Martini Ristorante dishes up Southern Italian fare with a ‘modern Australian’ twist at Adelaide's northern suburb Norwood, at The Parade. Contrary to its name – apart from the classic Dry Martini and three other cocktails, it instead affords customers with an extensive range of wines to choose from. Martini has recently been in the news because Adelaidian contingent Andre, from the 2009 Top Ten Masterchef Australia television show, with his proud Italian background has carved a niche behind the scenes in their kitchen playing chefie.
Celebrating the lead up to a friend’s wedding (fellow gastronomy student, Jackie’s sister, Linda), our table of about 15 ladies kicked off the evening off with a round of sparkles – a refreshing 2005 blend of Yarra Burn Pinot Chardonnay, Meunier from Yarra Valley in neighbouring Victoria.
As I settled into my seat, arriving late, straight from my first day at cooking school with a cut to the top of my left index finger (I was a proud trooper with battle scars to show for it!), I was glad to be enveloped by the comfortable yet supportive wooden chairs, resting my weary feet and taking the edge of the long day with that much needed drink. Almost immediately I was offered the anti-pasti platter of Sardinian flat bread with char-grilled cacciatore sausage and goats curd with pepperonata, the house-special (simply, sweet roasted red and yellow bell peppers). While it made for a deliciously rustic appetiser, whetting the appetite with just the right amount of angst and curiosity, I could not help but wonder that perhaps both preparation and presentation was a little bit too ‘paysanne’ to qualify as suave-restaurant quality nibbles.
Following the simplicity of the flat bread anti-pasti platter, up next was olive oil and herb marinated Coriole olives and sliced field mushrooms served a la bruchetta style on sliced, toasted baguette. Taking it the next level was a mixture of what tasted and appeared to be a combination of scallop and crab meat, characteristically identified by the flaky, coarsely shredded white flesh dressed in a subtle piquant spice of chilli and lemon coated and served on a scallop half shell, with a bit of cream through it, topped with light breadcrumbs to created a crispy textured topping from a quick bake in the oven. The contrast in texture was a delight with a beautiful mouth-feel, my spoon cutting through a light, crunchy exterior that yielded a smooth a delicate creamy interior.
With three entrees down, it was time to sample the pasta on offer. First up was the Pappardelle con Anatra – flat, wide ribbon pasta served with a rich, velvety ragu of slow cooked duck and field mushrooms. At this point the table switched to a full bodied, South Australian drop – Coonawara’s Hollick 2004 blend of Cabernet, Merlot.
A lighter, fresh and somewhat unusual dish of pasta came next. It screamed spring with a super spunky, bright vibrant chlorophyll tinged pureed sauce coating generous strings of spaghetti, strewn peas finishing off the dish adding panache and variant delicate texture. I love how the peas exploded in the mouth exuding a subtle sweetness.
Last but not least, the Seared Tuna with Calamri Fritti – local salt and pepper squid, served with pear, rocket and parmesan salad and a lemon aioli was refreshing. The tuna cooked to perfection, pink on the inside, yet firm to the touch, with gorgeous grill marks scoring the top.
To end things in indulgent style, I opted for the tiramisu – an Italian classic served with a contemporary twist – on a bowl sized waffle providing a crisp, crunch that accompanied every bite of the decadent chocolate and liqueur infused cream and airy cake – it was absolute bliss.
The special dessert that evening was the bomba – banana and chocolate filled doughnut balls dusted with sugar, and these were popular with most of the ladies, undoubtedly it made for novel presentation, and was not too sweet. A bit of custard with the banana would have really given the doughnuts a lift and made the dish more impressive overall. If you’re going all out, you might as well in style the whole nine yards right!