus Ish Sizzle? Katsu Sando? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Amazing bonsoyed coffee? Rich and smooth and deep, every cup as faultless as the last, all under Ai's methodic precision. And the signature Wattleseed coffee: so luscious and nutty and smooth, it keeps shapeshifting inside your mouth, serpentine coils of flavour and warmth, the balance is so pure that it's only in flickering sips that you can discern a bit of coffee with a bit of nuttiness with the wattleseed singing through. Ai is working on some new signatures, I am sure she will find new ways to make us fall. Muffins, caramel slices that look sharp and wicked and boutique teas and interesting jams and phoenix soft drinks as pure as NZ. And...

home made wagon wheels? Struth. Are you kidding me? Ish is unbelievable, a genuinely exciting menu that teaches you, in case you forgot (and sometimes I really, really do) that food, and breakfast especially, need not be the same old standard round up. Impeccable food, clean, beautifully sourced ingredients, thoughtfully and winningly put together. They wanted to do something different, and they have, and it's worked! Spunk and verve. I love this place. In case you were still in doubt, they also have the cutest pepper grinder in Sydney...

Food aside, you should come in and get to know Josh and Ai. Josh is exactly my kind of foodie, if you're polite and ask for permission to snap, he'll give you all the time and enthusiasm in the world. Blonde and cute and eager and chatty. He brought out jams and pickles to try, crushed up lemon myrtle leaf for us to smell, told us about his mum and his childhood, told us about when he met Ai. A cheeky, stout, smiling and generous spirit, who likes to make believe at being surly. Josh loves food, and you can tell, he and Ai are as delicious as their pancakes, and I am very much looking forward to our dinner plans Sunday week, where I am apparently going to get a lesson or two in the wicked ways of some wanton Sa-ke. Big thanks for all the chit chat, laughs and over the counter slagging. I have bought my boyfriend and my friends, and they all walked away with happy, heaving, glowing bellies. Friendly, fast and fabulous. A Breakfast Niche Market, all on Ish own.

Cafe Ish happens @ Shop 2, 102 Albion Street, Surry Hills. Ph: 9281 1688.

It's origami for the mouth, and it's a fucking beaut.

Ish On!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pasta La Vista, Baby, (aka A Tavola, Darlinghurst)...

Some people enjoy the untold benefits of having the ability to think - before - they speak. Yes, some people, it seems, are gifted with that automatic delay of 2 or 3 sustaining seconds during which they can balance, in the interests of both propriety and good sense, what they do say, with what they ought to say. It's what holds civilization together, after all. I, however, belong to that class, far more hapless and forsaken of god, who were born, sans trapdoor to the mouth. Being a girl and being Lebanese (and being a Bechara), the odds were always stacked against me. It's Sad But True, I have spoken without thinking too many times and have caused more inadvertent offence than a flatulent puppy. Even my foot spends more time in my mouth than it does in my havianas. Many are the days I have wished I was born with no mouth, many are the days I have cursed this provocative pie hole of pitiable existence... but one night at A Tavola, Darlinghurst was all it took to teach me, irrevocably and for all time, The Reason That I Have A Mouth. Try and stay with me, i'm not going to lie, at times it might hurt, the pictures themselves tell a tale so delicious you might just have to faint from the decadent, Italian desire of it all. Casanova wasn't a man, he was a dish...

CakeKnifealians, we shan't rush into the food. No, not yet, not until I have set the very seductive scene. First, I am going to dim the lights, then I am going to trick a candle into a quick-flick-matched spark. In the shadows that ensue, I am going to ask you to close your eyes and to magically adorn yourself in silken, billowing black. Strap-sash-sway black. In towering heels and in the finest of stockings. Black trousers, handshakes and jackets, bespoke. Cuff links, rings, powdered noses and sleek hair. We are scrubbing it up, Nice. A Tavola is a tad bit Jekyll and Hyde. The crammed and lively downstairs has a crowded, communal table in sunken marble upon which the din and chatter of many jovial meals has taken place. It's loud and alive, and it's definitely kicking. But upstairs, in sunken lights which hauntingly arc across cream coloured walls, a much more thoughtful, private and dramatically heightened space invites you into the kind of timeless room, and into the kind of lingering mood, where even the clocks forget to keep ticking.

