Went to Essenza with a large group of friends recently to celebrate a special occasion. When travelling in numbers a few benefits arise, one you get to split the bill which is always great, but also you get more variety as everyone has differing tastes and you get to nibble on everything on the menu and hopefully find something new and surprising.
We went for a Sunday lunch and the restaurants Special Lunch Menu was available at $32 per person for a three course Menu which is terrific value.
I arrived promptly at 2pm as per the invite but as usual some decided to arrive fashionably very late. After thirty minutes of waiting and half of the party already there I become quite peckish and decided to order a few entries whilst we waited.
Left Calamari Fritti w Aioli, caramelized Pear & Rocket $15
Right Tomato Buffalo Mozzarella Bruschetta $14
Right Tomato Buffalo Mozzarella Bruschetta $14
Beef carpaccio w Radicchio, Rocket Salad Parmesan, Capers 16
The Beef was the standout of the entrees, simply a gem of a dish, I was quite tempted to order more, but the bulk of the guests had arrived.
Beef carpaccio is a fairly recent culinary creation, it was first served around 1950 in 'Harry's Bar' in Venice, originally prepared for Countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo when Harry learned that her doctors had recommended that she eat raw meat.
History and health benefits of raw meat aside for anyone who hasn't tried Beef carpaccio before or wants to venture into raw meets, this is the place to begin.
Just creamy rich flavours, simply amazing, it isn't quite like a steak tartare as it doesn't have any spices mixed into it, its a very simple dish with just the right ingredients.
As for the other two dishes, the Calamari was cooked well, with a terrific tartare sauce and the Bruschetta had crispy bread and nice ripe tomatoes for a sweet taste.
After everyone had finally arrived we got on with the ordering of the Set Menu, I've included prices below for the items that are available in the regular menu.
Melanzane alla Parmigiana
Arancini, Mozzarella Rice Balls $12
The two choices were very good, but I chose the Melanzane alla Parmigiana as I've never tried this before. Translated this simply means Eggplant Parmesan, not knowing this at the time and struck by the presentation, I was very satisfied with my starter. The eggplant was soft and absorbed the cheese, it combined to make an incredible tasting dish, definitely recommended.
The other option was the Arancini, this dish goes back to the 10th century in Sicily, it is a ball of risotto rice, mixed with mozzarella and peas, covered with bread crumbs and fried.
Ms Foodblogger, wanting to be different chose the Arancini trying to be safe and within her foodie knowledge. She wasn't disappointed the shell was nice and crunchy, and the rice inside was gooey and cheese covered, another great side.
I had a quick nibble on her starter, if I hadn't tasted mine I would be quite pleased.
Crusted Dory Fillet with Fennel Orange & Pine nut Salad Agresto Sauce
Slow Lamb Shoulder, Roman gnocchi, Eggplant Fritti, Mint Yogurt $29
Veal Saltimbocca Alla Romana $27
I hadn't had Veal in a long time so it was the logical choice for me. Saltimbocca is italian for jumps in the mouth, the meat is traditionally marinated in wine and salt water then cooked in butter and Marsala, this is a wine produced in the region surrounding the city of Sicily . The veal was the best of the three options, it was light and flavored, and the side salad was dressed to suit the subtle flavours but not to overpower it.
The lamb shoulder was cooked well, the meat fell of the bone easily and the eggplant fritti and gnocchi complemented it well, the sauce though was a bit bland, and the yogurt unfortunately exacerbated the situation.
The Dory was the exact opposite, the salad and sauce were exquisite and a great match for seafood, the fish itself was very soft (not crumbling) though it lacked a bit of flavour from within.
It still baffles me and Ms Foodblogger why some people choose to have gelato and ice cream in favor of a proper restaurant prepared dessert. As far as I'm concerned I could have it from my fridge and it would taste just the same.
Regardless of my opinion, to each to his or her own, as you may of guessed I chose the Crème Brulee. The key to a good Crème Brulee is crunchy slightly burned top layer and sweet custardy inside which is creamy and holds together. This had both elements and I enjoyed my dessert to the last morsel.
The gelato (yes I had a taste), was well made, it had mixed flavours which worked well together and was not too sweet but still rich and creamy.
Essenza is a perfect place to have lunch like we did, the interior lets in natural light and gives it a great mediterranean glow. The staff and owner were very accomodating and friendly, having patience with our late arrivals, additional reservations and also some of our party's special dietary requirements. We had a great lunch and recommend all the try the lunch special menu, at $32 per person this represents great value in the heart of the city.
S & S
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