Arriving just after 6pm for an early dinner my boy and I entered the restaurant, announcing ourselves as their first customers for the evening. We didn’t have a booking but it was no problem in getting a table, so we settled in and got comfy – looking over the menu after quickly placing an order to start off of a drink each and some chicken skins.
The crispy chicken skin ($6.00) comes out looking like broken shards of pastry – golden brown and crunchy. It’s sprinkled with a Japanese style seven spices and accompanied by a fresh lime wedge to squeeze over the top. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. I don’t think I need to say more in describing this dish. It’s sinful, moorish and seasoned to a tee. Already before I’ve even really looked over the other food options I’m feeling like there’s a real Asian style to the cooking here.
Choosing from the ‘grenades’ section of the menu, we opt for the only two cocktails on offer. I select the ‘pink’ which is gin, grapefruit, maraschino and bitters ($12.00). Lightly sweet, refreshing and with a nice palate pleasing tingle from the bitters, this hit the spot. Gin is definitely my alcohol of choice.
My boy’s ‘red’ is a mixture of mezcal, black tea, hibiscus and agave ($12.00). This one had more of a Mexican feel to it and reminded me of something you could get at El Publico on the same block – which is not so surprising considering they have the same owners.
The menu is broken into some smaller dishes and some larger ones with a slant towards share dining. This suits us both so we dive into the choices, picking a selection of dishes which all sound interesting, a little different and definitely appealing.
Judging from the menu alone, this is my style of dining. And the food, once ordered, doesn’t take too long to come out at all. It arrives in the order it’s cooked which I prefer for share dining, as it means you can dive straight in.
First up is the fried sweet potato dumpling with white miso radish shiso ($10.00). I wasn’t sure what to expect with these but they are pretty much as the description said, with four golden dumplings in a fragrant heap with some serious spring onion, shiso and sesame action going on underneath.
The dumplings are crisp on the outside, steaming hot on the inside. The filling is pleasant enough but lacked seasoning and wow factor. The sauce is delicious though, perfect for scooping up with each bite. Not a bad start, but I’m really pleased to say that the meal sky rocketed from that point on.
The aged beef rump tartare on smoked oyster ($17.00) is all kinds of amazing and definitely elevates a relatively common dish into the utterly memorable category. The beef is so tender, melting in my mouth and chocked full of delicious flavour. The fresh spring onion and slivers of fried onion are a burst of contrasting texture and taste.
The smoked oyster underneath is delectable and offers a rich creaminess, with a strong umami taste. I love the seasoned rice crackers which are crisp and perfect for scooping up that tartare. I wanted this dish to never end.
From the larger dishes section of the menu comes the lasagne with mushroom, black garlic and burnt butter curd ($24.00). I fall in love, hard and fast with this plate full of goodness! The pasta sheets are cooked al dente, the mushrooms earthy and varied to give different flavours and textures. I really like the use of the black garlic which provides a sweet almost caramel-like taste.
When we ordered the larger dishes to share, we both chose pasta and I have to admit I was a little nervous in doing so! Jeremy and I love our pasta so there were some big expectations. But thankfully both this and the next dish were incredible – and really showcased a real strength this restaurant has.
The squid ink tagliatelle with scallop and fermented chilli ($26.00) is also cooked spot on, the thick dark ribbons of pasta standing out vibrantly against the plethora of fermented chilli and finely diced herbs. The flavour is punchy and works so well with the perfectly seared scallops. Ah how I love scallops and their sweet, delicate taste.
Side note: I returned for lunch recently with the girls (when it’s normally Mary Street Bakery) they have this dish on the day time menu too.
Once every last scrap of food (and grain of rice) was finished, our plates are cleared and I know without him saying it that Jeremy is just as full as I am. Perhaps we were a little greedy… but like I always say, it’s all in the name of blogging 😉
So as much as we would have loved dessert, our tummies just didn’t allow for the additional munching activity so we called it a day at that point. Our waitress brought us the bill when asked and we both laughed when we realised it was folded inside a Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince cassette tape. A classic for sure! Too bad we weren’t in our high tops and rocking the hyper colour tees, it would have made a complete picture!
My, what a wonderful date night indeed. A perfect evening with my boy, delicious food and a great vibe. I loved how relaxed Mary’s is compared with the hectic and busy Mary Street Bakery. The food really impressed and I’m really looking forward to going back soon before this venue gets as busy at night as it is during the day.