Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ortiga, more than just Jamon

Pulpo a la Gallega
I recently had an opportunity to catch up for dinner with an old friend who had relocated to Brisbane. The capital of the Sunshine state doesn't exactly have a reputation as a food mecca; especially after speaking to the few Melbournians who have made the migration up north in search of sun and sand. Their stories of $30 Parmas that just wasn't quite right sounded rather alarming and from what the locals told me, sushi is still a novelty and I did not believe a word until I witnessed the lines at what was probably a Chinese run sushi store. But alas there is hope......

Seeing I had the opportunity to only have one dinner in Brisbane I took some care in selecting a restaurant. After scouring the internet there was one name that kept coming up.....ORTIGA, it is Queensland's top rated restaurant at 32 on The Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine. It didn't disappoint, most elements were spot on and overall it was decent value, especially considering a Parma might have set us back $30 each and the fact that we probably over ordered.
To get to the restaurant, you walk past the embutidos and curados (sausages and cured meat) hanging from a clear cabinet and through the establishments spacious bar before being led to a stair case leading you downstairs; you already get the sense of what to expect. Downstairs, I was surprised by the bright lighting and the brilliant use of space playing to the exposed brick walls. The modern and simple setting was comfortable and most tables had a good view of the well designed open kitchen. The waiter was courteous but it took quite a while to get menus and settle in.
Embutidos y curados
The menu was simple with a good selection with a couple of specials. First we opted for croquetas, a recommendation given to my friend. They were gorgeous golden brown, crispy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside; a good start to wet our appetites. 

After walking past all that embutidos and curados, we couldn't resist and went for the assortment. This included a chorizo of course (which was cut a little too thick for our liking), an interesting and delicious Sobrasada (a spreadable pork sausage from the Balearic Islands), Longaniza (cured thin pork sausage with black pepper and aguardiente) which was the favourite and Lomo Embuchado (a cured pork loin) which was a little pedestrian. The cured meats were a little disappointing but mind you, we probably wouldn't have been disappointed had we ordered the $55 slices of 100% Iberico bred Jamon.

Spot the anchovy
Pigs ears with floss
Next was the beet root and anchovy salad, there was some elegant plating work consisting of beet root serve in a few different manner and tiny dollops of reconstituted cheese curds (cheese curds that had been melted down and reset - it tastes better that it sounds). The only problem was, we couldn't find the anchovies. After a brief chat with our waiter we found 2 tiny bits of Cantabrian anchovies which was delicious yet we were disappointed to only get one each. My dinner partner decided to tackle hers whole, while I tried to savour my lonely anchovy to go with all the elements in the dish. Great salad, shame about the anchovies but we had a laugh about it.

We ordered the special, when introduced to us sounded like 2 dishes, pork fairy floss and a deep fried pork cheek that had been shaped into a cylindrical shape, it was served with deep fried pig's ears (sounds disgusting, taste delicious) and a lemon curd which balanced the sweetness of the pork quite well.

A gorgeous Galician braised octopus with potatoes and pimentos was to follow, tender, vibrant and flavoursome. The potatoes having been braised in the the same braising liquid as the octopus, helping to infuse some of that octopus goodness. A beautiful dish.

Magaret de Pato
Rice pudding with apple
By the time the Magaret de Pato came around, we had forgotten that we had one more dish and I was glad I managed to save a little of bit of space for it. Perfectly cooked duck breast, served with brussels sprouts, with a porcini veloute that was devine.

There was some discussion as to whether we could fit dessert and the consensus was we would get something light and when our waiter suggested rice pudding we returned with a frown. To our surprise the rice pudding was really light (as a result of the rice being soaked in milk for some 20 hours, removing most of the starch), it was paired with apple served 3 ways, frozen and shaved, dried and with a fried soft centred fritter. It was a great end to a fantastic meal.  

All up our bill came to around $200 for two, including a nice bottle of Rose - 2008 Cap├žanes 'Mas Donis' - Garnacha from Montant in Spain (a little wine region not far from Barcelona). Decent value considering the quality and the number of dishes and a nice bottle of wine.

Taste: 8/10
Service: 9/10
Ambiance: 9/10
Value: 7/10

446 Brunswick St 
Fortitude Valley QLD 4006 - 
(07) 3852 1155
Ortiga on Urbanspoon


Brisbane Devoured said...

Wow.... thats pretty harsh "sushi is still a novelty"? Give us some credit please.

Keen Poon said...

hey Brisbane Devoured, this is what a friend I visited pointed out :)

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