With Quay booked out until mid January, Mr. Taste surprised me with dinner reservations at Pendolino for my birthday late last year. This one-hatted restaurant nestled at the top of the Strand Arcade feels like Sydney’s own little piece of Europe. It’s almost like you’ve stumbled in from an unmarked alleyway in Venice.
Pendolino turns your assumptions about Italian food on its head. Dark, elegant and mysterious, Pendolino is a delightful find in this city’s crowded (and sometimes monotonous) gastronomic scene.
The menu at Pendolino is not available through the website – and some of their best dishes are not listed at all, but are instead offered as a daily special. Chef Nino Zoccali (ex Otto) has a skillful command over flavours: the dishes are rich and layered with an element of surprise. This could have something to do with the extensive range of extra virgin olive oils that are at the centre of Pendolino’s dishes.
We start with a Kingfish Cappacio, an old favourite that never fails to impress. The kingfish is sweet to taste while the capers and rocket cress add an intriguing bitterness. I’m normally used to some sort of citrus with this dish, but with Pendolino’s rendition, I really don’t miss it at all.
When our waiter was reciting the specials for the night, the word ‘squid ink ravioli’ piqued my interest. Sure, I’ve had squid ink noodles, but never in a pasta. This dish turned out to be the standout of the evening and really made my night. The ravioli was stuffed with feta and baby scallops and sat in a sea urchin and clam reduction. The texture of the ravioli was beautiful, wafer thin and yet with lot’s of bite. This had to be one of the most successful uses of squid ink that I’ve ever seen.
I was so captivated by my ravioli, I hardly touched Mr. Taste’s Milanese Risotto.
Our shared main of pork belly was an interesting dish. I couldn’t fault the pork belly, it was cooked to perfection and the white bean and potato puree was an enjoyable complement. But I was a bit thrown by the use of citrus in this dish and in particular, the blood orange extra virgin olive oil (which I actually loved with the complimentary bread).
Although I was ready to pass out, we found it hard to pass up the dessert special, a passionfruit trio comprising of sorbet, jelly and panna cotta. Individually, the components were nice, but when combined, the flavours really came together. The sorbet was no doubt my favourite of the three.
A big thank you for Mr. Taste for spoiling me with this wonderful meal.
Shop 100, Level 2, The Strand Arcade
412-414 George Street, Sydney 2000
02 9231 6117
Open for lunch Monday to Friday from 12pm – 3pm and dinner Monday to Saturday from 6pm until late.