Every Tuesday evening Vini in Surry Hills runs regional dinners. After visiting sister restaurant Berta last year for a sagra dinner that I absolutely loved, I was eager to try a regional Italian 4-course meal at Vini. On this particular night the chosen region is Sardegna (or Sardinia to us English-speaking beings).
The 4-course dinner is $55, and a matching wine flight is an extra $31 on top. It's great value for a delicious and educational dinner that introduces me to Sardinian cuisine. I'm particularly taken with the fact that we get a description of the preparation of every single dish.
To start we get three morsels of bite-sized starters each. I try the leather jacket first. It's poached, then left to sit in a walnut reduction for 24 hours. The walnut reduction is made with garlic and vinegar and is reduced to a paste. I'm always a bit apprehensive when there are fish bones involved, but the fish comes of the bones easily and has lovely flavours from the walnut.
The calamari tentacles are cooked separately, then stuffed into the squid with anchovies and breadcrumbs. It's first grilled, and then finished in the oven. Finally, it's topped with fried parsley.
The third of the starters is agnolotti, which I find very fritter-like. Made with onion, zucchini and flour to produce a dough, the agnolotti is baked on cabbage leaves and served with crispy olive on top. I'm always one to champion vegetable dishes and this doesn't disappoint.
The main event is a fregola minestra, a Sardinian semolina pasta dough in a tomato, basil and saffron sauce. There's cheese throughout the fregola, which has a great chewy bite to it. It's reminiscent of a risotto, but enriched with more sauce. This is my favourite dish of the night. It's warm and satisfying without being too heavy.
Polenta is treated as a main in Sardinia. We're served polenta with a pork & fennel sausage ragu, cheese and a side of chards. Beautifully hearty and full of flavour, this shared dish is the perfect segue to dessert. I do however find the chards a bit too bitter for my liking.
The Sardinian oranges dessert is a trio of orange skins, fig tart and Sardinian pecorino. Orange skins are soaked in water to make a syrup, then in left in the fridge to produce a biscuit-like slice. Served with a tart of figs with fennel liqueur and pecorino, it's a versatile dessert that isn't cloying or overpowering. I find the fig tart (it's more like bread or a biscuit) too hard for me, though my date enjoys it, and ends up eating my share.
The Sardinian wines are also worth a mention. We are given three glasses to pair our meals, pleased with every glass. All in all, a wonderful evening out that I highly recommend. Make sure you book in advance, as I was put on the waiting list and luckily managed to get a last minute call from Vini the day before, which informed me of a cancellation.