A corroboree of country and chemistry.
MENU HIGHLIGHTS Tongue in cheek roti; “soup soup”; surf and turf; Moreton Bay bug; quail; set buffalo milk VALUE 9.5/10 AMBIANCE Glamping at Central SERVICE Well-trained WOULD I GO BACK? If I’m ever in Adelaide
I wonder if anyone has paid so much respect to the Gadigal people of the Eora nation as Jock Zonfrillo and his 22 blessings. Every single one of Zonfrillo’s 22 self-contained flavour bombs had something wonderful to say. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the yabber of tastings coming at you left, right and centre. With a few breaths between courses, it’s over in the blink of an eye. In three hours, that is.
Most dishes arrive at the round, wooden table in groups of three. I found this a bit stressful, because one’s melting while the other is getting cold. Too much meat and fish on the table simultaneously is a bit disorienting. On the other hand, I can see that eating 22 courses served individually would be exhausting.
Orana is in Sydney until September 15, and you would do well to visit it. It’s a pop-up, upheaved entirely from its Adelaide home to which it will soon return. This uprooting is built into the meal price, so I’ve made concession for that in my assessment (“It’s cheaper than a flight to Adelaide”, so they say). For $350 (prepaid), you can lock yourself into an outstanding dining experience. Orana is currently #3 on
. Orana was named Australia’s best in 2018 by Gourmet Traveller‘s Australian rankings Gourmet Traveller, and the best in 2019 by . It’s the only Good Food three-hatted restaurant in South Australia.
One of the main difficulties with Orana is that you can’t go back for more. You only get a sample of each thing. Usually, that’s for hedging your bets (some people will like some courses, and not others). In this case, every course was a safe bet.
Feel free to follow the picture commentary below to experience the flow of dishes.
Potato damper. It cooks in front of us on the coals, and smells like school camp (in a good way).
Who doesn’t love hot bread? Also, the extra char here was my fault. The restaurant gave us the freedom of cooking the damper to the extent we saw fit.
The lamb butter is whipped, and so am I (with it).
Macadamia milk dotted with native thyme oil.
It’s very warm, very rich, and very divine. Drunken like a premium hot chocolate.
Poor man’s orange, roast lamb jus and river mint. This combination is seriously original, and it works!
Ama Ebi (raw-ish prawn), crocodile lardo (fat), and BOAB dust. I have never eaten boab before, nor did I realise any part of that tree was edible. You have to block your nose before taking a bite, because otherwise you will sneeze in the same way you do when baristas sprinkle too much cocoa powder on your cappuccino. The lardo was far too generous, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy a prawn topped with a worm of semi-hardened fat.
Emu egg custard with a strip of suspended sea urchin. Compare this to the way emu egg is used at Attica, and you have a clear winner–Mr Zonfrillo. The emu egg is so subtle it could have been mistaken for a nut milk panna cotta.
Bunya nut miso, spiked with fried saltbush, was savoured in a delirious blur (as pictured). It was presented as a ‘surprise’, underneath the lid of the emu egg custard.
Lifting the lid, there’s a pesto-like deposit of wakame on top of the oyster. The freshness of the seaweed sends you, with the oyster, straight back into the ocean.
Bunya nut cream cheese (vegan cheese that tastes like hummus)! We smeared it onto the yam crisp, popping along with some wild trout roe.
I completely agree with Terry Durrack in his Orana in Residence review. This “long yam crisp” was more like an oily, bubbly piece of toffee that became annoyingly stuck in our teeth. Toffee doesn’t make for a good dipping implement. It can’t be snapped like a cracker, but it crumbles like filo pastry.
“Surf and turf”. Smoking away above its own serving bowl like a dying Aussie bushfire. These skewered cubes were a serious highlight.
Peppered wagyu. This was so good, my partner wished they’d served it as a complete dish (or as an entire wagyu steak). The Davidson plum marinade was bloody spectacular.
