Berta is definitely in my list of top restaurants in Sydney, and every time I’m in town I look forward to experiencing their cuisine. A close focus on produce is what makes Berta so special to me and having such incredible produce in Oz makes eating such a pleasure! Every Wednesday night Berta celebrates a particular ingredient or theme in their Italian regional cooking. They call it their Sagra night, and according to Wikipedia the term ‘Sagra’ is used to describe a local festival that usually involves food. I love the idea of celebrating seasonal ingredients! The thought of menu planning a four-course meal around one key ingredient is very exciting to me, the same sort of challenge that pulls me into watching Iron Chef every single time it’s on tv. This past Wednesday, I had the delight of attending a Quince Sagra. Quince makes me think of the countryside in winter. It’s actually a very difficult fruit to prepare, being so tough, full of seeds, and easily oxidised. It is also a fruit that cannot be eaten raw, which is another reason why I was so interested to see what the talented chefs at Berta would do with it!
Starting the quincy night was a classic bruschetta of quince paste and a super young pecorino which had the super soft texture of a brie. I have never come across such a young pecorino before, so the sweet and subtle cheese-on-toast made me think about the relationship between cook and cheese monger. Rolling into the next act were two light and moorish dishes. Crispy fried cauliflower black olive and caraway coated in chickpea flower accompanied with a very clever quince aioli was then partnered with a pear, cavolo nero, barilotto di buffala salad.
Following the regional Italian meal structure, the antipasto was replaced by a farro rotolo that had goat’s curd semolina, sage and capers intertwined amongst the rolled sheets of pasta. The crispy sage and fried pasta alongside soft pillows of goat’s curd semolina was luxurious, and to make everything more delicious, melted butter acted as sauce.
The heartiest course was generous and satisfying without being overly rich: A plate of slow roasted beef rump with a citrus balsamic lay on a bed of lentils, eschallots, and thyme. Not too little, not too much. Small cumquats that were braised with the beef provided the acidity and sweetness that lifted the dish out of its heavyweight category. Charred baby cos and leeks on the side were pleasantly complementing the boldness of the yummy secondo.
Finally, my favourite part of any meal – Dolce. ‘Hazelnut Honey Chocolate Mascarpone’ translated into a pretty dish of a dense hazelnut flour bar soaking up a puddle of fragrant honey with some decadently dark chocolate, and fresh mascarpone to keep things a little light hearted.
All I can say is, can’t wait for the pork Sagra in 2 weeks!
17-19 Alberta St,
ph. 9264 6133