A little taste of Sicily
lastminute lovely Nicole samples a Michelin Star menu without even needing her passport.
Update: We’re sad to report that Caffe Sicilia closed its doors in June.
Eating up a storm at a Michelin Star restaurant is pretty high on my travel happiness radar. But with no immediate plans to indulge such fantasies overseas, what’s a girl to do but find the next best thing in her own home town. Thankfully, Sydney’s own Surry Hills is currently offering an appealing alternative.
German-born Heinz Beck is one of the world’s top chefs. Most renowned for his Three Michelin Star restaurant ‘La Pergola’ in Rome, he has also written eight books, has various other top restaurants across Europe and has even cooked for Beyonce and Michelle Obama (not a bad CV!).
Sydney’s Caffe Sicilia scored quite the coup, hosting the renowned chef for a series of events late last year but for those of us not lucky enough to sample dishes from the man himself, he worked with the Caffe Sicilia team to create a ‘Legacy dish degustation’ that the rest of us can now enjoy.
Heading down Crown Street in Surry Hills you can’t deny this is one of the hottest restaurant strips in the city: Toko, Red Lantern, Marquee and Billy Kwong just to name a few, call this stretch home. I’m crossing fingers Caffe Sicilia is as good as its neighbours.
The first thing we notice about Caffe Sicilia is that it feels like an old school Italian restaurant that’s been part of the neighbourhood for decades. Turns out it’s only been there since early 2011. The art deco vibe, black and white check marbles floors, gold features, crisp white tablecloths and smartly dressed wait staff (who are super friendly and knowledgeable) set the scene for a classy yet laidback meal.
The Legacy dish degustation is great value at $65 for four courses or $85 with matching wines. And with Beck’s focus on healthy and fresh Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, it’s not a degustation that will have you feeling like you need to roll home afterwards (been there, done that many times).
First course is a ‘Crispy bread cannolo with sea bass and a brunoise of melon and celery’. I’ve never tasted anything quite like it. The delicate melon and celery combo is a light and fresh start on the warm summer’s day and perfectly complements the crunch of light crispy bread cannolo, as does the flute of 10 Ca Dei Frati ‘I Frati’ Lugana D.O.C Lomardy.
Course number two is ‘Sedanini pasta with red shrimps, smoked aubergine coulis and anchovies croutons’. The pasta is cooked to al dente perfection and the smokiness of the aubergine puree, saltiness of the croutons and juiciness of the shrimps create a taste sensation. It’s certainly not your average pasta dish. It’s matched with a NV Berlucchi ‘Cuvee Storica61 Rose’ Franciacorta Lombardy that is a little on the sweet side for my taste on its own but a very fitting partner to the pasta.
At this stage, Mr LML likens the food style to a recent meal at Ormeggio at the Spit in Mosman. We’re lucky enough to chat with Head Chef Paolo Tisi who reveals that he and Ormeggio’s Executive Chef Alessandro Pavoni in fact know each other well. Small world. (If you like the food at Ormeggio, I’d recommend you cross the Bridge for a meal at Caffe Sicilia too).
Onto the third course and we’re presented with ‘Veal in pistachio crust with mortadella and Jerusalem artichoke puree’. According to Mr LML, it’s hard to go wrong with a well-cooked piece of meat and he’s right. Not as unique perhaps as the previous courses but one of my favourites of the day. The ’10 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo Piedmont, a black-skinned red wine grape variety, is the perfect accompaniment. An ageless, classic combination of flavours.
And finally, dessert of ‘Orange jelly with bergamot ice cream and edible flowers’. Jelly doesn’t really rock my dessert world but this is certainly in keeping with the light and fresh theme of the four-course feast. The dessert wine, a NV Rallo ‘Normanno’ Zibbibo Sicily is definitely to my liking though with the apricot flavours complimenting the citrus of the jelly.
My sweet tooth not quite satisfied, we venture inside to inspect the dessert display and we aren’t disappointed.
We’re offered a sample plate and it’s the cannoli that wins our hearts. Filled to order to ensure freshness, the crunchy and smooth combination of the pastry with the ricotta, cream and chocolate fillings hits the spot.
So next time the travel bug bites but you’re not quite in the market to book flights, book a table at Caffe Sicilia instead and satisfy your tastebuds with a little taste of Sicily.
To book your own meal at Caffe Sicilia, click here.