This time last year I had just started My Kiki Cake and my very first post was Neil Perry’s restaurant Spice Temple. The dinner was with the BF to celebrate our two year anniversary. Here we are a year later, celebrating three years together, and one year with my blog. Our restaurant of choice this year was Stefano Manfredi’s new restaurant Balla at The Star. Along with all the other restaurants that have opened up in the new glitzy looking casino, I had my heart set on this one after reading some articles that explained the menu is traditionally Italian Milanese cuisine.
We start off with a generous serving of the house baked bread and olive oil. Along with this I encounter my first iPad dining experience, with the wine menu coming in a digital form. Each of the wines are listed in sub categories so it is easy to search through the extensive menu, with each bottle providing a detailed explanation of the region, a map of where it is from, tasting notes and a picture of the label.
For entrees we order two dishes from the antipasti menu to share. Our first was a recommendation by the helpful waitress who called this dish the house specialty. I was sold on this phrase and we ended up with the Vitello tonnato, a poached veal with tuna and caper sauce. This dish surely exceeded mine and George’s expectation, with the thinly sliced veal being cooked to perfection. The saltiness from the capers and tuna sauce gave it that added dimension of flavour and didn’t overpower the delicate meat.
Our second entree choice is the Crostini Con Caprino E ‘nduja which translates to toasted ciabatta with soft goats cheese and spicy salami. They weren’t kidding when they said that the salami was spicy, bearable for me but a bit more painful for George. The salami itself was a paste like consistency, very different to the normal circular slice that you get from the deli. Smearing a bit of the goats cheese, with a bit of the salami on the crunchy ciabatta was instant satisfaction.
After quite a bit of bread I am very glad I chose the Blue eye in guazzetto for my main. The fish is cooked in tomato and garlic and then topped with olives and basil. The serving size was admirable with two plump pieces of the blue eye and the baby tomatoes and olives added a bit more depth t0 the dish.
George went with the Spaghetti, granchio, zucchini, aglio e peperoncino, a spanner crab spaghetti with zucchini, chilli and garlic. I wasn’t a big fan of the zucchini in the dish as I don’t think it added much flavour, but its slightly crisp texture was a nice mix against the spaghetti. The chilli and garlic were on par with neither overpowering the other, and the crab brought the whole dish together with its soft melt in your mouth texture and slight sweetness.
To accompany our mains we ordered the Insalata di rucola e parmigiano, rocket and parmesan salad. The dressing really stood out and I assume it was a reduced balsamic sweetened with honey. The rocket had that peppery taste which you don’t often get with the smaller leafed variety, this makes all the difference when it is paired with a strong cheese like parmesan.
When reading the dessert menu the pistachio ice cream filled pastries with chocolate and vanilla sauce jumped out in comparison to the other options. The dessert was similar to little profiteroles, each individually filled with pistachio ice cream, covered in vanilla sauce, drizzled in chocolate and topped with pistachios. The only small fault was that the pistachio ice cream could have been slightly stronger in taste as the chocolate and vanilla seemed to drown it out.
I leave you with some pictures of the restaurant which is uber chic! The interior and restaurant name are inspired by the futurist Italian painter Giacomo Balla. The venue fit out cost close to $4 million but at least you can see the worth from its beauty. There is the open kitchen, curvy dining room, high ceilings, banquets, tiled columns, sleek furniture and beautiful wine cabinet. The lighting is dim and definitely aims to set the mood for an intimate evening.
Along with our bill we are treated to some crunchy, zesty and sweet biscotti…perfect ending!
Balla at The Star
Level G, The Star, 80 Pyrmont St (enter via Pirrama Rd), Pyrmont
Ph: (02) 9777 9000