I was really curiously excited about Torba Restaurant, not only because it's close to me and I'm lazy but because it offers Eastern European cuisine. What on earth is Eastern European cuisine? I spent 3 months in Europe recently and whilst I've pizza'd, gelato'd, French fried, kransky'd, souvlaki'd and streusel'd my way through Western Europe, we didn't venture further east than Germany.
Torba may or may not be the first Eastern European restaurant in Brisbane but it's definitely the first I've ever tried. Marc and I made our way there on a Thursday night speculating about what kind of food we were in for. When we reached the restaurant, most of those thoughts exited my mind because it looked far too trendy to be thinking about food. In my puzzlement about what Torba would feed us, I forgot that it was also a lounge and cocktail bar. I admit that I expected, I don't know... stone walls and low rustic wooden benches with mounted boar heads and buckets of potatoes. Instead, Torba is chic and totally suited to the South Bank Parklands night scene.
Moscow Mule and Cherry Orchard
Marc and I perched at one of their outside benches to enjoy the light breeze. I was delighted to be presented with a cocktail menu bordering on novella. It was several pages long and everything sounded delectable. I went with the Cherry Orchard and Marc chose the Moscow Mule. The cocktails were very yummy and a nice blend between tasty and alcoholic. As far as I'm concerned, that's all that matters with cocktail mixology.
For food, we were both so confused with the menu options that we had a tasting platter each. Easy and diverse.
Let's get to the food. I may have stretched a bit when I said I didn't know what to expect AT ALL. My very generalised, narrow-mined and ignorant view of cuisine from that part of the world included a lot of potatoes, carrots and um, dough.
Tasting platter (L to R): Ukranian pirogi, Russian salad, Russian blini, Russian golubci
To cut to the chase, it turned out I wasn't that far off. Our tasting platters comprised of a large pastry, Russian blini (crepes), cabbage rolls and potato salad. There was also something rolled in eggplant that I couldn't identify.
The food was well, strange. I'm glad we tried it. I suppose it would be accurate to say that it wasn't unpleasant. But it wasn't amazing. For me, the flavours need to pop more, especially when the components are potatoes, carrots, cabbage and dough. They're ingredients that simply don't stand out much on their own.
Marc and I commend Torba for their effort in presenting the food in a fancy way. The big problem is that the food itself is fairly, well homely and pedestrian. And that's a non-issue. We LOVE that kind of food. We love potatoes. We love pastry. The problem is that it doesn't really fit with the whole cocktail lounge bar decor. We can't marry the idea of pink drink in martini glass with a cabbage roll. Maybe I'll be proven wrong but for me, cocktail hour is more suited for fancy refined canapes and whilst I can sit down and enjoy hearty, rustic food, I'll need a den environment and a beer.