I feel ambivalent with each bite of this suckling pig….
there’s melting fat and crisp skin that are so decadently beautiful.
But there’s also chewy skin and strands of lean meat that felt dry like the Sahara.
“Okay, I’ve found one that allows BYO” Monk declares. “And there’s suckling pig too” he adds.
Being vino buffs, Thelonius & Monk suggested a get together with friends at a restaurant where we can bring our favourite wines to share with everyone.
And while Mysaucepan and I have been here before, our previous experience did not quite resonate with my taste buds though I am keeping an open mind this evening.
Cipri Italian, Paddington
There are twelve of us this evening and the first thumbs up I will give to Cipri is allowing flexibility for a large group of diners ordering a la carte instead of a banquet menu.
The second thumbs up is no large group surcharge unlike some other western style restaurants. Personally, I find large group surcharge a little unfair to customers.
Larger groups may require more service from the restaurant but it’s also putting more bums on seats and filling up the restaurant, especially in such a competitive dining scene in Sydney. So why do some restaurants choose to penalise customers for bringing more people to dine?
I bring a 1998 Penfolds St Henri shiraz and it’s taking a while to come alive in the decanter.
I have kept this bottle for quite a while and a little surprised to learn it’s now retailing for $189.99 at Dan Murphy’s. From memory, I believe I paid around $50 a bottle around early 2000s. So who says wine is not a worthy investment when this bottle has appreciated by 280% in 15 years?
Dark crimson with ripened plums on the nose, slightly bitter tannins suggest this bottle can still age a few more years in the cellar. By that time, I know I definitely won’t pay $190 upwards for this bottle and might choose to sell all my remaining stock.
Fiona‘s 2013 Henschke Henry’s Seven is a blend of predominantly shiraz, grenache, viognier and mourvedre (ratio of 60%, 26%, 7% and 7% respectively).
I detect star anise spice and woody oak aromas while the palate is rich with a complex abundance of dark berries. Again, I think this wine is before its time even though the finish is teasingly long.
Sourdough dipped into EVOO is a lovely complement with our wines. Waiting for others to arrive is half the fun as we indulge in pre-dinner drinks.
We order a few plates of house-cured ocean trout laced with broadbeans, dollops of creme fraiche, baby capers and little squares of crunchy squid ink croutons.
JT‘s 2004 Henschke Keyneton Estate Euphonium is a blend of 40% shiraz, 25% cabernet sauvignon, 25% merlot and 10% cabernet franc.
This wine displays complex aromas of dark berries and an extremely savoury taste on my palate with a gentle albeit lingering finish.
“Your wine tastes very salty and wet” I tell JT in her native Cantonese.
“Drink more of it then” she blushingly replies.
Ravioli is not quite my favourite Italian pasta perhaps because I am partial to its Chinese counterpart wantons for its soft and velvety skin in a clear broth. I didn’t enjoy this dish for various reasons.
Firstly, I’m not sure if trevalla, calamari and potato are the best combination for a ravioli stuffing.
Secondly, I think perhaps thyme might be a better flavour than mint in a butter sauce for seafood and potato.
Thirdly, al dente is the spirit for good Italian pasta but this ravioli is bordering chewy and under-cooked.
Lastly, this style of heavy butter sauce would be great for winter. Unfortunately, we are still barely getting into autumn with warm sunny days in Sydney. Bits of pistachio are offering a consoling crunch but it’s a pretty tough t/ask against the mafia chew of this pasta.
Cappelletti is stuffed with ricotta, pumpkin and amaretti.
A buttery sauce with sage leaves and truffled pecorino is a good combination but again, I prefer eating this in the thick of winter.
Mysaucepan and JT are sharing a huge 1 kilogram Hawkesbury T-bone that arrives with polenta chips on a bed of rocket leaves, parmesan and mushroom with Tuscan herb salt on the side.
The Florentine style of this steak is presented by chunky sirloin and tenderloin slices from each side of the T-bone.
“Did you request how you wanted your steak to be done?” I ask Mysaucepan.
Tuscan tradition dictates this steak served boldly rare. I steal a slice of the sirloin and though beefy flavours are good, it can be a lot more tender than many sirloin I’ve had.
“I have been looking forward to my suckling pig all afternoon” I tell Monk. “This better be good”.
I feel ambivalent with each subsequent bite of this suckling pig …. there’s melting fat and crisp skin that are so decadently beautiful. But there’s also chewy skin and strands of lean meat that felt dry like the Sahara.
A red cabbage salad is tangy like sauerkraut but unlike its soft and pickled texture.
I am having trouble with crunchy fresh cabbage and crushed pistachio nuts paired with roasted pork. Let alone bits of chewy skin and woody lean meat, I would’ve been happier with creamy mashed potato or even sweet apple puree for retro thrill.
Fiona‘s prawns and West Australian scampi are sprinkled with fresh herbs and lightly grilled.
Drizzled with a good squeeze of lemon juice, these prawns and scampi are wonderful though with all due respect to the chef, I never order it in a restaurant as there’s little cooking skill and I can just as easily grill them at home on my BBQ.
Monk‘s 2012 Ashton Hills Vineyards pinot noir is a revelation and the standout wine for me even though it’s not the reserve in its stable.
The colour of this wine is gentle with distinctively light garnet hues of a good pinot noir. Plummy aromas do little justice because its elegance and subtlety are the essence of a great Burgundian style.
With each sip of this wine, I am yearning Chinese style roast duck but unfortunately, I am in an Italian restaurant.
Pannacotta Veronese is a Verona summer trifle with panettone, vanilla pannacotta, blueberries, meringue and icy peach bellini granita.
Semifreddo sits on a pool of mango puree with cherries in syrup, Mirto di Sardegna glaze and topped with thin slices of coconut.
Traditional tiramisu is topped with hazelnut praline and dollops of crunchy meringue.
Of all the wines this evening, my favourite is Monk‘s 2012 Ashton Hills pinot for its class and elegance.
Cipri is on the pricier end of many good Italians in town and sadly, what I have tried thus far is not beckoning me to come back again.
So dear readers, do you believe in paying for large group surcharge at restaurants?
10 Elizabeth street, Paddington
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9331 3333
Parking available under the restaurant every dinner and Sunday lunch.
Corkage charge for our wines this evening is $15 per bottle.