Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sydney Weekender 5 - Lunch Feast at Xanthi

Xanthi Bar and Restaurant

Whilst our trip to Sydney wasn't planned around any 'foodie' destinations, I did very much want to check out the food offerings at Westfield Sydney. I knew there were a bunch of newish restaurants there and that the food court itself had a notable selection. We wandered up after 1/2 a day's worth of shopping and had a look around. The food court reminded me of the big shopping centres I visited in Singapore and Malaysia that had all kinds of fast food stalls offering quirky things ('Haute Dogs anyone?') rather than standard Maccas and KFC. I was tempted to stop there but we went up a floor to see what the restaurants were like.

Kat and I were tossing up between Chat Thai and Xanthi. Chat Thai has a hot reputation and there was a queue to get in. I do want to try it one day but on that occasion, my desire for Greek food won out and we went into Xanthi instead. I'd actually read up about it online and saw lots of rave reviews. They also had a lunch special that sounded enticing.

At first I thought Xanthi was just a tiny restaurant because of the tables outside (by outside, I mean outside the restaurant front but inside the shopping centre). We were lead in to a decent-sized restaurant that once inside, didn't feel like part of the shopping centre at all.

The food and beverage menu is very Greek, down to the types of beer and wine on offer. There was goat on a spit on offer on the menu but our waiter informed us that it had sold out for the day. What a pity!

Kat and I went with the lunch special, which is excellent value at $30 for a host of entrees, lamb as main, dessert and a beverage.

Greek cherry cola soft drink and Greek beer

For our drink, we could choose between house wine, beer or soft drink. Kat went with the cherry cola (also Greek) and she really liked it. I took on a Greek beer, the Mythos, which was honey-like but too sweet for me.

Flabread with tzatziki, split pea dip and tarama

The flatbread and trio of dips were brought out to start with. I loved the split pea dip most. The 'pink one' (tarama i.e. salted and cured salmon roe dip) was also delicious albeit slightly too salty. I steered cleer of the tzatziki because it was insanely garlicky. Kat liked the tzatziki best though.

Greek olive oil

There was a little vial of Greek olive oil on our table too and I tried dipping some of the bread in that. It was a tasty olive oil!

Greek salad

The Greek salad was nice and fresh. I thought the tomatoes were really yummy. The feta was soft and mild.

Barbecued haloumi - with heirloom tomatoes, mint and honey pepper figs

The haloumi was served on a bed of minature figs. I'm used to haloumi fried and crispy but this was just served warm and sweet. It wasn't bad but honestly I prefer them crispy. I didn't think the sweetness worked that well.

Vine leaf dolmathes - with a herbed vegetable filling and an egg lemon sauce

I normally hate dolmathes because I find them weird and vinegary. These were served warm with a creamy lemon sauce. This made them edible but I still didn't enjoy them. I think it's a personal thing.

Fried calamari - tossed in Xanthi spiced dukka and served with ouzo mayonnaise

The calamari was Kat's favorite dish. I thought they were pretty amazing too. They were cooked just right with no hint of rubberiness. The tubes were tender and the tenticley bits were really crunchy. They were too salty but not enough to distract from how good they tasted.

Lamb skaras - slow braised lamb shoulder marinated in paprika, garlic and olive oil, served with baked lemon oregano potatoes and steamed string beans

We were getting really full by this point and our main hadn't even arrived yet! We were relieved to see that it wasn't a huge serving. The lamb was braised to melty perfection. I sometimes get slow-cooked meat that is spot on in the texture department but bland in terms of flavor. This lamb was not only falling apart in our mouths but had a glorious charred flavor.

Baklava ice-cream

To finish off our fabulous feast, we had a slab each of baklava ice-cream. I got all giddy and exclaimed to Kat "baklava is one of my favorite desserts!" And that it is.

Nutty caramel deliciousness

The ice-cream hinted of baklava with the layer of syrup and crushed nuts. With the caramel, it was just divine.

I highly recommend trying Xanthi. I loved that they were Greek to the small details of beverages and even the olive oil on the table. There were many 'classic' Greek offerings like the dips and Greek salad, but I noticed plenty of less common dishes on the menu too. The lunch special was excellent value and we were full to the brim afterwards. Also, because it's a set menu, all the food was brought out quite quickly too. Our waiters were friendly, which added to the pleasant experience.
Xanthi Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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