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Morena, Surry Hills

Morena is a relatively new restaurant in Surry Hills, where the old Battery Seafood used to be. It serves Latin America food with a strong Peruvian influence. Now I have never had Peruvian food before, so wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Head chef and co-owner is Alejandro Saravia, who used to run his own company ‘A taste of Peru’ which is a demonstration / cooking class of Peruvian Cuisine. Alejandro has also worked at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck and Les Ambassadeurs (Paris), Pier Restaurant, Salon Blanc, Opera Bar and Sails Restaurant at Lavender (Lavender Bay) in Sydney.

The place was empty when we arrived for dinner at 7.30pm, we were the only customers there but by 8.30pm, there were other diners in the room, three other tables perhaps?

There’s a six course degustation on offer but we both opt for a la carte.

We started with amuse bouche, mandarin ceviche, it was deliciously light and refreshing.

The bread is baked on premises daily, a warm round roll with quinoa with coriander seed and black pepper infused Italian olive oil. It was tasty and so hard to stop at just one.

M started with Tamal Verde, Peruvian style green tamal with confit duck Maryland and shallot and coriander salsa. The duck was tender and succulent, the vegetarian tamal was quite lovely and complemented the duck well.

I opt for the Andean Garden, desiree potato and huacatay gnocchi, poached royal blue potato and kestrel potato crisps on lima bean puree with quinoa soil, broad beans and heirloom carrots.

Oh my, what a pretty dish! Three different types of potatoes are used here. The deisree and huacatay gnocchi was soft and pillow-y. The slices of royal blue potato and kestrel chips all had different flavours and textures. I certainly enjoyed the quinoa salad, the yellow heirloom carrots gave it a nice sweetness to the dish.

For mains, M had the Trigo Andino, Andean style barley with queso fresco, baby peas and heirloom carrots. Very similar to risotto, this dish was quite heavy and very filling.

I couldn’t go past the Lomo saltado a lo Morena, 300 grams fed charcoal beef striploin served lomo saltado style with baked Peruvian yellow potatoes and huancaina sauce.

I did ask for my beef to be cooked slightly longer, but it was a little tough and dry. The huancaina sauce, I didn’t enjoy as much, it was rich and too creamy for my liking. The potatoes were great though, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. It was a relatively large serving, unfortunately I didn’t finish this. I still do think Porteno does the best meat and that chimichurri sauce is excellent.

We were both getting quite full at this stage, we shared a dessert, marshmallow de incaberry, incaberry marshmallow, strawberry gel, purple corn jelly, incaberry dust with white chocolate mousse. I loved the marshmallow, and the white chocolate mousse was a wonderful complement. The soft jelly however was incredibly sour that it was over powering!

Service was definitely friendly, our waitress knew everything on the menu and explained each dish to us. The food was nice overall but not sure if I would return any time soon. Each dish was beautifully presented and plated but it just lacked something for me, no wow factor or punch. The beef was definitely let down, and the dessert was so so. I did enjoy my entrée though, the different types of potatoes and quinoa salad was definitely a hit.

I do love the front entrance, the hydroponic lights, think it would look pretty cool at home!

GA’s ratings: 6 / 10

Morena

425 Bourke Street

Surry Hills 2010

Ph: +61 405 902 896

Morena on Urbanspoon