As the Easter weekend crowds started to spill out the freeways to grasp at a few days off work, we met up with friends for a quiet dinner at what is fast becoming a local favourite: Esposito. Formerly the Carlton stalwart "Toofey's", the seafood specialist has maintained a reputation for quality produce prepared with skill and simplicity. Executive chef and owner Maurice Esposito together with head chef Mirella Willingham have created a menu that brings diners clean, clear flavours of the sea. There's plenty of gusto, but the plates are not over cluttered with unnecessary trimmings.
Take the Seared wild Canadian Scallops with duck tortellone, syrup of raspberry vinegar & spice ($21) - a simple presentation that hides subtle nuances which enhance not only the flavour, but also the texture of the scallops. Also worth a mention was a Northern Territory mud crab special. I'm lazy when it comes to crab - the work to reward ratio just isn't high enough for me to bother most of the time, but thankfully they'd done the hard work for me, resulting in a beautifully fresh and slightly sweet flavoured dish that honestly surprised me (in a good way!).
Being a seafood specialist, carnivores won't find a huge selection of beasts from the land, but our less aquatically inclined dining companion found both his quail entree and eye fillet main to be particularly satisfying. The Nori wrapped Atlantic Salmon is a favourite with Alicia, mostly due to it being accurately cooked to order. She prefers her salmon to be quite rare, and usually finds most restaurants have difficulty preparing it this way. Not so at Esposito: a perfectly cooked rare salmon fillet accompanied with tempura zucchini kept her quite happy on this occasion.
The wine list is not huge: a page each of whites and reds, a hefty selection of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc hints at the usual patron selections. A dozen or so varietals provide some more interesting options, but after a week of hard decisions, my mind, like that of our fellow diners, couldn't be bothered thinking too hard (or at all) and we ended up with the decidedly unoriginal choice of a coldstream hills Chardonnay. I know, I know: Boring. But you have to admit, it's still a good drop, and it suited the menu well.
As usual, service was generally competent, but a few empty glasses (why do they insist on taking the bottle if they're not going to refill your glass?) and water mix ups took the polish off what was otherwise a very well presented evening. By the time we finally staggered out after demolishing a particularly good Bombe (the tartness of the raspberries was a refreshing palate cleanser after all that seafood) our minds were clear: we'd be back for more.
- Crayfish Tortellini in a corn and crustacean broth
-Seared wild Canadian Scallops duck tortellone, syrup of raspberry vinegar & spice
- Quail Saltimbocca pancetta, pear tartin, radicchio and vincotto dressing
- NT Mud Crab, picked from the shell with apple, ginger (special)
-Nori wrapped Atlantic Salmon shiitake mushroom duxelle and a tempura fried zucchini flower filled with scallops
- Black Angus Fillet Steak mushroom ragout, potato purée and red wine and balsamic jus
- Wild Barramundi with cauliflower purée, anchovy and prosciutto fritter; herb sauce
- Raspberry and Chocolate Bombe with a salad of raspberries, strawberries & mint
2007 Coldstream Hills Chardonnay