Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review: Ortiga Brisbane

OK So, Don't whinge at me about the photos, whinge at Ortiga for their poor lighting. That I have to say, is the only thing you will have to complain about when you visit the new, uber cool, Spanish establishment in the Valley headed by chef Pablo Tordesillas. Ortiga replaces old school Brisbane favourite Isis, and is also owned by ex-Isis owner, Simon Hill.

I must say, walking into Ortiga felt like walking out of Brisbane. Recently Brisbane eateries have been seriously showing panache, and Ortiga is a classic example of this.

Upstairs the bar is casually elegant whilst heading downstairs reveals exposed bricks, white table cloths, a fabulous wall long cellar and a very sophisticated open kitchen. The exposed beams give rustic charm and whilst the place does not feel like typical Queensland architecture, it really works.

I'm definitely a fan of the open plan kitchen, it really shows off the mood of the kitchen. In this case, Pablo was calm and collected and I spent the night peering into what was going on rather than having any discussions with my co-workers. I think they are used to my behaviour by now and were hardly surprised when I would interrupt an important conversation to 'oo' and 'ah' at the goings on in the Kitch.

From the moment I stepped in, the service was impeccable. I was the first to arrive from a table of 8 and I was given the option of waiting upstairs to have a drink or heading down to wait at the table. I went straight downstairs, because I didn't think it would be too polite to choose a bottle of wine without consultation from the rest of the group, some of whom are much more knowledgeable about the subject than I.

The rest of the group arrived in dribs and drabs, but I didn't mind waiting because I was too busy being a busybody and peering around at the beautiful whole wall cellar.

Deciding what to have was a bit of a conundrum because it was the sort of situation where everyone was being too polite. Aside from that, our Spanish is definitely not a strong point so we needed to wait for the waitress to explain the menu before final choices were made.

We came to the conclusion that everyone should pick two dishes each, and we could also order croquetas for all!

Pork crackle was placed on the table, complimentary of the kitchen. I'm always open to pork crackle but this was a little too hard for me to enjoy.

The first real dish to grace our presence was the Pimientos de padrón con puntillas – Fried Padrón peppers with calamar for $19. Supposedly, 1 in 100 peppers are really hot- a bit like Russian Roulette. In this case, my head was almost blown off on three occasions! Even one of our party, who is Indian and accustomed to heating REALLY HOT food, agreed that most of the peppers had a decent amount of kick. The accompanying calamar was beautifully tender, the batter so light and wonderfully salty. Safe to say, this was some of the best calamari I have ever eaten.

Next, the Fried school prawns with aioli for $16 arrived. The batter was tasty, and I'm fine with eating the whole prawn, but some of the party felt a little uncomfortable popping the whole prawn, including the head, into the mouth. The accompanying aioli was faboosh- enough garlic to make kissing anyone off limits for a week, but undeniably great.

The croquetas ($3 each) appeared and I swooped upon. The crispy, light coating held together a wonderful goeey, cheesy goodness. Fab once again, and somehow rich without being overwhelming. In fact, I could have eaten all 6 without feeling ill.

One of the specials available on the night was the duck with zucchini flowers. This proved to be so intriguing, we ordered two serves @$22. The duck was a preserved version i.e. similar to a duck proscuitto and was very silky. The light batter on the zucchini flowers confirmed for me, once again, how wonderful zucchini flowers really can be- if done well. The zucchini ribbons added colour to the plate.

Sardines are a rather curious thing. Almost everyone has had a traumatic experience with the
tinned variety. The salty sardines smoked on hot coals however, conjures up much more pleasant images. That is, until I eat said sardines and realise, once again, that I don't actually like sardines. These sardine fillets were served and looked especially inviting. Forgetting my dislike, I helped myself and then re-remembered why I don't like sardines. So I feel, I can't really comment on the dish because I had a bias to begin with. One of the sardine lovers on the table decided that he liked the contrasting texture of the fillets served with the side of crumbing.

The beauty of going with a bigger group is that you get to try things you normally wouldn't. Personally I would never have ordered the Revuelto of organic eggs with chistorra, bacalaó and peppers @ $17 but I'm really glad someone else did. I was a little worried when the bowl had excess liquid, but I should not have worried. The eggs were light but creamy, and the chistorra added a peppery touch. The whole dish felt soft in my mouth- very lovely.

I regret to say that the Pipirrana- Salad of tomato, cucumber, young onion, tuna belly and olive oil sorbet ($25) was snapped up before I had a chance to taste. I think this speaks volume for the dish though - and it did look pretty spectacular although these crappy photos won't do it justice.

I did manage to get some of the gambas al ajillo ($24) or prawn with garlic. The prawns were presented prettily, but I wasn't overwhelmed with the flavour of the dish. The prawns were tender, but upon reflection, I can't remember much else about the dish. Perhaps a little bit mundane.

The Ajo blanco with Smoked eel and grapes was something that was very interesting, but something that I wasn't really willing to eat. I do try to be adventurous, but I have to know my limits. I had a very bad experience with eel a while ago and ever since then, I can't bring myself to give it another go. In terms of presentation, it certainly was the most visually spectacular dish of the night. The form added a beautiful dimension to the dish and everyone remarked that the eel was particularly smoky. Apparently the ajo blanco- which is like a white version of gazpacho- was wonderfully nutty. The table couldn't believe the difference with eating the eel with an accompanying grape. Obviously a lot of thought had gone into the pairing, and the end result, according to the eel eaters, was that it worked fabulously.

