There are a small handful of dishes, cooked by an equally small number of amazing chefs, that I’d travel for. At the top of my list is Chef Armando Percuoco‘s fettuccine al tartufovo. Chef Armando’s fettucine with cream and parmesan, topped with a fried truffle egg, and tossed at your table, is one of those life-altering dishes. To me, it might just be the best pasta dish I’ve ever had, anywhere in the world. This ridiculously simple yet rich and oh so delicious plate of food is, quite simply, worth flying all the way to Sydney for.
Of course, there are many other gustatory reasons to go to Sydney–like Kylie’s duck, Tets’ ocean trout, Bill’s scrambled eggs, Peter Gilmore’s Sea Pearls, or this week the Sydney International Food Festival’s World Chef Showcase. But none (to me) are as addictively appealing as Armando’s truffled egg pasta. I’ve actually written about this heavenly plate of food back in 2005; in fact, it was my 10th post. But that was just a little reminiscent musing. This weekend, thanks to Tourism Australia, Tourism New South Wales and the Food Festival bringing me in for a little song and dance on stage, I’m getting the chance to revisit some favourite restaurants, as well as try a few new ones. Of course, the first place I ran to, within hours of landing on the ground, was Buon Ricordo.
Armando’s Italian restaurant is a real Sydney institution. It first opened in 1987 and has been a must-visit for foodies from all over the world ever since. The restaurant itself is housed in a charming townhouse in Paddington. There are two dining rooms spread out across two floors. The lower level is more casual and homey. The upstairs room is more chic, its walls displaying a veritable treasure trove of paintings by some of Australia’s top artists. Small statues adorn each of the tables on this second level.
The food is refined Neapolitan comfort food. It’s both brilliantly-executed and very well thought out. The day we visited, it was really nice to see that Antonio and his partner Gemma recognized a majority of the customers, greeting them by name and joking with them. That kind of warm greeting is what turns diners into regulars, encouraging them to return again and again.
S and I started our meal with a plate of antipasti, of which the lightly battered and fried zucchini flowers were the star. For our next course, I, of course, had truffled egg fettucini. S had a plate of the sweetest, most beautiful, fried gamberetti (small shrimp). My fettucine, as I had expected, was gorgeous, and as good as I had remembered. I also had the pleasure of having Chef Armando “toss” mine for me personally. While he was doing that, we had a quick chat about what has become his signature dish.
Armando had an interesting point to make. He told me that in a chef’s career, one rarely creates a truly innovative or unique dish. Most dishes, he rationalized, are really just tweaks of age-old recipes. Some will try their hardest to constantly innovate dozens of “new” creations, but will ultimately fail. To him, he said, a great chef is one that can create and can be remembered for one truely great and original dish. Tetsuya’s ocean trout is such a dish, he told me. He further declared, “When I created this fettucine dish, I knew I could really call myself a chef.”
For my main course, I had a lovely 300 day aged steak, served with braised shallots and a balsamic reduction. S had a beautiful Timballo. We were both thrilled by how Armando had been able to take a heavy 18th Century pasta pie and transform it into a lighter, more modern plate of stuffed cannelloni with hardboiled egg, diced ham, green peas, and a fresh tomato sauce.
Unfortunately, because we had to rush off to a meeting, we had no time for dessert. But that just gives me yet another reason to return as soon as possible.
108 Boundary St,
Tel: (02) 9360 6729
Fax: (02) 9380 8955