Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Poor Man's Caviar, aka, Pendolino.

One of the reasons I love my father so much, is that he's a wee bit like a Goodfellas script. It's not so much because of the constant swearing, but because I always know what's going to come next. It's an old game with me and Johnny Boy. He always says the same things, in the same situation, I do the Big Old Eye Roll, and he smiles at what he perceives to be his own poetic brilliance. Given that he's been alive 72 years, and i'm clocking almost 30 k's (in a 20 zone) on the Highway to Death, we're pretty familiar with each others musings. Dad is forever telling me, usually in the context of a grossly over-priced lunch, that olive's are... the 'poor man's caviar'. God knows where he got this phrase, but I hear it. Every. Bloody. Time the man eats an olive. He offers me this little verbal gem as though his alacrity for these beautiful globs of mediterranean black and glistening green emanates from a preponderance with frugality. Truth is, he's just Arab through and through, and can't get enough of the slippery little buggers, or of fanciful ways of saying simple things. But then again, who can? What is it about olives that drives people bonkers?

Fat. Shriveled. Stuffed. Why is it that all these adjectives when applied to a person are foul, but when applied to an olive, are scintillatingly blingtillatingly salivatingly scrumptuous? Pendolino are a type of olive, appropriate, given that this restaurant is also a purveyor of boutique olive oils. The name is Italian for pendulum, and in a lovely shrug of etymological whimsy, it describes the swinging to and fro of the leaves of this tree. The pendulum had swung far too many times between the occasion when I first heard of Pendolino, and when I finally Got My Olive On. With Tats in tow for a bit of a birthday celebration, we spared no expense...

A little starter of oysters kept us sea-salty companion as we took in the dimmed and shadowy surrounds of this Strand Arcade Dining Spot. With Zimmerann, Haighs and The Corner Shop just downstairs, there was hardly any need for an aphrodisiac of any kind, but what the heck. Forget the oysters, though, the pearl was some place else, entirely...

Seriously, Fuck. I know it's a bad habit, but I have to ejaculate a swear word before I begin to talk about something that I am really passionate about. It drains me of some of my nervous excitement which actually allows me to then go on and tell you the story. So, once again, Fuck! I had to argue a bit with Tats to convince him to order this, i'd been here before with Miss EB and Josie, and this had been my beloved little menu bambino. Buffalo Mozzarella and Tomato are the Bonnie and Clyde of Italian cuisine: they go together like an ooh and ahh, you've seen them one thousand times, and they steal your breath in the getaway car all the same. I've had this combination many times, I've loved it many times, but I have never, ever, had it like this. The Anatomy of The Cheese is a wondrous little tale, and we're going to take it apart, bit, by throbbing, bit...

Once upon a time, I pierced a delicate, dainty, slightly trembling skin of a shimmering mozzarella, just a little, with the silvered end of a curious fork, and I created a...tear. Oh, My. Just a tiny, benign tear. An almost not-there tear. And, then: unleashing and unfurling onto my tongue, rapunzel, rapunzel...slowly and languidly exposing a tender inside. BiteTasteBurstCreamSmoothScream. It's an inside job, guys. The heart of this Dante Divine cheese is a celestial smooshing of almost liquid mozzarella. Chewy and delicate and aching with the soul of a true, deep cheese, is the soft barely there breathlessness of the celestial inside, encased within the tender but giving mozzarella skin, like an innocent secret on the mouth of a playful child. Intense, edifying, passionate, it conclusively answers any philosophical enquiry into the meaning of life, and with a side of some delicious ripened tomatoes that carry the memory of a not too distant sun, slightly spattered with some crunchy, oiled breadcrumbs...it's like an angel, with a whip. So beautiful. No wonder those Italian's always seem to be having a fit of sorts. It sticks to the fork the way it sticks to the roof of your mouth, it's like eating something you once dreamt, without having to wake up.