Angular silver upon layered linen. Polished glasses which trap, reflect and confuse the shadow laden whispers of a gentle, honeyed light. Heavy plates with suggestive curves. A chair in friction against a wooden floorboard, the unfolding of an elegent serviette, the flicker of a forgotten candle: these are tangible OnceUponATimes, they are the waving of the wand, the casting of a spell. They are decadent, sumptuous and expensive, Prelude. The breath, it seems, has no choice but to bait.

A sharp and discerning waiter, in a style that almost belongs to another time, narrates to us a fairy tale of special dishes. Even being a foodie, this bit of formal dining always makes me impatient and leaves me feeling a tad wanky, not tonight, though. In an informed and knowing meter we all listen pleased and patiently, captivated by the descriptions of how the beetroot is cooked and how the pasta is torn. It's like a Shakespearean Act One, beautiful, special, elegant and with not even a trace of pretension. Between his service and the lighting I already begin to fall into some kind of ethereal foodie lull, I know a memorable meal is coming.

An ebullient, generous red, large and warm and spicy, dulls the head in a way that heightens the palate. Sipping slowly the sonorous smoothness, I feel myself starting to sink back into the chair and to feel my blood doing wheelies upon my flushing cheeks. Tats explains how the menu, like a Herclitan river (my hot aired analogy, not his), is never the same and always changing. Simple, stunning, commanding Italian. I generally don't go mad over Italian food, but then, what would be the fun and fancy of a world without surprises. Oh, love at first bite.

Breathe in, hold onto the side of your chair, let the pulse quicken and everything else become slower. I am going to struggle with remembering the exact ingredients, but the flavours are faithfully burned into my brain forever. In my intense enjoyment of all that is to follow, I almost forgot that I would have to be writing about it later. I was so overcome and absorbed by the experience that I am sure some of these descriptions will sound like fluttering journal entries from an intense encounter. It's amorous stuff, I make no apologies. A Tavola means 'to the table', but with food like this, did they ever think they were going to be able to hold us back?

A group decision to share three entrees was one of the best life choices I was ever a part of. This celestial constellation of earthly flavour had me tasting stars. A salted, tender fried salame, in thin, aching strips, sways ever so gently in the creamy embrace of some of the most profoundly stultifying parmesan I have ever melted into. With little, lively flickers of bitter rocket, it is a perfectly balanced mess of taste and feel and colour. So simple and so stunning, richness broken up with the lightness and sharpness of the rocket and the saltiness of the salame. Easily one of the most memorable entrees of my life. Being a group of 5, we each only got a few lingering mouthfuls, it was the perfect amount. Being able to take only 2 or 3 bites really makes you fall into the flavour that much more, it was so delicious I died and came back to life (not really).

You've had the standard prosciutto with green leaf and tender cheese before, but you haven't had it here. Not only were all of the ingredients in this dish of a quality I haven't experienced before in Italian food (and i've been to a 2 michelin star restaurant in Venice), the proportions were so perfect that they actually made me understand this classic combination in a new way. You can't have too much of anything, there needs to be just the barest breath of an amount of prosciutto to little globs of achingly sweet, creamy cheese to green, bitter leaf and cherry tomato burst. You actually taste the meat more when there isn't too much of it, the cheese, too. This was delightful, the cherry tomatoes were honestly the sweetest I have ever had, biting into them was like having the sun rise in your mouth. You'd take a bite and pause, think about it, really let it roll around your tongue, then you'd tuck into another. Such slow, thoughtful and delirious eating, tempered by Blush-Warm sips of dizzying red. Surrendering.

Tender beetroot, roasted for longer than I have been alive, reunites with an old lover in the form of some phenomenally sharp goats cheese, so dreamy and rich and deep. Little spatterings of intense parsley lend a bit of tantalizing tangent to a combination that is quite classic. Beautiful, soft, clean and rich. And this is just the beginning!

I am going to do something dangerous. I am going to show you a close up of a meal that changed my life, given that the menu is a shapeshifter, if you dine at A Tavola seeking it out, find it unavailable and have no choice other than to kill yourself, I am sorry, but I fully support you in your decision and will explain everything to your grief stricken loved ones. This photo isn't just a picture of one of the most perfect meals I have ever experienced, it is also a photographic document which records the moment, at about 7.40 pm on the 22nd of August, 2009, when it finally happened. I never thought it would, I mean, it's been 29 years. But ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Amanda Bechara, after years of ignorance, finally Got Pasta.

