Bianca: We set ourselves a bit of a goal last year, to try as many Merivale restaurants as we could. Our latest conquests were Sushi E and Fred’s. They’re both, gastronomically, the furthest from each other possible.
Sushi E do some of the best ‘fine dining’ sushi in Sydney and Fred’s farm to table ethos have the Eastern suburbs crowds coming in droves.
SUSHI E was just a quick mid-week lunch but it left a lasting impression. So much so, I just had to include it in some sort of write-up. Prawn Shumai $20 are a classic for a reason, the prawn flavour was at the forefront but not overbearing. The dumpling skin was light and unobtrusive and the ponzu dipping sauce, lightly accented each bite.
The selection of small Sashimi $20 was solely left to the chefs on the day. But the standout was easily the Tuna, incredibly soft and delicate.
Sushi has quickly become one of my favourite things to eat and I think a lot of it has to do with my obsession with wasabi! If the nostrils aren’t flaring then I haven’t done it right. Going for the classic salmon, the Atlantic –w/ salmon, cucumber, chives and topped with flamed salmon, salmon roe and mayo $26. Easily demanding the high price tag, with the smoky caramelised salmon alongside the raw salmon and finally the creamy mayo. Perfectly rolled, with no rice spillage.
The Wagyu –w/thinly sliced wagyu, cucumber & baby cress and topped with flamed wagyu $26 was well executed but failed to reach the heights of the Atlantic. The wagyu was perfectly cooked, perhaps erring on the raw side. I probably wouldn’t order this one again.
And finally, the Pork Belly –w/ steamed and braised pork belly, potato puree, spinach & sake, mirin $34. I generally like my pork belly crispy but this was so gelatinous and yes, gluttonous that I instantly threw caution to the wind. The potato puree & chive were really there for some relief from the globules of fat. The flavour was so concentrated and intense!
FRED’S is an interesting one. I visited twice in the span of 3 weeks. My first experience was so/so. But with a constantly changing menu, I feel it would be hard to knock it out of the park the first time, for each and every diner. There’s no signature dish that has you coming back repeatedly. Merivale has yet again crafted a homely open plan kitchen, with prominent marble. It’s a pleasant sight to see chefs and diners in extremely close proximity, with nary an outburst to be seen. They REALLY need to keep their shit together because there is nowhere to hide. Head chef Danielle Alvarez, has put together a farm to table menu, going somewhat ‘back to basics’ with rustic staples like Pork Chops & hearty lamb dishes.
The menu is short and concise and both visits I really struggled to find something that jumped off the menu at me. No such concern when it came to the starters; the Wood Oven Fougasse –w/ butter & olive oil $6 was crispy, chewy, soft… you name it. Choose your poison, butter or olive oil and go to town.
My first visit I had the Grilled Pork Cutlet –w/black garlic & sherry, carrots, caraway and cabbage $40. Tasty? Yes but hardly something I’d make a return visit for. Flawless cooking of the pork, as it was exceptionally juicy.
Desserts were shared, with the Macadamia Meringue (pictured far below) surprisingly having the edge over the Abinao Chocolate tart (below). Both were good but I was content with just several bites and that’s never really a great sign.
I fared much better my second visit. Night time dining at Fred’s calls for either 3 courses for $95 or 4 for $115. There was a little more variety on the menu and two pasta dishes instantly piqued our interest. The Rigatoni with cherry tomatoes, lardo, marjoram & crackling pangrattato. The greatest achievement for any pasta dish would be a silent thought to myself “Would Nonno like it?” if he didn’t have to leave the house for it… that last bit is very important! Sweet cherry tomatoes alongside the morsels of bread crumbs, texturally interesting, with all elements really complimenting each other. A generous serve as well.
Alex’s Ricotta Ravioli w/basil pesto, sugar snap peas, walnuts & cream was equally delicious. Whilst not a generous portion, the richness of all the elements made for a hearty starter.
Mains seems to be where Fred’s fall flat for me. My Duck Breast & leg, black garlic & sherry, carrots, caraway & cabbage was seemingly identical to my pork dish from my previous visit. Again, cooked beautifully, the duck, flawless. But nothing mind blowing or inventive.
Alex opted for the Moorlands Lamb, braised celery gratin, black olive & anchovy salsa. Mainly because there wasn’t much else that appealed to him. High praise for the execution of the cooking of the lamb but not particularly memorable.
The Macadamia Meringue made a repeat appearance and we decided to finish on the Selection of cheese, honey w/sourdough & lavosh. The Roquefort was a standout and gorgeous paired with the honey and lavosh.
I’m glad I returned for a second visit but ultimately my opinion didn’t sway to wide from my original impression. The food was all prepared and finished to a high quality, I just don’t see myself going out of my way for this particular style of food on the reg.
Photos by Alex