Curried toro (blue tuna belly). Any day of the week, I’d visit a restaurant just to try that curry sauce pooled in a takeaway container, eaten at the steering wheel (Jesus, take the wheel). If only they would serve a full fish curry dish (if only we had stomach space).
Coral trout, celtuce, warrigal greens and eucalyptus.
The green sauce, which included sage and citrus, was an outstanding triumph of clever cooking. It was somehow buttery and clean at the same time.
Normally, I’m not the biggest razorfish fan, but it suited its ‘gubinge’ (a green, native plum) playmate.
Streaky Bay razorfish.
“Soup soup” is the name of a beautiful crocodile broth brewing in this decanter. It’s infused with Australian botanicals, including cinnamon leaf, Geraldton wax, lemon myrtle, mountain pepper, and more!
Geraldton wax suspended in a mini mug of the “soup soup”. I could drink this all winter.
“Tongue in cheek” roti. Jerked leatherjacket cheek and lamb tongue have surely never tasted this good.
Little cones of kohlrabi, strips of quandong, a whipped tofu centre, lemon myrtle sprinkles and “dorrigo”. I am impressed that the Japanese influence of this dish didn’t need to extend beyond the tofu and the kohlrabi cluster. In the absence of fish or seaweed, it’s genuinely turned Australian.
“Return of the bread”, implanted with wattleseed. When you arrive at Orana, bread dough is proofing in a little stone pot under a glass closh. It’s collected, returned to the kitchen, and comes out later, baked like this. The crusty shell around the ball-shaped loaf broke like pastry. The skill that goes into making bread like this is so impressive. It’s consistently cooked through, moist, crunchy, warm…
Macadamia butter with native thyme. It melts and infuses into each wedge of the hot bread.
Kangaroo, layered over smoked potato and wattleseed miso, sitting in a pandanus broth. This is the best-cooked kangaroo I’ve ever eaten. Attica did a great kangaroo tartare, but there’s no doubt having it cooked as well as roast beef is more difficult to execute.
Moreton Bay bug, topped with green ants. The green pond in the bottom of the bowl is Geraldton wax. It’s a shame we weren’t given spoons to collect the green gold. There were, arguably, a few too many hand-held dishes (although the absence of cutlery was compensated for with warm, wet towels). The ants weren’t spikey like they were when I ate them on top of a marshmallow at Attica. They’re certainly much more palatable when they’re soft like this.
Quail, minya, Boon Luck farm greens and a kangaroo grass shoyu dipping sauce. The quail was smoked (most restaurants serve it almost raw). I don’t think anyone apart from Igni has done quail this good.
The set buffalo milk dessert was like a sour panna cotta, as firm as jelly.
Poured on top was a viscous, strawberry reduction, spotted with bright green eucalyptus oil.
Jillungin tea was served luke warm.
Petit fours (well, threes). An Orana Vovo on the far left, which is basically a white marshmallow covered in coconut and raspberry.
Dear readers, I apologise for the poor quality of these little snack pictures. In the centre, there’s a “Coopers sparkling ice cream pop”. It’s coated in a thin layer of dark chocolate, filled with ice cream. On the outside, a ring of popping candy circles the perimeter like a river pebble. On the far right is a “paperbark ice cream sandwich”. The biscuit is extremely chewy. Having never tasted paperbark before, I feel like I experienced it extensively today, but cannot put the taste into words (it’s not distinct).
MacRoberton chocolates, served in this cute butterscotch box.
At the forefront of this picture, was the best version of a Cherry Ripe I’ve ever had.
In the middle, paperbark ganache. On the far right, a buffalo whey caramel. Each of these melted smoothly enough to indicate whoever made them is a master of chocolate tempering. I was almost hesitant to eat these mouthfuls of art. Almost. They were like an edible watercolour canvas, with brushstrokes of Aboriginal painting. Beautiful inside and out.