“If any Sydney restaurant can boast a breakthrough dish of international acclaim,
then it would surely enhance the city’s claim to being a serious food destination.”
~ Chopinand, Co-author of ChopinandMysaucepan
The development of Sydney’s restaurant scene over the last 30 years has seen this city become a favourite food destination in the Asia Pacific region.
The abundance of fresh ingredients and people in the food industry have obviously played an important role in giving Sydney’s food and restaurant culture its vibrancy and excitement that it enjoys today.
However, I believe there is one very important criteria for a city to lay claim to being a “food destination” for food lovers. This criteria is specific dishes prepared by talented chefs that have tantalized the tastebuds of diners for many years. Over time, these dishes become synonymous with the chefs who created them and consequently an insignia of the restaurants. Ultimately, as these restaurants establish their reputation locally and abroad, the city becomes home to special dishes which entice food lovers from the world over to visit.
Thanks to these talented chefs, I can name at least six dishes that could be termed as “unique” to Sydney restaurants.
And tonight, I am going to taste one of them – fettuccine al tartufovo – fettuccine with cream, parmesan and fried truffle egg, the signature dish of Sydney’s Buon Ricordo.
At the helm of this iconic Italian restaurant in Sydney’s trendy Paddington is celebrity chef and owner Armando Percuoco.
Opening its doors in 1987, Armando has gained a reputation of giving diners a taste of traditional Italy and also modern interpretations using the freshest of seasonal ingredients.
It is a definite rarity for any restaurant to be celebrating a 25-year anniversary and so doing in 2012, the restaurant must be doing something right.
Chef Armando worked in restaurants in Italy since the age of 14 beginning with the family restaurant in Naples.
He arrived in Australia in 1972 and worked with his father Mario, opening Arriverderci in East Sydney and later Pulcinella in Kings Cross. He has championed a menu that reflects the diversity and appeal that makes Italian one of the great cuisines of the world. The food ranges from the opulence of celebratory dishes to cucina povera or the “food of the poor”.
The restaurant certainly has a bit of an “old world” feel to it where waiters with white jackets attend to customers at the tables.
There are only two choices of beer and I opt for a Lord Nelson Pale Ale that is bold with a malty dry finish.
The wine list celebrates Italian wines ranging from northern, central to southern Italy and varietals that are rarely planted outside of the country. There is also a good range of Australian and American wines.
True to Italian style dining, there is olive oil and salt flakes on the table to go with the fresh sourdough.
We are seated in a beautiful dining room in the upper level of the restaurant that is adorned with artworks by some of Australia’s most notable artists.
After we place our orders, some complimentary bruschetta arrives. The combination of ripened truss tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and extra virgin olive oil is truly one of my favourite Italian flavours.
The crunch of grilled sourdough is good enough to eat on its own let alone topped by spoonfuls of the beautiful tomatoes.
School prawns are definitely a current trend in many Sydney restaurants. A special deep fried school prawns is served with their heads removed. It is tasty and crisp with a good spicy hit from the chilli oil and an excellent complement for my beer too.
However, I find the portion size extremely small for $29.50 and I would definitely have preferred the prawns served with their heads left on. The true spirit of eating small deep fried prawns of this nature is to eat them whole, not to mention the best flavour of these prawns are found in their heads.
Coastal fishermen in the Mediterranean region and many parts of Europe are known to pick these small prawns straight from their fishing nets and popping them whole into the mouth, enjoying the sweet taste of live, raw prawns as a snack on their fishing boats.
A pappardelle with pork and beef ragu is perfect for a cold winter evening. The pasta is daringly al dente and I love the flavour that freshly granted parmesan adds to this hearty dish.
The pork adds sweetness to the beef and tantalising as this pappardelle is, we are eagerly waiting for Buon Ricordo’s most famous dish. I am glad this pasta is served ahead of the fettuccine and I am certain the kitchen had something to do with not taking away the excitement of anticipation.
Fettuccine al tartufovo – signature dish of Buon Ricordo
The fettuccine al tortufovo must surely be the most popular item on the menu as every table around us seems to have ordered this dish. This pasta dish is also tossed and mixed at the table by the waiters.
According to Buon Ricordo’s website, this dish has been described by Italy’s Grazie magazine to be the “best pasta in the world”.
As there are three of us sharing all the dishes tonight, we take the waiter’s suggestion of ordering a main portion (regular portion price is $34.50). The fettuccine al tortufovo arrives topped with two fried truffle eggs where the yolk is wobbly in its bright orange.
The cream in this pasta is rich and thick and there is no shaved truffle if you are looking for it in this dish.
The strong and earthy truffle aromas wafting from this dish comes from truffle infused olive oil which have been drizzled on the eggs.
Our waiter grates a huge pile of parmesan that almost completely covers the two fried eggs.
With so much grated parmesan on this pasta, I am thinking one needs to be quite fond of cheese to enjoy this dish.
Then, our waiter breaks up the egg and mixes the parmesan and gooey egg yolk with the hot pasta which gently cooks the yolk a little more.
This is exciting because we can see how all the ingredients are absorbed into the pasta and I quietly wonder how many of this fettuccine have come out of Buon Ricordo’s kitchen over the years.
This is definitely the richest plate of fettuccine that I have ever tasted. The pasta has a good al dente bite and every mouthful is thick, creamy, cheesy with bold truffle flavours.
This dish is a beautiful celebration of pasta in a creamy style sauce. Nevertheless, it is extremely heavy so it is great if you are hungry on a cold winter night.
Tasty as it is, I am unsure if I would order this dish in the heat of summer assuming such a famous dish remains on the menu during the summer months.
This pasta rounds off a hearty meal that we don’t even have room for dessert. I would be keen to try some of the more contemporary dishes on the menu when we return.
I suspect the reputation of the fettuccine al tortufovo is probably a key reason for Buon Ricordo first timers to book their initial visit. And if this is so, I am a strong believer every restaurant must have a signature dish that is so enticing, it lures diners back time and again.
If any Sydney restaurant can boast a breakthrough dish of international acclaim, then it would surely enhance a city’s claim to being a serious food destination.
So dear readers, do you think Sydney deserves its reputation as an enticing food destination and if so, what makes this city so special in terms of its food?
*Apologies for the darker than usual images in this blogpost as the lighting at our table in the restaurant was extremely dim.
108 Boundary street, Paddington
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9360 6729
Opening hours: Dinner Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm, lunch Friday & Saturday from noon.