Mister Bianco – Kew – Wednesday 7 May 2014 – Lunch

You are not supposed to have pasta for entree and main. However, is gnocchi and risotto part of the pasta family or just a close cousin? I’m for the latter.

When I’m trying a high quality Italian restaurant, one of the boxes I tick is the pasta, as long as it’s handmade. At Mister Bianco things came to a head. A very reasonable two course lunch offer had three choices for entree and main. Jumping out from the entrees was a decadent sounding risotto with mushroom ragu, and jumping out from the mains was a gnocchi with pork ragu. But there was no pasta offered.

Our waitperson suggested my order of “double ragu” was ordering “two pastas”. Like a good waitperson, she nevertheless nodded at my objection that risotto and gnocchi are not pasta (but I was not quite convinced she agreed entirely). Eyes wide open I was on my way to double ragu heaven or hell.

Well, it wasn’t quite either actually. The risotto used wild black rice which naturally stays firmer in texture, slightly too firm for my taste. For want of a better word, the sauce, which was almost separate to the rice (because it hadn’t absorbed as much of it as normal risotto rice like arborio, carnaroli or violone nano), was delicious. The wild mushrooms topping the risotto were terrific too. The sautéed mushrooms were beautifully cooked, but the point of difference was the almost crisp seemingly dried mushrooms, which may have been fried off to gain their texture or roasted at a high temperature in the oven, making them neither crunchy nor chewy.

The pork belly ragu with Sicilian semolina gnocchi was not great. I enjoyed the texture of the gnocchi which was quite firm, rather than the light and fluffy kind. However, I’m not sure the pork belly had been cooked/braised for long enough, or even if it was the right cut of meat to use. Either way it was a little chewy and because some of the pieces of meat were chunky I ended up leaving quite a bit to the side. I wish it was better because it would have affirmed my decision to order “double ragu”!

Both dishes were neither absolute hits or misses. I like the space that used to house Svago and the service was good. For $40 I thought the two course lunch was an excellent offering, but in a town that is full of great Italian I was expecting a little bit more.

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