Friday, February 25, 2011


Wednesday night dinner was a visit to the newish Dieci e Mezzo (half past ten?) restaurant in the base of the new ACTEWAGL building here in Canberra. With a chef ex of Otto in Sydney and some cluey owners, Dieci stretches across breakfast, lunch and dinner services, with a largely Italian menu (though does not pass itself off as such).

There is some good Italian cooking, respectful and daring, going on in this kitchen. Some excellent marinated fish and gnocchi were had. After a Menabrea beer while looking through the menu and list, two other dishes stood out for me as interesting experiences with wine:
- A savoury pannacotta made with a deft loading of taleggio cheese sounded like a good chardonnay match to me. The chardonnay (from the good winelist, as this is not really a BYO venue) was a 2009 Oakridge. The matching did not work at all. Even though the food texture was light and creamy and the cheese flavour restrained, the chardonnay needed more weight, texture and generosity to complement (and compliment) the food. As it was, the wine looked thin, tinny and green-edged, all bone no curve, and exaggerated the mild fungal note of the taleggio.

Moving on...
- Veal stracotto with kipflers and quail eggs. Lots of soft, stewy, sweet-edged savoury textures and elements in the stewed and pulled-apart veal. The excellent service at Dieci included a suggested additional salad that provided a contrast of light, bright, crunch and acid: pea shoots, inner leaves of red radicchio, pickled red plums, pistachio. A winner of a salad, and exactly what the dish needed.
The wine I had was a glass of Nerello Mascalaese, a red wine from a grape often overshadowed by Nero d'Avola. A little wild, brambly spice (almost reminiscent of mataro), a pulse of ripe tannin and enough easy acid to balance the sweetness of the slow-cooked veal. Tenuta Della Terre Nere the producer, if I recall correctly.

So the unfamiliar Italian wine the better match with both the braise and the salad, while the pairing I thought most likely did not work at all. But definitely a restaurant to go back to. Very different to Italian & Sons, but a strong addition to Canberra's options.

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