That's Tatsu, recovering. Cut the kid some slack, it's a fair bit of action for one little dish. Over some very smooth merlot and pinot, we shared the Quail and a Squid Ink Ravioli, but they're not really want I want to tell you about. Main Shmains. You know I like to get to the heart of the matter, good food is good, but Good Dessert, is fucking Great. I come from the Old School, get to the restaurant, sit down, grab the menu, nod and smile and pretend to listen to what fellow diners are saying, flip to the back, jack. You don't read slowly, it's a race and you scan for the vitals: 'chocolate', 'vanilla', 'burnt', 'baked', 'sweet'. SugarPieHoneyBunch. I know that I love you. If Pendolino was a relationship, then I really wanted it to end this way...

If I could get that little piece of paper down there framed, i'd treasure it as though it were the only photo of a sacred, long lost, loved one. And in a way, it is. Upon thick, cream, line-embossed paper, precious with its own luxurious heaviness, with delicate letters of inked black, was captured a moment I hope I never forget. It wasn't just a dessert menu, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it was an invitation. We nearly didn't order it, dessert usually overwhelms me. I pick a top three, then ask one (sometimes, two waiters, especially if the first one seems shifty, you really can't trust anyone when it comes to dessert) which are the best two. I'd had my eye on this one as unusual, but was having trouble turning down a luscious sounding pear tart and a chocolate something-or-other. Thank God Tats pushed me away from that tart and into the direction of True Tongue Love. That tart just would of messed with me, but this fritter, it would love me forever.

Her name was: Milk Ricotta Fritter with Sour Cherry Ice Cream, and she had her absolute wild, wicked, and toffeed wanton way with a groaning me and a startled Tats. She was everything you could ever want her to be, and then, she was more. This is how to make a hoon swoon, like she's over the moon...Are you ready, sit up...it'll hurt, but you have to pay attention!

This, is The Knife...

...And this, is The Cake... Let's start just a little close, pushed right up there against that Sour Cheery Cherry Ice. So Snow White and thick and whipped and creamy. Fairy Tale on a Plate. Melting, sighing, winged seraph in the heavens down my throat. So delicate and dancing, Ballet in Sugar. She slept the word, singing God. Dancing, Spinning, Dreaming in slight vanilla RedRedRedBerryCherryBrightSweet. Stars bursting in your mouth!

A crown? A halo? Sugared Thorns? BiteCrunchBreakGasp emotionally delicate Splintering-Fracturing-Spectacturing CrazyInCaramel. Aloft an ice cream dome. FrozenBurntSweet against the gentle, cool, nullifying cream. SubtleSubtle with cherry, incandescent and honeyed scent...

On a mess of berry with insanely moorish blobs of ricotta doughnuttish fritter brilliance, deep and hot and rich and sweet, beautifully soft inside and crispy fried alive, out. The tastes were dizzying, I ate it so slowly and each bite echoed off of itself with spinning trails of wavering flavour. It tasted the way a photograph looks when someone spins a sparkler around in the dark. Everywhere at once, blinding, overwhelming. Beautiful. Beauty. Ah, fuck.

Lord. Bloody Tatsu and his goddamned birthday. So annoying, they happen, like every single year. Cause it was his birthday I had to share this doll, can you imagine? I had to part with my baby. That's the crappy thing about having really good friends, you can't sly them on the sharesies. You pull a shifty on something like that and the whole bloody friendship falls apart. Not only that, if you take more than half you feel some kind of bitter, pungent moral perfume layering itself all over that blissful sweetness. I did it, though. I deserve some kind of prize for going halves on this. Nobel, Australian of the Year award, whatever. I want my due.

Pendolino, Sway from where ever you are To here and back again into blissful, rhythmic abandon. A Tavola still remains my favourite Italian in Sydney, but the Mozzarella and the Ricotta dessert are really worth trying, they're spectacular examples of fine dining. The service can be a little more formal than I like, but the wine and the cheese will have your tootsies wiggling something fierce with joy.

Good for a special dinner when you're feeling a bit cavalier with the old cash. Wrap it up with a bit of blood orange campari and a short very, very black w biscotti.

Pendolino happens at Shop 100, Level 2, The Strand Arcade, 412-414 George St, Sydney.

Happy Birthday Tats! Didn't think you were going to leave the country without a proper goodbye, did you? After you fleeced me of half of that dessert, kinda wish you had!

Pendolino, I have two exams tomorrow, and no witty ending jokes about clocks x.

1 comment:

Fat Burning Furnace said...

Regards you are very brave to eat this