Friday, April 16, 2010

Review: Cafe Sopra

Fratelli Fresh
7 Danks St

Mon-Fri  10 -3
Sat 8-3
Sun 10-3
(No bookings)

Buggles and Squeak have lurked about Danks Street for many years now and have witnessed the gentrification of the area. One place that has often lured us to the area is Fratelli Fresh. This is a place where you can stock up on all of your Italian groceries, fresh produce, cured meats, cheeses etc at what really are quite reasonable prices. Upstairs is also Cafe Sopra. This is a place that often graces the cafe pages of the SMH's Good Food Guide and for good reason. There is nothing showy about the food here - but what it offers is FLAVOUR!

So, Squeak and I were feeling a little glum about the prospect of returning to work after a bit of a break, and decided we need a pick-me-up lunch. Knowing how busy this place gets, combined with the strict 'no bookings' policy, we decided to head there for midday on the dot.  We timed it to perfection, finding a table easily, but within the next 30 minutes the place was packed.

No airs and graces here, you wander up to the blackboard to peruse the menu and place the order with the very professional waitstaff. We are hungry, having slept in and sacrificed breakfast in anticipation of the scrummy lunch ahead, so decide on an Antipasti Misti starter, as well as the Fresh tomatoes with Buffalo Mozzarella.
What stands out with the tomatoes and mozzarella is the taste and freshnesss of the tomatoes.  We all know how hard it can be to find tomatoes that TASTE like tomatoes, and these delivered. You won't find any salt and pepper on the table, but you won't need it, as the food is seasoned to perfection. The Mozzarella is gorgeous and creamy and complements the tomatoes.
The Antipasti was also impressive with me consuming the lion's share I think. There were button mushrooms in what tasted like a tomato based curry sauce, crisp green beans tossed in a basil pesto, soft eggplant with a creamy dollop of I don't know what... but it tasted good. The star, we both felt, were the artichokes drizzled with a zesty dressing and tossed in herbs.  What was beautiful about all of this was how fresh and flavoursome everything was.

Next up came our mains. Squeak has had a hankering for the Vitello Tonnato for a while now, having sampled it on a prior visit, and could not pass it up this time. Now do not be deterred by the picture. Granted it does resemble something the cat might produce after eating too quickly, but the flavours here are something else. The veal is tender but maintains its 'meatiness', and the mayonnaise/sauce is packed with flavour. There are herbs, there is tuna, I think there are probably anchovies, some lemon I'm sure. All of this is topped with some finely sliced lemon which just sets the whole thing off beautifully. This is a dish that Squeak is determined to conquer at home.

I opt for the Osso Bucco with macaroni pasta and gremolata. I will admit to being nervous when ordering this.  Gremolata is one of those things that sounds so good on paper, but on the odd occcasion I have had it, I often find it ruins the flavour of what I am eating. When it arrives though, my fears are allayed.
It does not present as the traditional Osso Bucco, as it is made with white wine, rather than the traditional red, but I think this, combined with the gremolata actually lightens what can be quite a heavy dish. Don't get me wrong, what is most inviting about an Osso Bucco is the delectable, rich meat that just falls apart and this is still there, but the wine and gremolata give it a really fresh zestiness.  Once again, this dish's flavours packed a punch.

By this stage, our waiter has figured out we like our tucker (it doesn't take Einstein), so he coyly enquires about dessert... knowing full well that we were on board! On this occasion though we have conceded to sharing one. Now, we like to order particular desserts from a variety of establishments to determine our favourites, and Tiramisu is one such dish. Up until this point, the top 3 have recently been awared to Walsh Bay's Ventuno, Potts Point's Mezzaluna and Wentworthville's (yes, you read right) Riccardo's... but we have now a new winner... Cafe Sopra's Tiramisu was something out of this world. It is one of those dishes that makes you halt mid-mouthful, eyes wide open as you stare at your dining partner to wonder if this is really happening. We snap out of that mighty quickly and begin to devour this dish from heaven!  Neither of us had ever tasted a Tiramisu made from pannetone (although on further investigation, apparently it is quite common), but this was very new to us. The texture that this offers the Tiramisu is a revelation.  It is kind of chewy - but not exactly. The fruit from the pannetone worked really well, with a burst of sweetness every so often.  The dessert is surprisingly not particularly sweet, which is welcome. The mascarpone is delicious, and the liqueur really had a kick to it.  We were both stupefied by this dessert, and right now as I am sitting here.... I want it all over again.

So we finsh off with some good Italian coffee, wander the aisles of Fratelli and eye off the crusty fresh bread on offer and waddle off, wondering why we cannot do this every week.

Cafe Sopra on Urbanspoon


Simon Leong said...

oh yum. love cafe sopra. i'll definitely have to try the tiramisu next time. sounds great. i've had the tomatoes and the osso bucco and loved them both. timing is everything to get a seat as you say.

Gastronomy Gal said...

sounds like a lovely lazy lunch!!I would need a nap afterwards though!