Carrillera de cerdo estofada ($20) – Pork cheeks slow cooked with almonds and Fino was one of my choices for the night. This dish caused division at the table. The pork cheeks were perhaps not slow cooked for long enough because they didn't fall apart as I would have expected. I initially found the accompanying sauce to be a little underwhelming, but later caught myself wanting more. The dryness of the fino or 'spanish sherry' was evident and the almonds made a nice addition.

My final dish, and the undeniable (in my mind!) winning dish was the Escabeche of Quail with bitter leaf salad for $25. The quail was tender, the bitter leaves were bitey and whatever the accompanying sauce (maybe cauliflower) was gorgeous. I slyly kept getting extra sauce because it was so creamy and wonderful and when I dipped the quail in, my mouth came alive. I want to go back and ask the kitchen to please make me a whole bowl of quail and sauce and I'd happily devour the whole thing.

Throughout the night I sipped on Cascabel Tempranillo for $55 and the Golden Grove Tempranillo, which despite being one of the cheapest bottles available was sold to us as a real performer. At $30 we figured it was worth a try, but overall I'd probably pay the extra $25 to go with the Cascabel. These were both Australian Tempranillo's but there was a whole list of Spanish Tempranillo that were available for a considerably higher cost.

Overall, Ortiga provided a wonderful dining experience. I was entranced watching the kitchen and the food was very sophisticated and elegant, though still keeping that ever-important rustic Spanish edge. I am excited for the future of Brisbane dining and I will be back at Ortiga, dragging whoever I can, very soon.

446 Brunswick St 

Fortitude Valley QLD 4006 - 
(07) 3852 1155
Open Tue-Sat 6pm-11pm

Ortiga on Urbanspoon

9 fabulous comments:

Annabelle said...

It warms my heart to read a glowing review of Ortiga. P. and I walked in a few weeks ago with high hopes, we had a light meal of tapas & wine on the top level.
I found their tapas banal and uninventive, but the atmosphere/decor was great - I wanted to like it. I must go back to give their restaurant a proper go.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Don't you just groan when there's "romantic" lighting? :P the food looks quite good here! I had to do a double take with the eel. I thought it was a dessert! :)

Julia @Mélanger said...

I've been really keen to get to Ortiga since it opened in December. But not raced there yet since I've heard mixed reviews of the place, particularly from some Spanish food aficionados. It certainly sounds interesting enough though for my less knowledgeable palate.

Anonymous said...

Went to Ortiga last night (6 May). Have to say the decor is superb - pity that the food and service do not match. The quality of food was generally good however, the quantity left a lot to desired. Despite being told by the waiter that the portions were for 4 people most were only enough for 2 (as long as you are on a diet!). For example, the tuna dish had 2 pieces of tuna on the plate - both of which would have been about 2 cms square. All of the dishes were similarly skimpy and did not have 4 of anything on the plate.

When we raised this with the staff we were told to order more! Great approach to customer service!!

Ortiga is a great place if you are on a diet. Personally, I think a pie cart outside the front door would be a huge success. Or be ready to visit Macca's on the way home.

A huge, greatly overproced disappointment

Gastronomy Gal said...

Gee Anonymous, I'm really sorry you had that experience. I personally didn't think the sizes of the dishes were particularly small for tapas style dining and I really enjoyed my experience. It's funny how two different people can have two totally different experiences.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous. Portions were tiny - although the prices weren't. If you ask the staff at Ortiga they tell you that there dishes are NOT "tapa's" - just light meals. If it was a tapa's restaurant every person on the table should be served on the common plate a serve of what is being offered and this was not the case.

I definitely would not go again. There are so many other lovely restaurants in Brisbane where you don't break your bank balance but still have a great and fresh meal. If you work out per head what we paid I could have dined at Ecco for exampleb- which is a superb restaurant.

I find it quiet ironic that this type of dining and prices would not be offered in Australia's food capital Melbourne. If restaurants want to bench mark against superb dining and food experiences they should take a trip to Melbourne.

Thumbs down Ortiga.

Gastronomy Gal said...

Just out of interest, did the two anonymous people dine together? I'm really surprised about your experience! I loved it, and I think it worked out less than $80 per person for with wine included- and we were all full.

I agree that there are some fantastic restaurants in Melbourne- i.e. movida is one of my favourite restaurants of all time!! I'm not sure ortiga - be it tapas or sharefood (referring to the general style)- is in the same league, but I still really enjoyed it. I'm sorry you didn't!

It's really interesting to hear other points of view on restaurants I review, because I guess I can only review my experience and the food I was served on the night.

Feel free to leave your contact details/ recommendations next time- I am always up for trying new places, especially ones where my readers have had great experiences :)

Barbara said...

The tapas I ate in Spain were always in a bar, standing at the bar. Then we went elsewhere for dinner. I'm not a fan of sitting at a table eating tapas for a dinner as we do here in Australia.The whole tapas experience in Spain is about moving between the bars all in the one area trying what each bar offers. I'm looking forward to trying Ortiga and I hope they offer a tapas menu and a dinner menu.

Anonymous said...

I have been to a fair amount of very good restaurant, especially in France and Italy.
Ortiga is very very expensive for the amount and the quality you get in your plate... First of all, the waitress kindly advised us to get at least 3 or 4 dishes which are all around 20-25$ each. Fair enough but first we wanted to order one, which was apparently a problem. She actually tried to pressure us into taking 3 oir 4 dishes.
So, not only, the food is expensive, but they force you to order more than you usually order.
Now, We were expecting great cuisine....well, it was good, but far from being great.
Pretencious restaurant, trendy probably, but do not fool people who know what a really good restaurant is. It is not Ortiga!

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