Bianca: The newest addition to the burgeoning Kensington Street strip is the Italian centric restaurant, Olio. With the award-winning Singapore based chef, Lino Sauro at the helm. The Sicilian born chef has crafted a seafood focused menu, in a space designed by architecture firm LAVA. Think exposed brickwork, striking wooden floors and furniture. And the main design feature, a green olive coloured ceiling ‘feature wall’. Clearly an homage to Lino’s branded ‘Olio’ olive oil made in his native Sicily. I strongly recommend purchasing a bottle to take home with you!
Our dad’s background is Sicilian so we were especially excited to sample the region specific food, our 2003 holiday did open our eyes to some of the food on offer but being a sullen yet resplendent 15-year-old, my taste-buds weren’t exactly as fine-tuned as I pretend they are today. I do recall a cuisine quite seafood heavy, so its focus here isn’t exactly unfounded.
We started our meal with an Amuse Bouche – A Paesanella Salad which was the epitome of a paesanella salad in 2 bites. Fresh and light, with a strong citrus twang. With the soaked crispy breadcrumbs providing some crunch.
We’re complete home-ware whores and loved all the plate ware. It really is all the small things that elevate an experience.
We were brought out 2 generous rounds of bread and Lino’s EVOO. A basket consisting of Italian crusty bread, focaccia and a dark rye.
We shied away from the more seafood heavy mains, opting instead to share entrée’s, pastas, a main and dessert. The first of the entrée’s was the Arancini – w/primo sale cheese $16. Arrancini really are a dime a dozen these days, making an appearance on most restaurant menus. Which is why it’s easy to spot a rather lacklustre one. A crispy outer shell, making way for a cheesy centre. If I had any criticism it would be the accompanying tomato sauce. There was a slight sourness to the sauce, almost as if it was lacking some cooking time. We’re particularly critical of tomato based sauces as our nonno makes his own and we practically have an IV drip line for the stuff.
Perhaps the dish that almost stole the limelight was the Caponata Tiepida Con Ricotta Fresca – Sicilian Caponata w/ fresh Buffalo ricotta cheese $18. A warm eggplant dish, dotted with mixed vegetables. Delicate in flavour, with the vegetables still retaining some bite. Tying everything together was the rich and creamy ricotta. On its own or slathered on any remaining bread, this was an elegant yet simple starter.
As you can see we were drawn to all things cheesy and as a general rule, if there is burrata on the menu, it’s going to be ours. The Burrata Funghi e Prosciutto Di Parma – Apuila burrata cheese, warm mushrooms and Parma ham $26. Each element was a standout on its own but I question its presentation and the addition of the bed of lettuce, seemed a little unnecessary to me. The fried gnocchi dough was the perfect dipping vessel for the burrata, the prosciutto was melt in the mouth tender and the mushrooms almost had a pickled sourness to them.
Alex has an obsession with octopus after his Europe 2015 trip. Sipping cocktails beachside in Croatia will do that to you, so he was instantly drawn to the photogenic Polipo – Charred & citrus glazed octopus, capsicum & sundried tomato aioli $26. A subtle smokiness permeated the octopus and the citrus flavours were really at the forefront. We liked the creaminess of the potato fondant and the tartness of the aioli but the hero, the octopus was tough. Big shame as the flavours were there.
One thing we were pleased to see, was Chef/owner Lino making the rounds to the tables, running and collecting plates and happy to engage in conversation with diners. We passed on a few suggestions of our favourite Italian restaurants in Sydney.
And then we dipped our toes into the carbohydrate infested waters. A must order is the Ravioli – Homemade ravioli w/ king prawns, black truffle & burrata sauce $28. Juicy plump prawns, encased by a thin, delicate pasta sheet. The pasta was unobtrusive, truly allowing the filling to shine. I’d almost say it could pass for an Asian dumpling dish. This also got major kudos from our resident FFS stand-in Felicity, who is not a seafood eater at all.
The Risone – w/ red wine braised octopus & bone marrow $28 could be considered the epitome of a hearty winter warmer. Rich and bold flavours that lingered on the palate. The bone marrow was the real predominant flavour with the octopus being almost non-existent.
Shifting aside the organs, our second stomach kicked in for dessert. And trust me, you’ll want to leave room! The Millefoglie – Amedei chocolate & caramel mille-feuille w/ vanilla oil & smoked sea salt $15 with a wafer thin pastry, a decadently rich chocolate mousse. With a surprise twist in the form of popping candy, which danced on the tongue long after that last bite.
And sometimes that old adage does ring true, saving the very best for last La Cassata – ‘Not the traditional Sicilian Ricotta Cheesecake’ $15. If you’re expecting something in the form of a heavy Papa’s ricotta cheesecake you’ll probably be disappointed BUT you’ll have made the best of errors. The cassata was light and refreshing, with a myriad of varying temperatures and textures. A sour lemon granita in the centre, enclosed by the ricotta ‘cheesecake’ mixture. We loved the nuts and the biscuit soil at the base of the dish. So far the best dessert thus far in 2017.
Looking back at the menu, prices are beyond reasonable given serving sizes and locale. For Italian restaurant fiends this is one to check out ASAP.
Photos by Alex (excuse the iPhone photos, we had major camera issues)
*For Food’s Sake dined as guests of Olio but all opinions and thoughts are our own.