Food Society – 91 Riley St, Palmer St, Darlinghurst. http://www.foodsociety.com.au/
Eastern European food is very unfamiliar to us Sydney-siders. It’s not something I usually see around the city, and given my very low exposure to, not something I crave. I had heard that a new modern Eastern European restaurant by the name of Food Society opened up last year. So it was pure co-incidence that (i) in my last days in Sydney, a friend recommended that I try Food Society before I leave, and just when I thought I had no time left, (ii) another friend booked it for a get together that was happening on my second last day here. Maybe it was meant to be?
Food Society is located on one of the quieter streets in Darlinghurst, opposite a paid parking station (a big tick for those driving in!). The mood as soon as you enter the place is very homely – you are greeted by a red sofa at the door and can then walk down to the restaurant area, with the bar at the back. I felt like I was transported into a underground bunker-style restaurant in Europe, albeit a stylish one with beautiful chandeliers and lamps lighting up the dark interior. The place has a lot of character, with great attention to detail from everything from the decor to the bow-ties for the waiters. We arrived at 6.30pm on a Friday and were pleasantly surprised to see the restaurant fairly empty.
The drinks list was very extensive – ranging from specialty cocktails, wine and beer to Eastern European vodka. I got the feeling that custom at Food Society was to enjoy a glass of vodka with your meal, judging by the fact that the banquet menu can be paired with vodka for an extra $20 :) Most of us weren’t that adventurous though, going for a mix of drinks:
- Svarak – red wine infused w cinnamon, clove and zest of an orange served warm in a brandy balloon ($10): given it was a cold winters day, this version of mulled wine was to die for. You could really taste the spices and the citrus in the wine and the fragrance was just divine.
- Spiced Apple Pie – zubrowka bison grass vodka, 4 hour infused apple juice, cinnamon, star anise & lemon zest shaken over ice ($15): this was a very smooth drink, again a great combination of spices and citrus with the apple.
- Sparkling wine – nv louis bouillot ‘nv ivoire blanc de blanc from Burgundy, France ($14): a very understated yet tasty sparkling!
- Vodka – zoladkowa pint from Poland ($9): on the rocks, M seemed very satisfied with his drink
The food menu was equally impressive, with a range of appetisers, boards, ‘substantials’ and desserts from all over Eastern Europe. Here’s what we ate:
Appetisers & Boards
- Mamalinga chips w smoked paprika salt and spicy ajvar ($11): a great version of an Aussie favourite potato gems, with a really fluffy centre and nice spicy sauce to complement.
- Burek cigar of bulgarian feta, spinach, fennel and fresh mint ($3.80 each): a very light and delicate delight, with a great combination of greens on the inside.
- Board of cured meats w chargrilled csabai sausage and house picked vegetables ($22): nice combination of bread sticks, cured meats and sausage, the highlight being the sausage which was quite spicy. Was not a huge fan of the cured meats, which were a bit bland for my taste.
- Board of blini stack, two types of roe, creme fraiche and dill ($17): just divine. The roe, the blini and the creme fraiche are a killer combination. This brought back memories of when a Russian friend of mine in the US had once served us these to celebrate the Russian new year.
- Fried cauliflower w paprika, parsley, watercress and red wine vinegar ($11): amazing – who would’ve thought cauliflower could taste so good! I loved the seasoning, no doubt the paprika coming out there, and the very well fried cauliflower.
- Pierogi of ricotta and mushrooms w sour cream and chives ($3 each): I’ve not had too much pierogi in the past, but this version was very tasted and reminds me of its Italian cousin, the ravioli. We tried the pork one as well.
I have to confess that I was truly stuffed at this stage and could not finish my main!
- Roasted duck w red apple, walnut, watercress and parsnip cream ($32): perfectly cooked duck, complemented really well by the parsnip cream. The sprinkling of walnuts throughout the dish was a nice touch. Note the huge sized portion!
- Twice cooked lamb ribs w sliced potatoes, tomato eggplant and rosemary ($26): again, very well cooked and extremely tasty.
- Vegetarian dolma two ways on cannellini beans and roasted field mushroom ($26): the vegetarians finished this dish in no time!
- Brick pastry filled w goats cheese and spinach, served w baby vegetables and polenta ($24): a very beautifuly presented dish, this seemed to have satisfied the hungry vegetarian on the table.
Sad to say, this was one of those rare occasions where there was no room for dessert :(
the verdict: 8.5/10 – an incredibly tasty introduction to Eastern European food in a very homely setting. I would order tapas style to sample the array of appetisers and share the main course as the portions are large.
dont forget to order: the svarak (mulled wine), the blini stack & the fried cauliflower
to try next time: something sweet – the Society signature pashka w strawberry compote