Rookie Eatery - Wollongong NSW

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Elegantly appointed, with a charisma of white painted picket fenced walls - that is my first impression of the Rookie Eatery on entering through its front door.  I felt like coming to a bud's home, after climbing up a small wooden stairs like in a Queenslander - and yet the inside reminds me of being back in New Zealand, sans the cold weather but with the South Coast NSW warmth.

Every dining table has fitting white cloths over it.  The dining area can be seen separated in two sections, with the kitchen prep section transparent and the windows retro and adding to the over all good feel.  The menu does change in the past year and the place was abuzz with diners even on a week night.  Dishes offered ooze with detail, care and thought.  It is BYO for wine at lunch time and on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.  There is a share plate of Sirloin beef, with de Paris butter, for two guests plus a degustation menu available.   The drinks menu in house is extensive and balanced.

Our main customer engagement staff hailed from Dunedin, she is petite, has a sense of humour and was working all over the restaurant that evening. We would have loved to say hello to the chef as well.   Our plates and cutlery were changed before each offering. We could not run dry of drinks, even the San Pellegrino water.  Tables can be considered placed tightly against one another but every one that evening did  not seem to mind.

Corn fed chicken is served with a green curry sauce, garnished by young coconut and coconut flavoured black rice - and topped by a green curry mousse for measure.

The duck breast as elaborated on the menu is accompanied by Peking sauce, celery, pickled onion, pearl barley and shallot.  This is very East Asian, but only one example of several dishes that echo various styles, sauces and ingredients.  So modern Australian in foodie approach. So fusion, yet not.
I felt like entering an Aladdin's cave of culinary inspiration.

I noted the careful selection of unusual ingredients like Samphire, red Sorrel, Yuzu fruits and Nasturtiums.  Things I don't even find in celebrity chef pop-ups, social media much acclaimed restuarants or in places that charge an arm and a foot for the experience...

As the night progressed, I realised we went through Mediterranean secrets, Japanese gems, Indian ocean traditions, Australian flair, tropical adventures and good ole Mum's recipes from way back.

My top choice for mains that evening - uplifting grilled snapper and exquisite tasty cuttle fish surrounded by Bonito or Skipjack tuna mayo, zucchini, charred cos and Nori powder of edible seaweed.  Light, fresh and delightful on the palate.

From our table I can see on the shelves, behind the barista coffee machine,  liquors like American Honey, Midori and Galliano (both Black and White); beers like James Boag, Sierra Nevada and Kirin plus the Somersby Cider; spirits like Jameson, Captain Morgan, Bombay Sapphire and Dickel whiskey; champagnes like Tempus du Brut and the Perrier Jouet; plus reds and whites mainly from producers in the South Australia, Mudgee and the Margaret River.   The end of meal cuppa was strong and flavourful.

Henkell Trocken Piccolo
Louis Bouillot Blanc Deblanc
Tempus two Brut
Perrier Jouet NV
Two Italian Boys Moscato
The Hill Pink
Kaesler Rizza Riesling
(Barossa valley,
SA) 2013
Inigo Seven Hills Riesling
(Clare valley, SA) 2014
Greenstone Point Sauvignon Blanc
(Marlborough, NZ) 2014
Breathing Space Sauvigno
n Blanc
(Margaret River, WA) 2014
Alta Sauvigno
n Blanc
(Adelaide Hills, SA) 2014
Shaw & Smit
h Sauvignon Bla
(Adelaide Hills, SA) 2014
Burns & Fuller
(Adelaide Hills, SA) 2013
goo Chardonnay
(Mudgee, NSW) 2014
ot Grigio
(Adelaide Hills, SA) 2014
Prodigal Son Cabernet Merlot
(Margaret River,
WA) 2012
Angoves Organic Merlot
(winemaker’s blend, SE Aus) 2013
Clare Wine Co. Cabernet
(Clare Valley, SA) 2012
Hugh Hamilton Cabernet S
(Clare Valley, SA) 2012
Greenstone Point
Pinot Noir
(Malborough, NZ) 2013
Warramate Pinot Noir
(Yarra Valley, VIC) 201
Ulithorne GSM ‘Dona’
(McLaren Vale, SA) 2013
Johnny Q Shiraz
(Barossa Valley, SA) 2012
Kaesler Stonehorse
(Barossa Valley, SA) 2012
ra Shiraz
(McLaren Vale, SA) 2012
la Shiraz
(McLaren Vale, SA) 2013
Kalleske Shiraz
(Barossa, SA) 2013

Oxtail beautifully meshed with coconut milk, chilli jam, Mung bean noodles and Nam Phrik Thai chilli hot condiment -  further garnished with peanuts and Kaffir lime aromatics, finally sitting on betel leaves.  West meets East, a back packer's culinary dream gone so refined.  This is a most innovative entree, a must have and will set the tone for guests.  The top entree preferred by my table companions and myself.

