I had a little trepidation when ringing to make a booking at Nourishing Quarter. It had been the record breaking wettest month in Sydney ever, and when I was told that I would be getting a courtyard table I had to confirm –
“Will I be undercover? Will I get cold?”.
The response was: “Yes, it’s quite cosy back there.”
Thankfully it wasn’t as bad as I feared. You walk through the main body of the restaurant, past the kitchen, past the dripping wet smaller courtyard at a lower level, and then up into a small back room with blankets, a heater and your very own waitress.
After confirming the gluten free options (everything except for the “pretty dumplings”) we ordered:
* nourishing rolls with Thom Mint
* ancient grains within our grasps
* amaranth and quinoa noodles salads (in two sauces) with crispy tofu
There were a selection of herbal teas on offer, and after giving each on an aroma test, we decided on the Vitali-tea for two.
It had lemongrass as one of the components and was quite delicate in flavour even though it had coloured up during infusion. Aren’t the tea pot and cup and saucer gorgeous? The pot was refilled with some more hot water when the chilli in the dishes got a bit too much.
The rice paper rolls were the first to arrive:
These are described as:
“South American Royal Qunioa grains, Omega-3 Chia Seeds, light stir-fried crispy julienne vegetables, diced tofu, rolled in Vietnames rice paper, served with NQ special Peanut & Bean Dipping Sauce”
Instead of the wheat based soy sauce as noted in the menu, the rolls came with a small dish of chilli sauce (it seemed like siracha sauce or similar), and a small dish of what seemed like fermented apple sauce with sesame seeds sprinkled on top. In fact, every dish came with these two sauces, which was my only quibble about the place. The rolls themselves were very meaty in a nutty kind of way, and quite delicate.
The ancient grains were served in big iceberg lettuce cups:
These are described as:
“Lettuce pouches carrying the red royal quinoa grains, with exotic mushrooms, marinade protein beancurd, crunchy diced seasonable vegetables & sprouts, served with sprinkles of sesame seeds, black pepper, Omega-3 Chia Seeds and a zesty sesame oil, lime and chilli accentuated dressings”
They appeared to be a vegan version of that Cantonese Chinese dish of Sang Choy Bow: minced duck in lettuce leaves. Being of a scientific bent, I had to poke through the whole dish and analyse what was in it. I think that got pretty much every ingredient, except for “this white crunchy thing, that doesn’t have a taste. It’s not celery, fennel, celeriac, or potato.” Our waitress didn’t know and consulted the kitchen. It was jicama.
The ancient grains were very quickly followed by the salad:
These are described as:
“An Asian-style noodle salad using Qunioa/Amaranth & rice flour base, and mung bean noodles with vietnames spearmint, coriander, roasted sesame seasoning, garnished with living sprouts and crispy marinated tofu”
I dived straight into this, because I didn’t want the crunchy stuff to go soggy. The crunchy stuff were skeins of twisted tofu/beancurd sheets that had been marinated and deepfried to “resemble” roast duck. There was a nice mixture of amaranth/quinoa noodles, mung bean noodles, julienned carrot and cucumber. It reminded me of a cross between a Thai and Vietanamese noodle salad.
The salad dressing was intriguing: I picked up notes of apple cider vinegar (not too harsh), toasted sesame oil, citrus and chilli. Not just the chilli sauce on the side, but there was some in the dressing too. I wouldn’t say that the crispy tofu stuff tasted like “duck”, more like “marinaded tofu”.
Dessert was a choice of either mango or a chocolate strawberry cheesecake. We chose chocolate cheesecake:
We were once again intrigued about how you would do a vegan gluten free “biscuit” base. It turned out to be coconut cream and peanuts (and possibly a little shredded coconut in there too: It reminded me of an Arnott’s butternut snap biscuit – the ones that are in the plain assortment). The “cheesecake” itself, I didn’t much care for, but H really liked. It had a slight ‘sour’ aftertaste to it, and the strawberry ontop looked like a defrosted frozen strawberry. Surprisingly the accompanying orange and apple slices, dusted with cinnamon were very tasty.
It was indeed, cosy in the courtyard. The total damage came to $65 for two, including a $2.50 charge for the extra cup for the pot of tea.
The list of ingredients in the ancient grains cups wethinks were: carrot, snow peas, red quinoa, coriander, vietnamese mint, wood ear mushroom, chinese white fungus, firm tofu, jicama, sesame seeds.
street: 315 Cleveland St, Redfern NSW 2016
Dinner Tuesday to Saturday in two sittings: @1800, or @2000 hours