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Patagonian Toothfish

Patagonian Toothfish on Urbanspoon
Minced beef balls in tomato base gravy(foreground) and the popular pork chorizo sausage slices (background).

It was a dark and stormy night. All right, more wet than stormy. I have not gone back to the streets of Redfern ever since I attended Sydney University with wide-eyed wonder or just drove along its fringes on the way to somewhere (Glebe or Newtown or Broadway). Instinctively and quietly, I had a rising thrill inside, with flutters, as to how I would rediscover Redfern, so near Sydney's city centre and yet in character maybe so far away.  The classmates who attended classes with me had since gone on various paths but under the cover of evening, memories still came back to me.   The part of Redfern five of us embarked upon for dinner was more Surry Hills to me than the Redfern of the railway station and its adjoining lanes.  Parking was not easy to find, the light rain drip drapped along and we saw a strikingly attractive shop display of craft - giant Red Indian head, a cuddly big bison head and more.

Entrance to the Patagonian - subdued, with low lighting but with ambience inside.

We arrived at our meal destination, with a distinct tooth fish sign in red lights at the door. Lighting was low. Patagonia reminded me of school geography, the tip of Tierra Del Fuego across the border in Chile and is definitely Argentinian. Everyone I knew during the great Aussie dollar era went to Macchu Picchu, Sugar Loaf Mountain with the giant Jesus and trendy parties in Sao Paulo.  Why this fish?   Bruce mentioned about the feud between Argentina and Australia way back when the South American boats were alleged to have intruded on Australian waters in the pursuit for more tooth fish. Interesting enough, my US and Canadian mates say this sea creature is more popularly known as the Chilean sea bass. Whatever its label, the fish itself has a confronting big mouth and is of the darker shade in colour and appearance.  Argentinians call it the Merluza Negra and they weigh anything from seven to ten kilos each. Not only do humans devour them, but they are also eaten by sperm whales, colossal squid and southern elephant seals.  Michael mentioned that this restaurant caters to queries for live specimens as well.
Sangria on glass - and you can have your choice of white or red versions
I looked forward to the tapas which are a landmark of this rather authentic place. The antipasto platter was already unusual, in that they had dried apricots and Brazilian nuts, in addition to the cheese, olives and chorizo. We landed up with a selection of several tapas and loved most of them so much that we willingly wanted seconds. My favourite of all was the Champinones al Ajillio, a rather poetic name for a tasty delight - mushrooms sautéed in olive oil and garlic, garnished with a dash of chili and cream! Oh yes, Italian fare has a comparable dish as well in this regard. The other top tapas that night in my view was the Calamares Fritos, salt and pepper squid served with aioli.   I would also recommend the really tender and juicy char grilled baby octopus, heavenly on the palate with just a tomato and BBQ marinade (the Pulpitos a la Plancha).  We also had traditional Spanish meatballs in a spicy tomato salsa, chorizo served with chimichurri and Papas Fritas (deep fried potatoes garnished with aoili).   I did eye the soft shell crab and the pan fried prawns from Seville (Gambas a la Sevilliana) but all of us were already really full by then.

Louis attended to us attentively and I looked upon him as both butler and marketer.  He is charming, makes suggestions and always made sure we were not left to our own devices, swooping in like an eagle on a timely basis and ensuring that we had a flow and energy from the cuisine. The lovely young lady who cleared our plates knew that perhaps we were running out of space on our table.  We were seated under a canopy on the pavement as it was full inside and the last time I had such an ambient location was along Lygon Street in Melbourne's Carlton.  On a next visit, I already have in mind the paella with blue swimmer crab and saffron Jasmine rice; the seafood fettuccine and a pumpkin salad.
Desserts are limited to churros but the choice of drinks is really good.  The national cocktail of Brazil, the Caipirinha, is available - it is made from sugar cane rum. You can also choose Mojito, Margarita, Cuba Libre and Pina Colada.

Louis tells me that they also do corporate or private party catering.  He mentions that they are open for breakfast.  Maybe the only thing the restaurant do not serve as food is the toothfish itself.  The lunch menu has a spectrum of burgers, penne, wraps, sandwiches and paella.  The evening we were there, many of the diners were of Latin American background - couples, families and twenty somethings. I felt that I have discovered a gem of a delight in Sydney town. There are cozy seatings, bigger tables and corner hideaways. Would I return?  I just plan to.  Lisa came all the way from the Shoalhaven area and Chip, from Little Bay.  I reckon we were all glad we did.

My top tapas dish that evening - delicate and tenderly braised mushrooms in a wholesome sauce.


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