It is taking me a few days to sit down and write this post. We got back from Adelaide last Sunday evening. Then it is to house chores, cooking dinner and watching ABC and SBS, and then to bed. Sounds familiar to you? Do you feel that when you return from a trip, there are things to catch up at home? Unpacking, putting things away? The usual comment is “it is nice to be away, but it is also nice to be home”. 🙂
Well, I decide to take a couple of days off work. Yesterday it is down to garden chores and laundry. My neighbour gave us lots of black mondo grass, which is quite expensive to purchase in a nursery. If I have to count the number of seedlings that I manage to divide and plant, it will probably add up to a few hundred Australian dollars. Thank you Helen!
Today I am taking the day off so I can blog again. The weather is drizzly, wet, windy and cold outside. I have two layers of clothing with the heater running and listening to my father all time favourite Chinese singer – Theresa Teng. I love to listen to my Chinese music when my partner is not around (tee hee, he is at work). It brings back fond memories of the time I grew up in Penang, Malaysia.
Now, back to my weekend in Adelaide, South Australia. The trip was a wonderful gift from my partner’s boss. He was rewarded for his hard work in a national marketing project to rebrand the company. The gift was a weekend getaway to any city in Australia. Thanks, Nick.
We chose Adelaide because we have not been there, and it is closer to Hobart for a short weekend trip. I research the number of potential restaurants and reviews. We decide on “Auge” on a Friday night and “Wine Underground” on a Saturday night. For lunch, we choose “Europa” at Glenelg.
On arrival in Adelaide airport, I am pleasantly surprise the arrival hall is clean, spacious and not overly crowded or busy like the airport in Melbourne or Sydney (which is quite chaotic). It is an easy stroll to the “claim luggage” carousel for our medium size check-in luggage (just in case we end up with lots of shopping!). We took a taxi to Adelaide CBD for our stay at the Hyatt Regency, a 20 minutes ride weaving through tens of traffic lights along the way. The ride costs twenty Australian dollars, the cheapest airport taxi fare I have ever taken in Australia.
We arrived in Adelaide CBD, a city block designed in a square grid and a two directional Tram line running from North Terrace to King William Street to the seaside suburb of Glenelg. We checked into our hotel. The hotel lobby and atrium is glassy black, depressing and dark. The service at Front Desk is slow and our luggage took 30 minutes to get to our room. The room is supposed to come with a complimentary bottle of South Australian wine. There is no welcoming bottle on arrival. We received the complimentary wine later in the evening. It is a Jacob’s creek – Tempranillo red wine. My partner poured himself a glass, took a sip and had to tip the remaining into the sink. We left the remaining bottle untouched. It is that bad. The bonus is the room. It is spacious, clean and quiet. The view is spectacular over the distant flat land of North Adelaide, River Torrens and towards the northwest horizon of the ocean with stunning sunset in glowing orange hue dark sky.
We have a couple of hours before our dinner at Auge at 6pm. We decide to hit the city and head toward the Chinatown and Adelaide Central Market before our dinner. We asked for direction if we can walk there, but was told to take the Tram, a free ride in the CBD.
First stop is Adelaide Central Market, a fresh produce market selling a range of products; fresh fruits and vegetables (including organic), seafood, meat, poultry, gourmet, cheeses, continental smallgoods, bakeries, nuts and confectionary, plants and flowers. There are a few café, mostly pizza and Italians. The market is worth the visit, even to smell the freshly baked breads, scent of beautiful cut flowers, aroma of fresh brewed coffee and taking in the sights and sounds of colourful stalls and the market. I love it! To visit Adelaide Central Market, check out the official website, http://www.adelaidecentralmarket.com.au/. Note that it is close on a Sunday. We make a terrible mistake by taking a walk at 9am Sunday morning to find the market shut.
The next stop is Chinatown, next to Adelaide Central Market, between Gouger Street and Grote Street. It is a small Chinatown in comparison with Melbourne or Sydney. Well, actually Adelaide is a small city or a bigger version of a New South Wales country town. It has a population of 1.1 million. It seems layback and not in a rush. We like the city, except it seems dark and does not get much sunlight. We think it is the position of the buildings, which block most of the sunlight.
We arrived at Auge at 6pm for our dinner. The restaurant is located on 22 Grote Street, opposite the Hilton Hotel. Their official website is http://www.auge.com.au/. At the front of the restaurant is a white scooter. We pushed the door open. In front is a standing podium, less than one metre from the front door, with the restaurant’s reservation book. We were greeted by the restaurant manager and ushered to our table. I took in the sight of the dining room once seated, which is divided by a floor to ceiling glass panel from the bar area. The room is warm, dark and mostly brown in décor, with a soft white fabric wall on one side of the dining room to break the brown monotone colour scheme. There is a glistening glass copper/turquoise mosaic wall tiles with water cascading down an Auge signage into a long narrow mosaic tiles pond. It will be perfect if the tables are set next to the slow flowing wall fountain and the pond creating a nice, relax and fun ambiance in the restaurant.
