Monday, November 23, 2009

My love affair with Simpatico

It's not easy to find a consistently good restaurant that you are happy to go back to time and time again. Simpatico in Brisbane is one such restaurant. In actual fact- I would have to say that it is possibly my favourite restaurant in Brisbane. The food is always good and the service is always impeccable. I love the atmosphere and I genuinely love eating there ALL the time without getting bored.

Simpatico offers food that is designed to be shared. The servings are bigger than tapas and I love the concept because everyone can have a decent bite of everything which finally stops me from eating off everybody else's plates. I hear my Pie's give a sigh of relief.

Speaking of PIES (partners in eating), My friend El and her boyfriend R invited C and I to dinner at Simpats and we happily joined them.

That being said, since my food blogging started, I have had to step out of my comfort zone and I have only been to Simpatico once in the last three months. So I was more than happy to go back. One problem that came with being away for so long was that I almost felt out of place when I stepped into the restaurant on Friday night and saw all new staff and an all new menu sans my favourite scallops in the whole world. Now you all know I have a scallop fetish as documented here, here and here and the scallops served at Simpatico, until recently, were among the best. They were served with seasme wakame and are the FATTEST, plumpest, most beautiful scallops. I LOVE them. In fact I almost cried when I couldn't have them and made a note in my mind to write a letter to get them put back on the menu. This has happened before, and the scallops did come back so when I calmed down, I was not AS concerned particularly when I spied another scallop dish on the menu.

There was also an awesome cocktail section addition which the menu noticeably lacked previously.

C and I usually eat about 4 dishes between us at Simpatico- With two hungry boys and El and I, we decided on 6 dishes and the olives.

The fried green olives stuffed with feta are a staple at Simpatico- they have always been there and they are fab. I love to get them to munch on them when deciding. I often get fried olives when I am out but these are the best I have had so far.

We each picked a dish that we wanted and agreed on two extra dishes. El is coeliac so we had to be mindful of that but luckily there were plenty of gluten free options. There is also a large variety of food available that all looks pretty good so usually everyone I dine with find it quite easy to agree. Depending on size, the dishes range from $7 (the olives) to $20. This is usually pretty cost effective because if we get two dishes per person that is $40 tops which is much less than I would usually spend getting an entree and main. In fact, I think the total bill was $202.50 which included our six dishes, the olives, beer for the boys and two cocktails each for El and I- pretty great, I say!

R decided on the pork belly with green papaya & nam jim for $16, El went for the Barramundi with shimjie mushroom, leek, asparagus and jus for $19. Both of these are old favourites of mine, so the choices were off to a good start. C went for his favourite (and my least favourite)- the wild mushroom risotto with goat curd $16, I predictably chose the scallops with polenta and chorizo (new) $20 and the other two dishes picked were the roast duck breast with pumpkin puree, cabbage and blackberries (also new) $20 and sauteed king prawns with basil, mint and cherry
tomatoes (new) $20.

I decided to order a lemon miss and El had a pimms cocktail.

First out were scallops. The scallops were, in usual Simpatico style, beautiful but I'm not sold on the accompanying chorizo. The chorizo was still good but I don't think they made a good fusion because the scallops are so delicate- and easily overpowered which is exactly what the chorizo did in this instance. The polenta was well cooked and the dish was ok- but I rate the scallops with seasme wakame much higher.

The risotto was next out- although I'm not sure risotto was a fair name for this dish. We have had this dish many many times before and this was not a good rendition of it. Not sure if something was going on in the kitchen but the risotto was soupy and the oil had visibly seperated from the cream. The flavours were still good and rich and the whole dish was eaten BUT it was not up to the usual standard The risotto is usually my least favourite anyway- hopefully I'll be able to talk Camb out of ordering it next time.

The basil and tomato prawns were next in line. They were good and the plate was almost christmassy with a mashing watercress, onion and tomato. The dish was simple and clean and fresh tasting and the prawns were well cooked.

