Welcome back to those Dear Readers that are back at work after Christmas holidays! I hope you all had a relaxing, wonderful time! And to those in bushfire affected areas, I hope you are all ok :) Mr NQN and I had a relaxing holiday which consisted of cycling and kite surfing. Well, for Mr NQN anyway ;) I mostly caught up on the season's worth of Downton Abbey on the couch. Well, you know me right? ;)
I couldn't do nothing the whole time and of course cakes were baked, feasts were plated up, people were visited and birthdays and new years was celebrated and then it all came to a slow moving halt yesterday when we both realised that it would be the last day of the holidays and we would be back the next day-today. So we packed up the car with kite surfing gear and a picnic rug and we drove south to Dolls Point for a spot of kite surfing for Mr NQN. It was around 5.30pm when he finished and then I turned to him and asked if he wanted to go to Alphabet Street with me since we were in the area. I had first heard about it on Tania's blog and it went straight on the "to eat" list. I rang at about 5:45pm and booked a table for 6:30 that evening.
I hadn't been to Cronulla for the longest time. So long that everything looks quite new to me and kind of like we were on holiday. Alphabet Street is on the corner of The Kingsway and Elouera Road. Named after the Prince song "Alphabet Street", owner Oriana tells us that it came to her partner Joe as a restaurant name choice when he was listening to the song. It seemed to suit the place as the lyrics" I'm going down to Alphabet Street" suggest a place at which to hang. It isn't their first restaurant; Joe had Rambutan in Darlinghurst's Oxford Street. Oriana tells us that the menu is cleaner and fresher and they have brought the chef from Rambutan with them.
It's a small restaurant but mercifully, it takes bookings and the prize tables are the ones on the balcony facing the water. As we had just booked and those tables were reserved, we're led further into the restaurant past the bar with the wall of plants (the park), the wooden cube outlines (the buildings) and the drop lights (the streetlamps). The concrete is of course the pavement and everything is designed to look like a street. Diners can also see into the open kitchen along the back wall.
The menu is different from your standard Thai and and this is perhaps why everyone seems to be flocking to it in droves. And I make a mental note that when I come back, I should dress up as Cronulla girls are very fashionably dolled up and here I am without a lot of makeup wearing thongs and a sun dress.
Betel Leaf smoked trout $5
Ordering was easy and we were recommended a few things by the bartender while we were waiting for our table. There are two betel leaf miangs, the first one is one topped with a neat pile of flaked, smoked trout which is balanced with tomato, fried shallots and capsicum relish. The mouthful is full of flavour with a soft texture.
Betel Leaf Prawn $6
The showgirl sister of the above is the betel leaf with prawn and arrives in a bird cage no less. Placed in a small Chinese teacup and wrapped around with an egg net, like a eggy lace pancake, it is sweet and crunchy with roasted coconut, herbs and fresh prawns inside.
Roti Mataba $14
The roti mataba is a stuffed roti pastry filled with chicken and without the peanut and cucumber achar it tasted like a buttery chicken pie but add the spicy and sweet cucumber achar and the peanut sauce and it takes on a new flavour profile. The only complaint? The four quarters were a little on the small side and we could have easily had more.
Pla Dib $18
Initially, we had only ordered the roti and the two miangs but when we saw this arrive at another table, we quickly put an order in for the Pla Dib. With three salmon and three kingfish sashimi slices wrapped around green apple batons, at first I thought that they might have been too sweet but a careful balancing of flavours and the addition of red onion, herbs and green chillies makes these spicy little morsels very good indeed.
Seared Scallops $24
The mains arrived soon after and the first was really somewhere between an entree and a main in terms of size and price. The seared scallops were soft and sat atop a mound of banana blossom, caramelised eschallots and herbs. It's rich and sweet and comes with a scarlet chilli sauce with the aroma of belachan or fish and coconut cream that is worth mopping up (alas, that's the only problem with sharing and that's getting all of the sauces). We used the sticky rice to do that.
Sticky rice (in basket) and coconut rice $4 each
There are actually four types of rice available here: white jasmine, brown, coconut and sticky rice. We went for the last two and I particularly liked the sticky rice whilst Mr NQN preferred the coconut rice.
Slow Cooked Beef Cheek $32
"I wish we had gotten the lamb" I said to Mr NQN, while ladling some of this into my bowl. We had seen countless plates of the lamb shank massaman go past us with a lit cinnamon quill imparting a delicious fragrance into the air. I take a mouthful of the beef cheek that has so easily parted with a nudge of the fork and spoon. "Oh ok, I see," I said between mouthfuls. "Oh no, well I'm glad that we got this one, I'll shut up now," I finish. The slow cooked beef cheek is a generously portioned size with a rich star anise aroma and if I could liken it to any dish it would be Vietnamese Pho with a richly flavoured aromatic broth and softer than soft beef.
Brulee of mango risotto $18
There are two desserts on the menu and both seemed quite different to each other so we decided to try both. Alas, we hit a bit of a road block with one of the desserts and the love affair stalled a little. The sticky rice risotto cake is dry and has a slightly rocky layer of caramel on top. There's a tart mango coulis, a raspberry sauce, mango cubes and a little coconut cream but it's the only course that we don't finish. It's also quite expensive in comparison to the other courses.
Even though I'm not a huge chocolate orange lover, this cute flower topped version of a tiramisu is the pick of the desserts. It's a moussey, light orange layer on the bottom and crunchy chocolate crumbs on top. It doesn't have the layers upon layers as does a traditional tiramisu but it's well balanced in both texture and flavour.
Very happily full, Mr NQN and I venture off into the busy streets of Cronulla. And yes I still want to come back for that lamb curry!
So tell me Dear Reader, are you back at work yet? And what was the most exciting thing that you did? And is anyone else watching Downton Abbey? If so, which is your favourite character?
5/8 Kingsway, Cronulla, NSW 2230
Tel: +61 (02) 9544 0756
Bar open 7 nights from 5:30pm
Dinner: 7 nights from 6pm
Lunch: Wednesday to Sunday from 12pm