Àuge22 Grote Street, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia • +61 (08) 8410 9332 • Map • Website
Have you ever had a dining experience which has redefined a food for you? I have never been much of a fan of tuna. The few times I have had tuna steaks in restaurants they have often been dry and somewhat tasteless. This was far from the case at Àuge where the tuna course rose to such heights it made me an absolute fan and left me feeling I had scooped the best dish of the month prize (and believe me - that is a hotly contested award!)
But perhaps I should start at the beginning. Àuge has intrigued me for a while now. It is tucked away unassumingly on Grote Street with the only sign of brashness being a cute white Vespa on the doorstep. Ushered inside we were confronted with somewhat bland decor - some beaten copper, and a water feature pond by the bar and then a small but long dining space with comfortable banquettes and lots of linen and shiny glassware.
I had been intrigued by the name of the restuarant, which seemed very French. I was told that it is actually a Piedmont name and is pronounced "Au - jay".
Certainly the restaurant has won a lot of awards and written on the glass of the window we were seated by was a list as long as my arm of awards for best restaurant, and best Australian Italian restaurant. In the SA Restaurant and Catering Awards of Excellence Àuge has won or been a finalist for best restaurant or best Italian every year since 2003. Surely we were up for something a little special.
We decided to choose a serious wine to go with our meal and, after much discussion with the sommelier Alessandro, we selected a Barbera d'Alba 2007 from the Vietti vineyard in Castiglione di Falletto. We had enjoyed Barberas and Barolos before (notably at Marque) and were keen to try some more. I knew that it probably wouldn't match my tuna main course but decided I needed to have some anyway. And boy was it good! The Barbera grape has a shiraz like density and roundness without as many tannins and with an undercurrent of complexity that you never seem to find in the big Aussie reds. We sipped happily from suitably massive wine glasses and planned our holiday to Piedmont where we would search out the vineyards where such wine was made and then picnic on prosciutto, ciabatta and taleggio while further tasting the superb wine of this region. It must be done - it WILL happen!
After an uninspired amuse bouche of a mini parmigiana the meaty wine went very well with my first course of braised pork hock (five hours) with a slice of pork & blood sausage, pan fried gnocchi romano & calvados. My partner went for the pan fried quail breast with braised quail, cabbage & battered quail leg. His quail was also a revelation. I have rarely ever had this chewy little bird without finding it tough and tricky to eat, whereas his pan-fried breast was moist and delicately flavoured and almost melted in my mouth when he gave me a taste. My pork hock was, as one would expect, falling apart after its five hours of braising. It was very tasty but the accompanying blood sausage had an interesting consistency and wasn't as tasty as the blood puddings I had grown so fond of in Scotland. One notable part of this dish was the accompanying parsley, which was some of the strongest tasting I have ever come across. Obviously Àuge has some seriously good suppliers.
I wistfully drank more of the tasty wine then set it aside to enjoy my insanely good seared blue fin tuna with air dried tuna, tuna crudo & white beans. The tuna is apparently flown in fresh daily from Port Lincoln - perhaps its freshness had a lot to do with the taste but I must also pay my respects to the person with the frying pan who was searing our quail and tuna that evening. He or she had the knack of cooking things just long enough to impart flavour without killing the moistness. My tuna was pink on the inside and superbly moist and tasty. The white beans were delicious and the accompanying "mince" of raw tuna and air dried tuna gave a delicious salty tang that lifted the dish from a simple to complex taste sensation.
My partner ordered the venison rack rolled in brioche with braised venison belly & lentils cooked in a venison broth. The venison was also perfectly cooked and could have been cut with a butter knife. He queried the accompanying lentils as making the overall dish almost too much as a main. As part of a degustation a touch of this dish would have left you clamouring for more - however the generous serve here along with the lentils and side dishes of enough potatoes to feed a small family and mixed green vegetables left his inner peasant struggling somewhat.
As glorious as that tuna had been I needed something to match the rest of our superb wine, so I had cheese instead of dessert. A Miloa, like a less creamy talleggio and the interesting and punchy Testun. Once this cheese is suitably aged it is placed in the must from Nebbiolo and Dolcetto grapes to impart some of their glorious flavour. Yet another reason for that holiday to Piedmont and it went superbly with my remaining wine.
My dining partner accessed his separate dessert stomach and had the dark chocolate pave with candied lemon puree, warm vanilla filled dumplings & raspberries. The pave was silky in texture and was apparently delicious. The dumplings were like Danish æbleskiver - fine rolled balls of light batter. I had expected them to be stuffed somehow with a vanilla filling but they were simply flavoured with vanilla essence.
Having dined long and well we were then offered some free glasses of port and some date and nut petit fours. The service had been excellent throughout apart from our amuse bouche arriving in the middle of Alessandro's spiel about wine. One nice touch however was watching a waiter coarsely grind some pepper corns by hand for a customer whose pepper dish was empty.
We loved Àuge and I am going to make it a point to go back for lunch one day and try some of their hand made pasta. I'd like to accompany it with anything seared I can find on the menu to once again appreciate that pan wielder's finely honed skill!
Visited: 10th April, 2010
The Red Book rates:
The Red Book also recommends these other fine dining restaurants in Adelaide:
- Blanc Bistro & Grill (31-81 O'Connell St, North Adelaide). Amazing SA fish. Specials like seared bluefin tuna with tempura prawns and a seaweed salad. Seafood platter and tiny cupid oysters plus great salt and pepper chips. (Source: Qantas inflight magazine)
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