When you think Spanish two things come to mind – paella and churros. Paella Republica serves both, offering a range of paella’s to suit a range of tastes. I opted for the seafood paella and within a short moment was presented with a lovely array of seafood immersed in a fish stock cooked rice with lovely flavour. The seafood was tender and the meal was very hearty, the salad a nice touch to counteract any intenseness from the fish stock. I moved quickly on to dessert and thoroughly enjoyed the light golden brown crispy churros that was lightly dusted with sugar to give just enough sweetness. The churros were enjoyed in lovely liquid dark chocolate which I polished off. This is a lovely little eatery serving a slice of Spain. Yum!
I came for the paella but the chef was trying to promote another Spanish dish, the name which escapes me and is hard to pronounce. Instead, I settled for this interesting looking dish which I have never eaten. Instead of rice, it uses pasta but looks like chopped up vermicelli. For $12.50, a large pile was heaped into the mini paella dish and served hot with a wedge of lemon and a dollop of optional garlic aioli. At first, it became hard to eat much of it without spilling it and it was piping hot. After things cooled down, I really started to get into this dish. It tastes quite nice, but it has something about it that just keeps you coming back for more. The noodles are cooked well, they aren’t dry, and they are coated in a subtle mix of Spanish flavours and spices which produce an interesting taste. There’s a fair amount of seafood, mainly calamari, but the odd chunk of soft flaky fish is to be found. It’s quite a filling meal and while it might be heating up for summer, it’s a dish that you can’t pass on. And I experienced something new too.
I might have originally arrived for the paella, but the Pinchos Spanish tapas menu serves up some delicious fare. With dishes ranging from $1 – $10, and a few at $32, there’s plenty of variety. Just write down the quantity of each dish you want and hand to the friend waitstaff. In no time, the kitchen was pumping out the dishes and I was lapping it up. I loved the chilled refreshing tomato soup with the acidic kick at the end. It’s the perfect start to a meal in the warm weather. The anchovy paired with olive and pickled chilli was excellent too. For something a little more substantial, I had the cumin dry rub encasing crunchy roast pork belly crackling and flesh. An interesting dish with plenty of flavour. I particularly enjoyed the thick, golden crunchy crumbed exterior of the croquettes. Open them up to let the steam escape and take in the aroma of the smoked ham. Then sink your teeth into the gooey cheesy chicken and smoked ham filling which is a tad rich but delicious. To finish, the honey covered mascarpone is an interesting pairing to the warm comforting winter warmer of the pear, quince and almond tart. Excellent dessert, excellent finish, excellent meal.
The Belasyse is another offering on the popular Shafto Lane offering a casual vibe and atmosphere with The Mistress Cafe providing breakfast, coffee and snacks inside the main restaurant, while The Belasyse provides lunch and dinner options. The lunch menu takes on an American theme with pulled pork, New York corned beef. and salmon bagels gracing the menu. Being a big fan of pulled pork, I was hoping this version would relive my US travel memories, but while providing perfectly prepared soft, moist, pulled pork, the overall meal lacked punch and flavour. They’ve chosen to pair pork with apple via a julienned apple and cabbage with a lovely herbed mayo providing moisture to the greens, but the absence of a sauce to compliment the pork let the open sandwich down. The chips were average but the soft warm fluffy potato had a certain likeness which were enjoyed with a rather unusual tomato sauce. A few tweaks and the meal can fulfil it’s true potential.
If you’re looking for a quiet romantic night, then don’t go to Sofrito as the pumping music and nightclub type bar area is not the ambience you will be expecting. I’m always keen to try new cuisines and Sofrito offers Puerto Rican dishes. I had the sweet plantain stuffed with picadillo, which is minced beef, tomato, and other ingredients, to form a filling encased by mash potato and banana. It’s a rather unusual combination, with the sweetness of the banana overpowering what is quite a tasty and filling dish. I ordered ox tail stew for mains which was perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious. It came with a flavoursome spiced pea soup, more bananas which are overly sweet compared to Australia, and rice. Absolutely stuffed and I really enjoyed sampling another country’s cuisine.
Jaleo is a Spanish tapas restaurant with a smart, modern interior to admire while you’re meals are prepared. The friendly staff advised me on a few dishes and I started with sea urchin for a new experience. It tastes kind of like raw fish but the salsa livens up the dish. A very fresh dish. The endives and goat’s cheese concoction was a fantastic dish, marrying the bitter endive with rich creamy goat’s cheese, acidity of orange to cut through the richness, and slivered almonds for a textual contrast. The spicy prawns in an intense tomato sauce were tasty too and there was enough bite to keep you mouth zinging. To finish, the rather unusual dessert was the perfect finish to a fine meal. The crumbled chocolate flan was not too chocolatey, the caramelised bread provided crunch, but in also being a savoury element, amplified the sweet elements of the dish which was extraordinary. The brioche ice cream was soft and smooth but really messes with your head – am I eating bread or ice cream? Delicious.
Second time round to Zapata’s was just as good as last time. I loved the Death By Chocolate cocktail and the dips are a nice way to get started, especially the gooey cheese dip. I opted for a lighter mains in the Al Pastor and happily prepared and ate 4 tortillas with a lovely pork mixture with corn salsa and a lovely sauce. Somewhere in those ingredients was one almighty hot chilli which was really hot. After downing the bottle of water, I think the burning sensation subsided.
Quite a solid offering for breakfast with a lovely fruit smoothie. They had quite an assortment of fruit juices and smoothies. Unusually, nothing Spanish in terms of breakfast. Worth a visit for the breakfast.
A bit like a fine dining experience with not much on the plate, but to be savoured ever so slowly, carefully identifying the unique flavours present.
A pretty good lunch experience which was topped off with some really good desserts.