Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Enoteca Sileno - Foodies Dinner Fun

There is never any excuse other than love of food needed, in my opinion, for foodies to meet up to eat, talk, take photos and generally have a great time together. So when I heard from Thanh from I Eat Therefore I Am that Swee (of A Self-proclaimed Foodaholic fame) was going to be in Melbourne, I jumped at the chance to tag along. Being a newbie in the foodie world means I have to try everything, right? Right. And so it transpired last Saturday night that four Melbourne (and one Sydney) foodies met up at Enoteca Sileno in Carlton North for a night of fine foodie dining. My lovely dinner companions for the night were Thanh, Swee, Shirley, Yvonne.

Located on Lygon Street, it sits in the midst of a residential strip closer to the Brunswick end away from the city. Primarily a wine bar, it also has a restaurant serving various foods from all regions of Italy, as I read in The Age review. I've passed Enoteca a few times before on my way back and forth from Brunswick, and have also read several reviews from other bloggers. I loved the look of the restaurant itself, which presented itself as authetically Italian without going overboard. It also had a lovely food store attached that unfortunately closed before we finished our dinner, but really just provides me with an excuse to go back.

Now onto the food.
We spent quite a long perusing the menu, because, well, it all sounded amazing. In the end, we all ordered different things so we could share and try out everything. I'm sure it probably wasn't the 'done' thing, but hey, we're Asian - we eat family-style. Plus it was extremely amusing that the moment the food arrived, all 5 of us whipped out our cameras and pressed them up close to the food to take various pictures. We made sure not to cross-flash and in waiting for everyone to be satisfied with their photos, ended up waiting a good 10 minutes after the food arrived before we actually ate!

The menu, specifically the assaggini - Italian starts or entrees. The page-ful of choices were all enticing and seemed moderately well-priced but for the smaller than average portions. If you order a few to share between you, though, it works out fairly well if the purpose is just to try a little of each.

(Photo courtesy of Thahn)
We ordered the Involtini di prosciutto e carciofi alla Romana (Preserved, stemmed artichokes wrapped in Prosciutto), Carpaccio di pagello con pesto di ortaggi (Red Emperor Carpaccio) and Involtino di pesce spada (Baked swordfish involtino). I was set to enjoy the fish more, and I did quite like the baked swordfish, but I was most impressed by the artichokes wrapped in prosciutto. It also looked the most impressive, albeit, like Yvonne mentioned, rather like a heart.

Our mains, chosen after careful scrutiny of the menu, were varied and impressively all quite different. I chose the Risotto con pere e gorgonzola piccante (Risotto of pear and gorgonzola piccante), purely for the sake of curiosity and variation. As Thanh and Swee have both mentioned, we all found this 'interesting'. I wasn't quite sure in the beginning, but ended up quite enjoying it the more bites I took. The sweetness of the pear certainly made a nice contrast with the creamy and very cheesy rice. Refreshing in a heavy sort of way.

(photo courtesy of Thanh)
Swee's choice was Stracotto d'agnello al vino rosso e vincotto originale con farro mantecato allo stracchino erba cipollina e pinoli tostati (Lamb slow-braised with red wine, cloves, juniper berries and Vincotto Originale served on farro with chives, toasted pine nuts and stracchino cheese). The sauce, as Thanh pointed out numerous times, had the aroma and sweet taste of hot cross buns, probably due to the juniper berries and cloves. I quite enjoyed this, as the lamb was quite tender and I liked the sweet sauce on the lamb. We had trouble figuring out, when the dish arrived, what the farro was - we guessed either risotto or barley. Nonetheless, it worked quite well.

(photo courtesy of Thanh)
Shirley went with the Risotto con pure di porri e polpa di granchio (Risotto with leek puree and blue swimmer crab meat). I wasn't a big fan of this, given that I'm not highly partial to crab. It did have quite a clean flavour that fresh seafood often does. There was also quite a lot of crab meat within the risotto, which was impressive.

Thanh had the Coniglio ripieno con finocchio brasato (Saddle of rabbit with a thyme and onion stuffing, olive oil poached rabbit leg and braised fennel). I tried both some of the leg as well as the saddle, and although both cuts were very tenderly cooked, the saddle was complimented nicely by the flavours of the stuffing. Despite my childhood experiences with rabbit (another story for another day - heh), I really enjoyed this.

Yvonne's Risotto allo zafferano con garretto di vitello (Saffron risotto with slow-cooked veal shank) was my favourite dish of the night. The risotto was beautifully coloured and was also complimented nicely with the spicy tomato broth. It had somewhat of a cheesy flavour to it as well, which reminded Yvonne of macaroni and cheese. Whatever it was, it was nowhere as strong as the Pear and Gorgonzola risotto. Best of all, the veal shank was so very very tender. Mmmm.

When at a dinner like this, it seems almost blasphemous not to order dessert. Thanh immediately zoned onto the Tiramisu, which, judging from his blog, he seems to have a penchant for! It was quite heavy on the coffee, which I liked. Could be addictive.. if I wasn't so full.

I found the lightest thing on the menu, which was the Sorbet. It came in 3 scoops, all different flavoured - lemon, blood plum and (what we eventually figured out to be) watermelon. The lemon isn't as fresh and tangy as Il Dolce Freddo further back down Lygon Street, values I hold highly in my lemon sorbet. My favourite was the blood plum, very refreshing. The watermelon was interesting, but more 'fake' than the other two. It was garnished with candied orange and syrup.

(photo courtesy of Thanh)
Shirley decided on the Zambaglione with a toffee crust and berry sorbet. The Zambaglione itself was kind of like an overly-runny creme brulee (I didn't enjoy the runniness of it all that much), but when all parts were eaten together, it was really quite good. Not something I would personally order, but a surprising find.

I so enjoyed meeting up with Melbourne foodie bloggers, and I hope to do it again in the future! I quite liked Enoteca, although I can't say I was convinced enough to return in the future of my own accord. It was a lovely experience and the service and atmosphere were wonderful, but I personally think there are better restaurants out there. That being said, it's still making me hungry looking back over these pictures!

Enoteca Sileno Vino Bar
920 Lygon Street
Carlton North
Price: about $40 each, between 5 of us

1 comment:

thanh7580 said...

It was great to meet you as well Mel.

I definitely agree that the place was good but probably not good enough to warrant a return too quickly. The photos and menu sounded more impressive than the actual taste.

I do have a penchant for Tiramisu and this one was good. Also the watermelon sorbet as you identified did taste ultra fake.

You should tell everyone your rabbit story. You have to admit that when you look back at it now and retell the story, it was extremely funny.

We should meet up another time at an even better restaurant for a meal. Let me save up enough money for Vue de Monde. So I guess I'll see you next year at Vue :-).