Searching Google for Croatian restaurants in Sydney's east would lead most to the restaurant and somewhat institution known as the Balkan on Oxford St. Acting as the perfect distraction some Secret Foodies guests were convinced this was the destination for our Dalmatian Coast Dinner.
Note, the website did read NEW restaurant so for those who dug a little deeper you’d have possibly found Food Society on Riley St. Food Society is the first concept restaurant from a group of talented caterers who saw the opportunity to have a fixed location for all to try their food (not just those throwing a private party). Whilst on the catering side you’ll find all sorts of menus, the restaurant is heavily influenced by Eastern European cuisine.
The décor is relaxed and quirky with warm hospitality and friendly service. On this particular Thursday the restaurant is packed with some big groups, tables of four friends and a few couples perched at the bar or in front of the open plan kitchen.
We start with a traditional tomato soup infused with truffle and served over rice. This dish is something one of the owners, Sonia’s grandmother used to make her when she was younger. You won’t find this on the regular menu, rather a more modern approach. Head Chef, Richard Slarp admits that a lot of traditional dishes from Eastern Europe are really boring to westerners. “It’s all meat three veg,” he laughs.
One of my favourite dishes of the evening is the fried cauliflower with paprika, parsley, watercress and red wine vinegar. I try my hardest to get the recipe out of Rich but he holds his cards close to his chest. The trick, he later leaks, is battering the cauliflower while it’s raw to keep the crunch. Something tells me any attempts I make at home won’t be anywhere near as good.
The Cevapo-Balkan style sausage with cos lettuce with crisp speck, red pepper puree and sour cream is something you’ll find on offer in many parts of Croatia with a few of our guests getting nostalgic about their recent holidays.
The assorted sliced meats board and heirloom tomato and feta salad, extra virgin oil and dill are great sharing dishes and perfect if you’re coming for drinks and feeling peckish.
For more substantial dishes the lamb ribs with sliced potatoes, tomato, eggplant and rosemary are a must. The vegetables are flavoursome and the tender meat falls off the bone. I’ll be ordering this again.
The brudet of fresh shellfish and clams with soft polenta is fresh but lacks enough flavour for my taste buds. In comparison, the iceberg lettuce, red onion and cucumber salad is simple but has the right amount of oil, salt and pepper.
I’ve said it before (read my previous review) and I’ll say it again, the 21-year-old pastry chef, Floren Thibout, has skills. I’d kind of talked him up so I’m glad he didn’t disappoint. Another favourite dish of the evening is the apple baked with pistachio, almonds and cider caramel. It’s different and unexpected, not for everyone’s taste buds but right for at least mine.
The Bajadera-soft pancake layered with walnut, coconut, rum, chocolate ganache and meringue is good though not as moorish as the baked apples.
Wine spritzers are nice if you’re after something light or there is a substaintial wine list, European beers and of course flavoured vodkas. You won’t find Coca Cola on this drinks menu, ginger beer is the closest soft drink on offer.