"How do you spell Carluccio?"
I ask Helen. "Aiyahhh Billyyyyy.... C.. A.. R.. L.. U.." she bemoans. Sorry Jedi Helen, I can only defend myself and my ignorance that English is still my second language let alone spelling an Italian name. Besides, I'm one of those people that never good with names especially during first meeting, a bit nervous, tongue tied, mind gone blank, you know...
Everyone knows who Antonio Carluccio is, even if you don't know his name, I'm sure you have seen him on TV. And who'd have thought that we have our first Tasting Australia dinner at Enoteca in Adelaide with special celebrity chef Antonio Carluccio?
Different media groups are assigned to dine at various restaurants across Adelaide, Helen and I are very lucky to find ourselves joining six other journalists from New Zealand, Singapore and Noosa for a 4-course degustation dinner with matching wine ($120) at Enoteca, a modern Italian restaurant.
The restaurant is modern and has a minimalist approach to the interior design, a wide open space with only using soft see-through curtains as dividers. But the minimalism also makes the space a perfect acoustic chamber, the screams of a 8yo birthday girl in the key of C minor is deafening and almost make the glasses on the table shattered into pieces.
We start off with the perfect winter warmer, a creamy cauliflower soup with sweet gorgonzola. The elegant opaque white soup is silky smooth and sweet of cauliflower with soft gorgonzola cheese gives that sudden sharpness sensation every now and then. A zig-zag trail of truffle oil simply gives the simple soup a touch of colour and luxury. I can't help but mopping up the soup with some bread.
This dish is paired with a light bubbly NV Guerrieri Rizzardi Extra Dry Prosecco.
The second course is beautifully presented with bright orange hue of sweet Australian prawns, diced tomato, with a smidgen of fresh basil and chopped parsley, against the tendrils of pitch black squid ink spaghetti. The spaghetti is al dante with a nice tang from the lemon that cut through the sweetness of the juicy prawns, but the flavour of squid ink isn't as prominent as I'd have hoped for.
The pairing wine, Frogmore Creek Riesling adds a refreshing fragrant mix of floral, lime, basil, citrus and even hay to the dish.
The inconsistency on our third dish is a rather let down. The Inman Valley veal scotch fillet is cooked according to everyone's preference of rareness, but unfortunately Helen's is overcooked to medium-well while she requested rare. The veal is topped with I believe is the salt-dried tuna roe flakes which everyone thinks is excruciatingly salty, I can just feel my hypertension raised a few bars higher and my blood cells are screaming for water to be rehydrated. Even the matching wine Kaesler Avignon can't rectify and rescue my numbing tongue.
At this point, there is a sudden uproar cheer at our table while I totally unaware that the legendary Antonio Carluccio has just walk into the restaurant. Antonio is in his classic outfit of checked red shirt and a deep maroon cardigan, but his hair has definitely gone whiter since I last saw him on TV.
Antonio has had his dinner earlier, so he is just dropping by to see his old friend who owns Enoteca. While Helen and I are still starstruck in awe, the rest of the table seems like meeting another old friend, the waitress quickly set another place at the other end of our table for him and asks whether he would like to join in for dinner. He requests a scotch, and will settle with some soup.
The dessert menu is a limit choice of cheese platter or hot cinnamon apple-filled donuts. Most of us opt for the latter one, but only find one donut instead of a few as the menu says. The golden deep-fried donut is tad dense and doughy, with very little apple filling inside, served with a perfect shaped quenelle of double cream and some much needed tangy poached rhubarb to cut through the richness of the dessert.
Helen senses that the donut would be too rich for her and opt for the cheese platter which includes house made lavosh, quince paste, red grape and three variety of cheese. Our dining companion from Singapore falls in love with the Bianco sottobosco, a Alba truffle-infused cow and goats milk cheese from Piemonte, Italy, which is semi hard and strong flavour. Blue cheese always wins my heart over, the Blu del monviso is soft creamy but not too strong in flavour, makes a beautiful spread on the crispy breadstick. Helen's favourite is the Ocelli testun al Barolo from Southern Piemonte, the semi-hard cow cheese is crumbly in texture and much sharper in flavour compares to the other two.
Antonio looks a little tired as he actually just arrived in Adelaide the same day after a 10 hours flight from Singapore, due to the delays caused by the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano. But there is definitely no shortage of conversation and Antonio is just as charming and cracking jokes. "What's your room number?", Antonio cheekily flirts with the Singaporean journalist as she absolutely adores him and asks him for his signature.
"Just joking, too young, too young... But yeah, I will sign for you," Antonio embarrasses her one last time and right now her face is totally flushed, almost as red as Antonio's cardigan. How we wish we can spend whole evening chatting to Antonio but unfortunately is time for us to leave as the taxi is already awaiting outside the restaurant.
I shake Antonio's plump hand and bid him farewell. Helen and I still giggling on the inside as we step outside the restaurant into the taxi, murmuring to each other,
"That's totally surreal, oh my god, we just met Antonio Carluccio!"
Enoteca Restaurant 262 Carrington Street
Adelaide, South Australia
Tel: +61 (08) 8227 0766
Lunch Wednesday to Friday 12pm - 3pm
Dinner Wednesday to Saturday from 6pm
[A Table For Two attended Tasting Australia as media guest of the festival, courtesy of Tasting Australia and South Australia Tourism]