Pappardelle with slow cooked veal, light of my life, fire of my loins. Pappardelle, my sin, my soul. Papp-ar-del-le: the tip of my tongue taking a trip of (four) steps down the palate, to tap, at three, on the teeth. Papp-ar-del-le. This dish is epic, loving, lustful. It is big and sure, rich and abundant. It is like eating all of the sweetest words that Nabokov ever wrote. It's TonguePicasso. It's MouthMozart. It is the finest pasta I have ever had. My tastebuds have been conquered and they will never be the same.

DopeyThick, languid and shiny locks of wonderfully textured pappardelle lay tipsy and slow on a bountiful plate beneath some of the richest and most tender veal you will ever come to know. A couple of baptismal spatterings of luscious grated parmesan upon a sinking bed of meaty pasta, and you have got yourself and your mouth something of such vociferous, entwining deliciousness that you may as well put your feet up and die when it's done, how could life, living or love add anything to the experience that is this dish? My god. I won't break out into any poetic profanity, but you know I want to! This is classic, simple and magnificent food. The richness of the veal comes with no heaviness, just tender, gentle strands of drunken meat that almost melt with the cheese into the culinary canvas of some perfect home made pasta This dish should come with the Last Rites. 'Sacrelishious'.

A close second was my 'torn pasta' with beautifully cooked octopus and squid. Normally, I don't enjoy seafood with pasta, the fishiness never seems to marry with the doughiness in a way that I can understand. But this was perfect seafood, subtle and lusciously rubbery against a gentle bed of achingly slippery pasta perfection. It had a gentle sweetness to it which danced around the subtle saltiness of the squid and octopus. So luscious to eat, a buttery and soft texture that was broken up by the freshest seafood. I don't even think they had to catch this octopus or squid, it probably saw the pasta from afar, swam up to it and surrendered its life into a deadly, delicious embrace. If you think it's just the pasta they're doing well, have a lookie here...

A cut of lamb that is so regal it should come on a throne and not a plate. Cooked simply and rarely with lemon on a kingdom of softened potato. Bang-on lamb, sink and bite and melt, cut and cross with a bite of rich potato. It's a wonderful main, gorgeous to cut into with a silver blade. Simple, solid and true. Mary had a little lamb, why shouldn't you?

People pray by candlelight, that their dreams might come true. Perhaps it is something about the sacred space that spills out from waxed incandescence that leads us to believe that our wishes can happen the way we want them to. I said a silent prayer by candlelight. I said it alone and from the deepest part of who and what I am. I whispered it to myself from a hopeful heart: let the dessert be bloody good too:

Haleluljah! We have lift off. Look at that frothy, wispy, dreamy swirl of caramelled meringue. It's a perfect, luscious, sugared tutu that encases a dark, delicious secret: a lovely ice cream heart. This little baby pirouettes across your tongue, into and out of the burnt traces of a perfectly caramelised banana. Shiny, toffeed, frothied, winsome, wistful close-your-eyes-sighs-surprise. It's light and gently sweet and soft and hard and burnt and white. So honeyed and soft, so gloriously different. It's like cloud watching on your tongue.

Or perhaps some orange and almond flourless fancy? Calories Shmalories. This is candied orange mouth bomb. Drunken, sticky, soft/moist cake, drowning in orange stick-trick-lickity-liquor and dolloped with grappaed fig ice cream. Slivers of candied orange that taste like caremlised fossils of psychotic citrus will stick like maddeningly messy fly paper to your taken tongue. This is how we cake, and this is why we ache...

...A last supper of sorts, and a flawless Sydney set up. This is beautiful, Bellucian Italian. Simple and knowing, exquisite and elegant, decadent and resounding. A meal come true. The five of us were all stupefied sighs after it was over. We sat there, silent and glowing in gentle aftermath of what food is all about.

A Tavola is a Sydney must. I've not been this impressed with fine dining in quite a while. A perfect experience of food, wine, space and service, it doesn't miss a beat. There is a fair bit of pricer Italian in Sydney, but none I have tried is executing it so perfectly. A Tavola sets an impressive standard, genuine flavour from impeccable ingredients, these people know their food. Book a big or an intimate table, set aside a few good hours, order a nice drop and let the fates have their wonderful way with you.

A Tavola happens at 348 Victoria St Darlinghurst, ph 9331 7871. Their web page, where you can find a full menu, is here. Nothing to fault, and a night that for all I know, could have been a dream. Wow. You must try this place.

This night was a welcome reminder of how exciting food can be, how much I love restaurants, and how much more you enjoy life when you take some friends, stop, slow down and just let it all unfold.

A Tavola: It's from heaven to the table and it's pasta, la vista, which is why i'll (definitely) be back.