We looked through the menu with a selection of a 2-course, 3-course or 4-course dinner option. We selected the 3-course option and ordered a bottle of Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany our meal. We started off with a Bombay Gin and Tonic drink. Two other tables of guests arrived soon after us.
To warm our appetite before our first course, we were served a complimentary mushroom soup in a small white cup. It is rich and smooth, filled with mushroom flavour and texture. What a fantastic way to start our food journey at the Ristorane Auge.
For our entrée, we chose the prawn mousse, filled pasta tubes with a watercress emulsion, olive oil and seared prawn, and braised stuffed baby squid with a rich tomato and olive sugo, pan seared squid and squid ink sauce.
The seared prawn is fresh, juicy and has a nice crunch to the bite. The watercress emulsion is nicely coated with olive oil and silky smooth to the palate. The filled pasta tube is soft with a delicate flavour. Overall I love this dish.
Wow, this dish is very good. It is our favourite compared with the other courses. The squids are fresh and tender. A good sign is when we sliced the squid with the knife. It runs through the delicate flesh like a sharp paper cutter slicing a piece of white paper. The tomato and olive sugo with a mix of squid ink sauce goes well together. It is a mixture of different flavour in the mouth. We cleaned up the sauce with some bread. A stunning dish.
While we waited for our main course, we were offered a refresher of lemon and mint sorbet served in a small shot glass. Another great touch from the chef and kitchen. The sorbet is refreshing, citrusy and sweet with a nice minty flavour to the palate. Mint and basil are two of my favourite green herbs.
Next are our mains. We have poached pork loin with stuffed pig trotter, celeriac fondants and poached apples puree, and roasted duck breast with stuffed duck leg of bread, salami, duck liver and herbs with roasted pumpkin puree and marsala.
There are two kinds of pork in this dish. It looks heavy with all the meat. The colour of the pork loin is just right. It is tender and not too dry. Unfortunately, the flavour is a let down, which is quite bland. The stuffed pig trotter is better. It is smoky and tender, and the stuffing is mellow and mildly flavoured. The poached apple puree is bland. It is not tangy or sweet, but combined and eaten with the celeriac fondants and poached pork loin, the meal tastes like a good Sunday brunch.
The roasted duck breast is cooked to perfection. It is tender and juicy, but a bit bland. The duck liver is a bit rustic and has a stronger flavour than I am used to. The stuffed duck leg is gamey and quite intricate in flavour but again a bit bland. However, if mixed with the pumpkin puree, the meal combines harmoniously well together.
Next are our desserts. My partner chose two types of cheese; a Rossini and Sottocenere al Tartufo with a glass of Cognac. I went for a Gorgonzola tasting plate with a glass of Peidmonte Cascinetto Vietti Moscato d’Asti DOCG.
The Rossini cheese is from Brescia, Lombardia, which is an Italian blue veined cheese. I am not a big fan of blue veined cheese because of its strong pungent smell and taste. But, the Rossini is quite delicate with fine line of green-blue veins. It is a bit sweet, fruity and nutty at the same time.
The Sottocenere al Tartufo is more my kind of cheese. It spells everything about sophistication and glamour. It has a subtle flavour of truffle and spices intertwined into the cheese. Love it.
The Gorgonzola tasting plate is probably a wrong choice for me. I was tossing between a traditional Italian dessert, Tiramisu, but ended up with the tasting plate. The waiter brought the tasting plate and put in front of me. My issue with this plate is that the waiter did not bother to explain to me the 3 types of desserts on the plate. After staring at the plate for a couple of minutes, I asked another waiter to explain the tasting plate. There are 3 types of gorgonzola. The first one to be eaten is the almond toffee layered with gorgonzola. The toffee is a bit thick, hard and sticky for me. It does not crunch easily and sticks between my teeth. Really hard to eat.
Next is the Muscat and gorgonzola crème Catalina in a small white cup. My partner loves this more than me, so I gave it to him. I find it too rich. The last on the tasting plate is dolce latte popsicle. This is my favourite among the three. It has a nice smooth, thick chocolate coating on the outside and when I break it, the creamy chilled gorgonzola oozes out from the chocolate casing. It is very rich as well, but I can handle this by mixing the chocolate with the gorgonzola.
Ristorante Auge is a beautiful modern Italian restaurant. The entrée is superb. The main is gamey and short on flavour. We did not try the menu selection on pasta dishes. The service is attentive by one or two of the waiting staff. The restaurant manager is warm and hospitable. We did, however, notice there is no female staff in the restaurant.
I wonder if the restaurant industry in Adelaide is predominantly a male dominated industry because the next day we had lunch at the Europa restaurant in Glenelg, another Italian restaurant. It is dominated by men and no women staff, not even in the opened kitchen.