Oh Catalina, Catalina! This meal was, I have to say a very much anticipated and a long time coming at this Eastern suburbs establishment of 18 years. And yes again I came to dine here as a result of a special deal, this time by a company called Lime and Tonic. For some reason I just haven't been able to make it here before now. But after this great experience I admit without hesitation that I will definitely be back especially as the warmer sunny weather is upon us, with a view to die for, a large menu for me to try more of and it's proximity to home. So yes looking forward to it again already, maybe for a long lunch next time on the balcony.
My husband who I'm going to call C from now on, arrived at dusk so we could enjoy the view for a few extra minutes before we slipped into some semi romantic candlelight ambiance. This wasn't ideal for photo taking, hence the crap photos. The restaurant was busy with businessmen, couples and groups of friends already, and had a buzzing vibe with waiters in abundance. I did notice a lot of full paying customers and also voucher diners. Again I don't think vouchers are a bad thing because they bring customers who probably wouldn't have dined their otherwise and if they liked it I'm sure they would tell of their experience and like me, will go back. It can be a bit embarrassing pulling out a piece of paper but this time it was specified that you didn't need to do this, which I think is smart as it is an easy thing to organise behind the scenes when making the reservation. Anyway back to it.. . .
We got handed our selected menu on a piece of paper with the wine and also the a-la-carte menu in case we wanted to order extras. The selection we got to choose from were the same dishes on offer to everyone else, just a smaller one. But it didn't matter to me as I already had a look on line earlier and lucky me the selections were the ones I would've chosen anyway! So I was very happy.
For beverages I had a glass of Janz sparkling, C had an Asahi and we also had a bottle of sparkling.
Crispy confit pork belly with seared sea scallops and cauliflower puree, shallots, port and pear jus, $31. You guessed it, my entree. I think I died and went to heaven. Confit pork belly!!! Cooked in it's own fat (not sure if it's actually pig fat or some other fat), it can't get any porkier! The crispy crackling was thin but very crispy indeed and once it cracked under my knife the meat underneath was so tender it didn't take much action to cut into a moutfhful of heaven. This pork belly was outstanding! I was consciously trying to force myself to think about the taste of the other elements on the plate. I tasted the pork by itself first, which was the best, then I mixed it up with a bit of scallop and then with a pit of pear and jus then the soft shallots and cauliflower puree. There was only one bouncy yummy scallop not scallops as on the dish description though, but I can forigve that shortcoming as it is the star that shone. I found it very hard to leave some for C to try. 9/10.
Catalina house smoked salmon with soft boiled duck egg, truffle mayonnaise and brioche, $30. I don't know about you but my entree totally blew this salmon out of the water even by looking at my dodgy photos. The portion looked smaller than my pork and not as many elements, but that's not a bad thing as the salmon, mayo and egg are all very rich. I had a mouthful of this and it was ho-hum. I couldn't really taste the truffle in the mayo, the salmon did taste better than normal smoked salmon, the duck egg very fresh, can't put in words how it's different to chicken egg and the brioche was just posh toast to me. I think I may have been still in pork heaven to have even thought about C's entree, there are better sounding entrees than this one.
Not sure if you noticed in my blog that I don't rate C's dishes as I think you need more than a mouthful to rate it.
Riverine beef tenderloin with fondant potato and truffle mushroom duxelle, $46. Another OMG moment, but not when I ate the beef, but when I ate some of that powerful, delicious truffle mushroom duxelle (chopped up mushrooms, usually with onion and shallots)!!! You cannot not really see this flavourbomb mixture, it's on the right peeking out behind the beef, but it was super finely chopped and the winning taste of the night. Seriously it was amazing, even outshining the confit of pork! The two rather big pieces of beef were cooked as expected perfectly to medium rare. The potato fondant was fluffy with a crisp coating to it, not as buttery as I thought it would be, but that's probably a good thing though. I was getting really full at halfway point. We even ordered a side of garlic potato mash, and also received a salad which apparently was part of the deal I bought. C managed to polish that off but not all the salad which was a mixed leaf one. 9/10.
Cone Bay saltwater barramundi with spanner crab parcel; sage and eschalot cream, $46. This dish, from earlier perousing of the menu was my main of choice, but I let C have it as he loves seafood more than me. It looked very pretty indeed with the deep fried enoki mushrooms on top as a garnish. They didn't taste like much but did the job of being eye candy. The barra was really nice on it's own but I loved it with the cream sauce. The spanner crab was wrapped in a cabbage which was a bit hard to cut for sharing, it was subtle in flavour and again tasted better with the sauce.
Classic lemon tart with Marscapone, $20. This was my choice as I can't pass up tasting another version of lemon tart. Each chef/cook has their own special recipe and the taste can vary so much despite being such a simple thing. I loved the simplicity of this presentation and the candle light made it look almost angelic. The tart was soft and you could tell the mixture had been created with precision and of the most utmost care as there were no lumps in sight, it was the smoothest and lightest lemon tart filling that I've eaten. I'm sorry to have to bring up a but, but it was a little too lemony for my liking. It kind of made my eyes squint with sourness with each mouthful even with a bit of the Marscapone on each spoonful. The base however was thin and soft which I loved. 7.5/10.
Salted peanut and caramel parfait. I can't remember exactly what this was called as it is not listed on their a-la-carte menu but that's my guess. This dessert was very very creamy and sweet. The layer of caramel on top was so yummy with the salt element in it, that when mixed with the parfait it was a huge hit of sweet goodness. You can't beat that combo. Hmmm feel like a salted carmel macaron right now actually. . The bit of dark chocolate on the left wasn't tempered chocolate as it wasn't crispy, it was hard to cut, but nevertheless a nice textural addition to the plate. We had half and half of each others' dessert. I don't think I could've eaten either dessert in it's entirety, the parfait, rich and the tart, too lemony. Ah the joys of sharing!
So all in all, the dishes were a definite hit and even if I was paying full price were worth it. The service was casual yet polished. No Eastern suburbs snobiness here either. C and I came to the conclusion that the flavours, presentation and all round execution of these plates were leaps and bounds ahead of Foveaux considering the prices and the 1 hat rating both restaurants have. Catalina's plates were offered with confidence and knew their purpose. No experimenting or hesitation. But I guess that is down to the age of the restaurants and the restaurants purpose.
I highly recommend Catalina for a nice night out but expect to pay at least $200 for two sans voucher.