Hunt St Surry Hills, NSW 2010
|Opening hours||Mon-Sat noon-3pm; Mon-Wed 6pm-10pm; Thu-Sat 6pm-midnight|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9211 2414|
If you love anchovies and cider, the newly opened Ortzi in Surry Hills is a must-visit. The latest restaurant from the team behind Darlinghurst's favourite Italian spot Sagra, Ortzi has a pintxos menu packed with puny, salty fish, with plenty of big, slightly salty ciders to chase them down.
But anchovies and ciders weren't the only reasons head chef Michael Otto decided to open a Basque-style restaurant, inspired by the farm-to-plate philosophy upheld in Basque Country, the coastal region between France and Spain.
Vibrant yet simple Basque flavours dominate the Ortzi menu, with Otto bringing over Sagra's tradition of constantly changing and adapting the menu and never using recipes.
"I prefer my chefs to learn to be adaptable and to cook using their palate," he tells me. "Seasonality plays a huge part in cooking at both restaurants so everyone needs to be adaptable."
There's a lot of beef on the menu at the moment – a tartare with pine mushrooms and egg yolk, braised brisket with salsa verde and horseradish, a brilliant oyster blade steak with charred onions and romesco.
Ortzi is all about celebrating the full animal, and they're currently making their way through half a cow from organic butchery Feather and Bone.
"I think we should respect meat more. I think chefs have done a great job of popularising less common cuts of meat recently and I really just want to try and further that," says Otto, explaining his nose-to-tail approach.
"Having to deal with hard-to-cook cuts or offal often pushes us to try different dishes or cooking techniques and a lot of good dishes have come out of this process – having no idea what to do with an ingredient is a lot of fun and a great learning process."
There are few better ways to respect meat than cooking it inside of Ortzi's huge wood-fired oven, which burns mainly ironbark for fuel and a bit of applewood for flavour.
It's currently the only oven on site (the other one broke), so along with all the meat and fish, Otto has been forced to cook his desserts in there as well.
"The wood-fired cheesecake is the only hit for me so far but there have been attempts at souffles, cakes and baked custards too."
Like the food, the atmosphere at Ortzi is simple and unpretentious, great for a big group dinner or a few quiet anchovies by yourself in the afternoon.
One dish I've seen on every table is a fantastic mix of black and white – calamari cooked in its own ink with kipfler potatoes and bay leaves.
"We've been using Hawkesbury loligo [squid] this last week and flavouring it with bay leaves," says Otto of the dish that sums up what Ortzi is all about.
"It's an incredibly simple dish that adds up to more than its parts, which is, I think, why I love it so much."
Bottom line Small bites $6-$20, mains $33-$36
Must-order dish Calamari, ink, kipflers and bay leaves $21
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