The star of the night was the pork belly. It was crispy on top yet juicy and succulent in the middle. The squares of pork paired with the nam jim made a pretty sight, and the nam jim had a little bit of bite. The coriander provided a perfect accompanyment and this dish was noted around the table as the best of the night. Simpatico does the best pork belly I have ever had anywhere, and this dish lived up to my high pork belly expectation. Somehow they manage to get the crackling incredibly crispy which makes is the perfect contrast to the succulent flesh.

The duck arrived and was beautifully cooked but I'm not convinced that the cabbage and pumpkin puree showcased the duck very well. The blackberries were a nice addition but I think there could be something better than the cabbage and pumpkin, even though seperately they were quite good the fusion just didn't hit the spot.

The barramundi was so tender it was falling apart and was perfectly complimented by the vegies. The skin was crispy, the asparagus fresh and full of flavour and accompanying jus was just the right salty addition. This was my fave dish of the night and possibly in my top 5 Simpat dishes.

El and I did wait a long time for our second drinks- they seemed to maybe not adjusted to the new cocktail list that well yet. If you are in a hurry, I would go with something quicker but in the end, my lemon miss was well worth the wait. If it had been quicker, I would have had another! Perhaps it's I didn't because the next day I had to get up and cook Thanksgiving dinner!

Once again the service was really good, the dishes were all brought out in succession but not so quickly that everything sat on the table to go cold.

I was however, surprised and disappointed by the risotto. This dish simply wasn't up to scratch. The worst thing is, I have had this dish plenty of times before where it was cooked perfectly so you sit there knowing it could be much better- sometimes this is even more frustrating than when you get something that is just outright bad with no potential. I have NEVER had this experience at Simpatico before- everything is usually perfect.

I'm also not sold on the scallop and chorizo dish- mainly because I think that the scallops are too tasty to be paired with the strong chrozio.

The pork belly and barramundi were faultless. Next time I am steering well clear of the risotto- or maybe I should order it to see if this little problem is fixed up.

Some dishes we didn't eat but are fab are the braised beef cheeks which are cooked perfectly and have some serious depth- even better than the beef cheeks at Aria for about a third of the price.

Simpats, I have to say- I am a little disappointed in two of the dishes for the night which is uncharacteristic. I know you can do better- please don't fail me again or I will be forced to rethink my top Brisbane casual dining list. Once again, you nailed the pork belly and barramundi. and I have something else to say... PLEEEEEEEEEASE BRING BACK THE SCALLOPS WITH WAKAME!

Update: 3/3/11 - Have been back to Simpatico many times since this post and have enjoyed many different meals. It's a big call but I'm willing to say I think Simpatico probably hold the title for nailing the share food genre in Brisbane. Each dish is always good and importantly, the timing is always right. Nothing more horrible than having all dishes arrive at once and watching some go cold! Simpatico seem to 'nail it' every time.

SO readers- Do you have a favourite restaurant and have they failed you before? Have you got a favourite dish that has been taken off a menu before?

LaTrobe Terrace
Paddington QLD 4064
07 3367 1117
Simpatico Bar Bistro Espresso on Urbanspoon

6 fabulous comments:

beeso said...

Hmm if you're ever in wollongong go to diggies on the beach and try their pork belly, it is almost as good as my slow cooked pork belly in coke.

strayedtable said...

love your site, check out ours, we are based in Brisbane too

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

That risotto looks like a stew or a soup! How unusual! :o And I agree, duck doesn't go with a lot of things as chicken can so the.

SOL's view said...

When I first moved here, the Bluefin Sports Club (Inala of all places) had an amazing menu that included lots of seafood. The garlic prawns were to die for.

Then one day we went and the entire menu had changed - the seafood was gone leaving only the standard crumbed/battered fish and calamari! I was sooooo disappointed I haven't been back.

bcswerit said...

The scallops were my favourite dish too! Maybe they will bring it back?

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

That risotto is swimming in a pool of cream sauce!

And on an unrelated note, I've given you a blog award =) Please swing by to pick it up, as I couldn't find an email address to send it to you directly.

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