I haven’t eaten at Perama, but I’d heard good things about it and likewise for the recommendation to dine at David Tsirekas new restaurant, Xanthi, tonight.
Working in the north west and living in the east, I feel like I’ve missed out on the Westfield food explosion, so I’m pleased to finally be seeing what all the talk is about.
My dinner date is happy with the choice of Modern Greek fare and I’m treating it as ‘research’ for my pending trip to Greece next week. We’ve much to discuss about her up-coming wedding (at which I am maid of honour) and the new book she is penning.
I like the sound of a few of the dishes on the menu, but five pages later I’ve forgotten what they were…
I’m not sure about all the décor. I like the coloured glass that accent the table lights and candles, but the Bedouin tent-style draping around us… hmmm, and I’m sitting on a woven rug (literally), my banquette is draped in a carpet. Perhaps that’s how I’m supposed to feel – like I’m sitting on a carpet in a Bedouin tent?
The staff are lovely and owner David Tsirekas comes over to say hello and apologises for the noise (the media launch for SBS’s Food Safari is going on a few tables over). It’s fairly empty, but it’s a Tuesday night.
To start we order, ‘Zucchini Fritters’ (a mixture of shredded zucchini and haloumi with dill, mint and parsley) and ‘Pickled Cabbage’ (a mixture of cabbage, zucchini, leek and celery pickled in white vinegar, blended vegetable and extra virgin olive oil and garlic)
I’m looking forward to a crispy fritter of coarsely grated zucchini and squeaky, salty haloumi – but it’s mushy and a little bland (we should have ordered the ‘BBQ Halmoui’ entrée). What’s the split pea dip/sauce the fritters are served on? This is tasty! I mop it up with our bread.
The pickled cabbage- is just cabbage, and looks sad and anemic in the bowl (the black chunky resin serving bowls are nice). All I can taste is garlic.
I love pork belly and I love baklava, so the ‘Pork Belly Baklava’ (shredded pork belly with a date and pistachio filling and crackling served with a date and mastic sauce) is a must to try for mains. We agree, you can’t have a Greek meal without Lamb – and it’s my favourite meat – so we order the ‘Lamb Skaras’ (Perama’s famous slow braised shoulder lean lamb with paprika, olive oil, garlic, then barbecued with a lemon, olive oil baste and served with baked oregano lemon potatoes and string beans). Then for obligatory greens, the ‘Horta’ (steamed mixed endive, chicory and chard tossed in garlic, fresh lemon juice and fresh chopped herbs)
I was most excited by the pork belly, imagining delicate layers of light filo pastry, juicy pork and sweet and sticky date. What arrives are two fat spring roll pastry parcels with thin strips of curly crackling. The pork is lovely and moist but the balance of sweet and savory is off – pork on the outside, date and pistachio on the inside. By the time I reach the centre of the parcel, I could be eating dessert – too sweet. The crispy pork crackling is delicious!
The lamb is tasty – lovely tender meat with simple flavours that falls off my fork as I serve it, but I’m scraping the bottom of the serving dish for the tomato sauce that garnishes it – I would have liked more of this, it’s a bit dry.
Our greens are nicely cooked and flavoured, simple and a great accompaniment.
Something sweet (always, if you’re dining with me), and again there’s so much to choose from. We ask the waitress for recommendations and decide on the ‘Sokolata Castania’ (chocolate mousse with a chestnut anglaise and sesame crisp, served with sour cherry sorbet and a whipped basil cream). I’m also intrigued by the ‘Olive Oil Ice Cream’ (two scoops of Elea Creta Extra Virgin Olive Oil infused, pistachio and dried fig ice cream)
The ‘Sokolata Castania’ looks beautiful on the plate. The smooth chocolate and hazelnut cushion dusted with coco is velvety in texture and not too rich. I make sure the next mouthful includes the tangy sour cherry sorbet and a little of the refreshing basil (I can’t find the basil cream though). The Persian fairly floss melts before it touches my tongue. Yum!
I’m pleasantly surprised by the infusion of olive oil – it gives the ice cream a lovely light nutty (almost banana?) flavor and the scattering of pistachio and dried fig adds texture and sweetness. I think I eat most of this while my date is deep in the back story of one of the characters in her book.
We’re going alcohol-free on this school night but I can see there’s a huge selection to choose from the ‘Ouzo cart’ in the corner.
Next time, we’ll come on a busier night of the week. I want to try the homemade dips, the ‘Herbed Skordalia Croquettes’, meat from the spit and ‘Sweet Bougatsa’ traditional Greek filo pastry desserts (the cooking time was too long for us tonight) and some Ouzo.
Score: 6 Plates (out of 10)
Xanthi – L6 Westfield, Cnr Market & Pitt Street, SYDNEY – 02 9232 8535