Is grass always greener on the other side?
Because there is an award-winning restaurant literally 400 meters down the street from my house, but somehow I am still getting inside the car and drive 1.5 hours into Sydney for dinner. Two years, with a very good reason, I finally have my first dinner at Onda restaurant with The Pom to celebrate his web company’s big milestone of 11 years. Happy Birthday to QiQ for great success!
Onda restaurant has been awarded as the Best Italian restaurant in Central Coast since 2005 to 2008, but the menu has a wider array of European flavours than the usual pasta and pizza. We’ve booked a table at 7.30pm, we put our shoes on, leave the house, a steady stroll down the street, and we still arrived at the front door 5 minutes early. A massive renaissance black ram’s head vase greets everyone as they walk through the door. Once inside, I am overwhelmed by the wall of fame which has totally swallowed by award plates and run out of space, with the newly awarded Winner Best Restaurant Caterer Central Coast 2009 plate is now simply leaning on the bench below. I actually do not take this whole “award winning” game too seriously, especially in Central Coast which I believe is a matter of everyone gets a slice of the cake each year if you get my drift.
An appealing lunch & dinner special menus are on offer at most restaurants in Central Coast to encourage diners to venture into the restaurants. We decided to go forth with the 3-course Spring Dinner Special menu at $57 with a glass of wine. While reading the menu, a plate of canapes is presented at our table, without any introduction what it is, the waiter just walked away. The little morsel is definitely tasted like seafood. Later I have to eavesdropping while another waitress explaining what it is to the diners next table and found out that it is crab meat with micro leaf and truffle oil.
The Pom’s entree is a delightful slice of Madeira Marsala duck pate with star anise infused tomato chutney, served with sourdough, two cornichons and pickled spring onions on the side. The duck pate has a lighter flavour than usual, and a very subtle hint of sweetness from the tomato and basic jelly layer. I don’t think I can taste any of the Marsala wine in the pate, but its creamy smoothness makes it a beautiful spread on the soft sourdough. The tomato chutney is rich and beautiful on its own, but it is a little overpowering on this dish as a whole. Personally I think there are too many different distinctive flavours in one dish and clashing with each other. Not to mention there is also a light green trail of mint sauce.
My entree of deep fried squid coated in semolina is absolutely divine. The squid is perfectly fried with the softest flesh I’ve ever tasted with the homemade lemon garlic aioli to accentuate the best flavour of the sea. The salad has a fusion of oriental flavour with warm chick peas, chili and garlic salad. The salad is a little oily from the chili oil, and while I like my buttery soft chick peas, it gets a little gritty on its own when the squids are already long gone.
For main, the Pom orders the Lemon and thyme chicken breast which comes with a generous portion of goats cheese, polenta and sweet potato bake. The chicken is well cooked and succulent at most part, but I had a taste of the thickest side and the flesh is a tad dry which is the common issue of cooking a thick chunk of chicken breast. It can be easily resolved by mopping up the port and thyme jus on the plate. I like the triangular polenta pyramid, it has the soft texture like a quiche with a subtle hint of goats cheese flavour.
When my main arrives at the table, I gasped and simply astonished by the size of the dish. The slow cooked lamb shank is seductively resting on a massive bed of coucous, enough to feed a whole third world country. Despite the slow cooked method which brings out the fall off the bone tenderness of the lamb, I actually wish it is served in a puddle of cassoulet or casserole for that ultimate lamb-tastic experience and less coucous on the side. As I found myself keep reaching for that glass of wine on every mouthful of lamb meat and coucous that won’t budge and refuse to swallow. The portion size of the dishes here at Onda are definitely much bigger than the ones in Sydney as I am pretty much full to the brim by the time I finished my main, with a little mall gap that might just be able to squeeze another dessert in.
The Pom goes for the traditional sticky date and fig pudding, served with butterscotch sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. A cupcake-size puffy top sticky date pudding prevents it from standing tall and is leaning sideways, but it doesn’t stop the Pom devouring the rich and moist pudding with glee. So simple, so delicious, so contented.
Usually I love my dessert to look like an art sculpture, and my white chocolate panna cotta with guava champagne jelly definitely doesn’t look too shabby. However, the whole theatrical ensemble of flavours on the plate just doesn’t seem to work. The white chocolate panna cotta is smooth and bouncy with a light vanilla flavour, the guava champagne jelly gives it a little tang on the tongue. The big disc of almond laced tuille is getting a little soft from warm air but it is a nice piece of caramelised joy. Then there is a scoop of strong rich passionfruit ice cream, served with a puddle of soury strawberry and rhubard coulis. Again, another trail of green mint sauce. All components of the dish is beautiful on its own, but is a confusion in flavours when eat them all together.
I think Onda has great dishes that just needs to be more refine and tone down on the ingredients they used and let diners to taste one flavour at a time. Less is more. When the bill comes, we noticed a small mistake as the desserts had been billed as individual dishes instead of part of the Spring Dinner Special, simply because we ordered them after we had our mains. The prices are pretty competitive here in Central Coast and definitely on the par along the restaurants in Sydney. Having said that, the portion of the meal is definitely twice as much and best value for money.
Not to mention, it is only another 3 minutes walk from home.
Onda Restaurant 150 Terrigal Drive Terrigal, NSW 2260 P: 02 4384 5554 Business Hour: Open 7 days Lunch from 12 noon Dinner from 6pm