I was posed with a challenge. Lorraine aka Not Quite Nigella was going to be in Brisbane for just 12 hours over a Friday night and asked me if I was free for dinner. Of course I jumped at the chance. I had a great time when Lorraine and I met in Sydney earlier in the year. It’s also so much fun eating out with a fellow food blogger. You don’t need to be embarrassed over-ordering and you’re not the only weirdo taking photos of your food!
The challenge? I had to find somewhere to show off a bit of Brisbane, that wasn’t too far from the airport (Lorraine’s flight didn’t arrive until 8.30pm), that would take a booking at 9pm. I made a short list and let Lorraine make the final decision.
Tartufo was the winner. It was a good choice. Even at 9pm when we arrived it was still buzzing. Tartufo is attached to the Emporium hotel in the trendy Emporium complex in Fortitude Valley. A little trivia for you – tartufo is Italian for truffle.
I love a restaurant that has a family story behind it. Head chef Tony says
“My father Mario was my mentor, teaching me how to organize things. my mother showed me the simple shortcuts on how to make a simple ingredient taste like something incredible. my brother Armando coached me through my life in refining what I learned not only through my family but through my training and apprenticeship with such large restaurants.”
What he has learned in his time definitely shows in his food.
Previously, this space was home to a French restaurant and much of the original decor remains. It actually reminds me a little bit of a very fancy European train station.
We were led to a round corner table with booth seating – my favourite way to dine. I like it because it’s nice an comfy although the people at the next table liked it for getting a little bit too cosy (yes it got a bit awkward!). The restaurant is a mixture of square and round tables of all sizes so can accommodate a romantic dinner for two or a big Birthday dinner, like the table on our other side.
The waiter (possibly maitre d) who showed us to our table was lovely. He reminded us of Howard from Father of the Bride (Frank the wedding planner’s assistant). We asked him for recommendations and he was most helpful running through the whole menu and pointing out his favourites. Our waiter after him wasn’t overly friendly. I don’t think he cracked a smile the whole night.
We placed our orders and were then presented with a mise en bouche. I’m not much of a soup drinker but when a shot of this smokey scented pea soup was placed in front of me I couldn’t help but sip at it. The flavour was quite rich with prosciutto (I think that’s what it was) and nice and smooth.
Lorraine got quite excited when she saw vitello tonnato on the menu. I’d never heard of it let alone tried it but I’m keen to give anything a go. The cold, thinly-sliced veal was so tender and tasty. I’m not a tuna or anchovy eater but the mayonnaise on top was really good. I’d describe it as salty rather than fishy and in a good way. This is one of my grandma’s favourite meals, mum told me the next day as I re-lived the menu.
We both agreed that micro-herbs and edible flowers seem to be in everything at the moment. They’re almost over-used (I blame Masterchef) but this presentation was just lovely. The four plump scallops were lightly seared and cooked to perfection. They melted in your mouth! I thought that the plate looked a little bit unbalanced though. Does it look like there’s a scallop missing on the right hand side to you?
This was a veal rack for a caveman. It was massive! I don’t think even a very hungry man could eat this on his own and we hardly made a dint in it.
Yes it tasted just as deliciously cheesy and heavenly as it looks in this oozing pic. The almond crumb I could have eaten just on its own. It was crunchy and so full of flavour. Inside is where the cheesy magic happened. The lamb rack was stuffed with fontina cheese, sage and prosciutto. Oh it was good!
I recommended this dish because I’d loved it on previous visits but it didn’t quite live up to standards this time. The pasta was a little bit sticky. I’d lift up one bit and it would come out of the bowl with a whole clump of pasta. The ragu was lightly flavoured and very tasty but the pasta let it down a little bit.
I had been to the Power of Mushrooms launch earlier in the week and had been raving about how fantastic they are so of course we had to order the mushroom side dish. It was something I probably could have had a whole meal of (along with the crumb from the veal).
We were so intrigued by the thought of jelly ravioli we couldn’t not order this dessert. Once again, decorated with delicate edible flowers, I told you they were ‘in’, this was a really pretty dish. It was more like a work of art really. The jelly ravioli was two rounds of clear jelly sandwiched together with smooth chocolate mouse. It was absolutely delicious. I can’t imagine how tricky it must have been making those jelly rounds. I can picture them ripping every second one in half and having to ditch it. It sounds way too frustrating for me to replicate at home.
I can’t go past a runny heart on a dessert menu but this was perhaps the best version I’ve ever seen. The outer cake layer was really just like a shell. Like cracking into an egg, with just a tap of the outer chocolate skin, chocolate flowed like lava from the middle. It was so fabulously gooey. I would have liked a little bit of ice-cream with this instead of the mascarpone though.
Tartufo also offers a pretty extensive cocktail and wine menu and you can sit up at the bar. Again I think it’s more French than Italian but it’s still very nice. The prices are a little on the high side but it’s the perfect restaurant for a special occasion.
Tartufo is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week. It is located at 1000 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.