For a future entree, I have in mind to try the North Atlantic scallops, fennel, Nasturtiums, bacon and almond Tarator.  The last named ingredient is a dip based on cooking styles in Eastern Europe, mainly Bulgaria, Serbia, Cyprus and Turkey.  It consists of Tahini or yoghurt, ground walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, cucumber and herbs.

Nasturtiums refer to a plant for which seed pods, leaves and flowers are all edible.   Flowers to use in cooking must be harvested just as they are open, how both delicate and demanding this can be.  They taste like a cross between slight sweetness and mustard.

The other entree that caught my attention is the serving of Sand Whiting with spanner crabs, soy Mirin ginger, oyster emulsion and garlic shoots.  This Whiting is a coastal marine fish unique to the eastern side of the Australian continent, mostly from Cape York to Tasmania, but also found stretching out to New Caledonia in the South Pacific, Papua New Guinea and as nearby as Lord Howe Island.

Potato dumpling starter uplifted by Parmesan cream, crispy Jamon, sage and duck egg flavours.

I found comfort in the potato dumpling - this was a most satisfying brew of both subtle and strong flavours, all in harmony to remind me of a country side styled culinary classic, and yet with a touch of class in boldly having ingredients not found elsewhere.  The duck egg sensations jumped out to my palate, the dry cured Spanish ham of Jamon was appreciated and the Italian cream cheese sort of held every thing together.

I did ponder a bit indecisively over whether to have the Red Miso infused lamb neck, with carrot puree, Mirin grilled eggplant and lime Kosho.  Mirin is a delicate rice wine, with a higher sugar content but less alcohol than most.  Its use to highlight the flavours of Aubergines is interesting.   Garlic, chilli, salt and citrus zest are carefully blended to make the Kosho.  Well, a definite next time for the lamb, as I was already having more than my fill of the menu, there is much to choose from.

The Wagyu beef Tri-Tip, served with Samphire, Swedes turnip, Shitake mushrooms, Pepita or pumpkin seeds and spy butter jus.

My dining companions found the beef absolutely tops, with its rare countenance, its presentation with a gratifying mesh and the wonderful inclusion of marinated mushroom slices.   Aussie roast and grills tend towards rare instead of well done - and in this instance it worked perfectly adding a mellow texture, to complement the greens and relaxing gravy.  The top mains as voted by my table companions!

The night carried on with banter, fascinating conversation and a rather liberating feeling.....

I was so wrapped up by the experience at Rookie's that evening - great company and conversation as well - that I literally forgot to take photographs of our dessert choices.

 The Peanut Parfait appeared to be harder than anticipated at first crack, but allowing for a few minutes, this good looking fella could have melted a woman's heart and palate, providing crunchiness, flavour and wholesomeness - it reminds me of the first day of school holidays as well, with that feeling of sheer abandonment and relief.  The chocolate sauce was not over sweet and the peanut brittle had that optimal roast quality. Yum!

In contrast, the Yuzu Curd proved to be a bit confronting to me, primarily because of its tart, sourish taste, maybe accentuated by red sorrel, although this was offset by the carefully chosen garnish of thyme, hazelnut crumb and Mascarpone.   The Yuzu fruit resembles a small grapefruit and is said to be a cousin of the sour mandarin, originates from Central China and Tibet and is also popular in Korean cuisine.

Red sorrel is a perennial herb often used in soups and teas in some cultures - the clever inclusion of this in dessert opens my eyes  - it does have health benefits of improving eyesight, strengthening the body's immunity system, providing potassium and improving digestion processes.  The downside of red sorrel is its oxalic acid, which in small amounts is fine but not in larger quantities.

My vote goes to the ice cream cookie sandwich for desserts sampled that evening - smeared with caramel sauce and banana cream, it was perfect simplicity in contrast but holds a sentimental value from childhood.

I would love to return.

Rookie Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Wollongong Rookie Eatery is located at 125 Keira Street in a old fashioned wooden house beaming with character in Wollongong city centre.
Contact telephone number +61 2 4228 8371
Opening hours are from Wednesdays to Saturdays for both lunch and dinner. Lunch is from noon  to 3pm and dinner is from 6pm to 10pm.


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