Spit Rd Mosman, NSW 2088
|Opening hours||Wed-Thu 6:00 – 10:00 PM, Fri-Sat 12 Noon – 3:00 PM 6:00 – 10:00 PM, Sun 12 Noon – 3:00 PM 6:00 – 9:30 PM|
|Features||Licensed, Outdoor seating, Accepts bookings, Business lunch, Family friendly, Romance-first date, Views, Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly, Private dining, Bar, Events|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Chef||Alessandro Pavoni and Victor Moya|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 9969 4088|
|Free wine for Citibank cardholders here|
When you're paying $135 a head for a nine-course degustation from two of Sydney's most left-field, progressive chefs, you don't expect a parma. But there it is, in the flurry of introductory snacks. It's not what the local pub would call eggplant parmie, however. The tiny bite-size confit eggplant, bronzed with tomato powder and topped with buffalo mozzarella cream and dots of basil emulsion, rests on a bed of river pebbles; at once strangely alien and deliciously familiar.
Then there's a vitello tonnato in the form of a tiny polenta taco of veal tartare spiked with anchovy and topped with a tuna mayonnaise emulsion and a purslane leaf. Even something listed simply as "parmigiano reggiano" appears as a cheesy little blini of a macaron, filled with parmesan cream and topped with spherified pearls of balsamic vinegar. That's what I call starting with a bang.
Now that their sideline trattoria, Chiosco, is going gangbusters day and night, Ormeggio's Alessandro Pavoni and head chef Victor Moya have introduced a brave new concept to their gloriously situated waterside restaurant. "A Trip Through Italy" is the promise, with each dish inspired by different regions of Italy in tasting menus that range from $55 per person for lunch to $105, $125 and $135 for dinner.
The snacks having run riot through Emilia Romagna and Piemonte, the kitchen proceeds to take apart and put back together again the food of the Veneto, Puglia, and Campania in a white-knuckle ride through the contemporary sleights-of-hand of low-temperature cooking, freezing by liquid nitrogen, dehydration and rehydration.
First comes baccala alla Vicentino – a dazzling snow of rehydrated and cream-gunned salt cod served on a puddle of creamy baccala mantecato, a skin of snowpeas and a fluorescent pea puree that is icily intense. Next, a risotto that isn't. A disc of carnaroli rice, creamy with burrata, is lidded with sweet raw scampi flesh and dusted with dehydrated cavolo nero; a quieter but truly enjoyable dish I could eat time and again.
The "trip through Italy" is more a creative journey than a rigid bus schedule of regional exploration. A small wedge of Glacier 51 toothfish labelled all'aqua pazza suggests the sunshine, sea and tomatoes of the south, but is coated instead with an extraordinarily dense swamp-green parsley gel, slightly gummy from the extracted collagen of the skin, scattered with pink lantana flowers.
Then it's back to Piemonte with a beautifully al dente twirl of capsicum tagliolini, wound like yarn into a ball and lightly coated with hazelnuts and spanner crab; followed by precision-plated lozenges of oozy-rich, caper-dusted wagyu tenderloin served with glossy cavolo nero leaves filled with turnip mayo.
The wine-matching ($80 supplement) is intriguing but misses a trick by not always sticking to the brief. A Mantra Muse chardonnay served with the Piemonte-inspired pasta is a charming wine from the Margaret River and a favourite of sommelier Jeremy Croft, but I would love to see, say, a Piemontese arneis, for a greater sense of place.
Desserts continue the theme of familiar flavours in unfamiliar forms. Basil sorbet with tomato crumb and gel brings a welcome burst of acidity; and an apple strudel inspired by the Alto Adige is a smash-up of cinnamon crisp shards, pickled apple, baked apple sorbet and raisin crumble.
What fun – and, as always at Ormeggio, what beautiful risotto and pasta. This level of new wave Italian may be more of a journey through the minds of two of Sydney's most forward-thinking chefs than through Italy; but it's most certainly a trip.
Address: D'Albora Marinas, Spit Road, The Spit, Mosman
Best bit: New wave Italian on the water
Worst bit: The love affair with liquid nitrogen
Go-to dish: The snacks – vitello tonnato, eggplant parmigiana and parmigiana reggiano with aceto balsamico.
Terry Durack is chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and senior reviewer for the Good Food Guide. This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system.