I've mentioned before that M loves planning a surprise. He'll often tell me to 'save the date' in my diary for a night out but will refuse to give any more info besides that. Even when I beg him for info so I 'know what to wear' it's top secret!
Last weekend we had a date reserved in the diary and so we headed out on a lovely evening on the north side of the city. First we had a drink at Naked for Satan which is a great bar on Brunswick St that distills their own vodka and have little pintxos - there's always a great vibe there. Then we met some friends at the Johnston St fiesta and wandered around with them - it was packed and VERY difficult to resist the delicious looking selection of food with gorgeous paella and chorizo smells wafting around! We did have some very good sangria though!
Then we separated from our friends for our 8.30pm booking at the 'mystery restaurant and wandered a few blocks down, ending up at Casa Ciuccio on Gertrude St. This little restaurant was started by the crew who own Bar Lourinha, including Matt McConnell whose brother Andrew co-owns Cutler and Co, Cumulus, Golden Fields and The Builders Arms. M said he had to book about 6 weeks in advance as it's pretty popular.
We had a nice little perch at the tall table in the second room overlooking the long kitchen. I used to really dislike not having a proper table when we went out but I think I'm actually becoming quite partial to it. It's really fun being able to watch the chefs at work and it's actually quite intimate as you sit much closer to your partner than if there's a table between you.
First we started with the yellow fin tuna 'a la galena' and the mussels with chorizo. I'd really hoped for a raw tuna dish as I was quite in the mood for it, but the tuna came out cooked in a chunk with potato on the bottom. It was nice, although probably not my favourite. The mussels were ok too, the flavour was quite delicate but seemed to be missing the big chorizo hit.
Next we had the baccala croqueta which we both really loved. It was salty and hot with a crispy outside and gooey inside - delicious!
Then came the squid and chickpeas which had a really nice flavour and was quite juicy and saucy. Followed closely by the northern king prawn with smoked chilli and lemon which I really liked but M wasn't so sure about. The prawn was certainly huge but not super easy to get out of the shell - I saw another couple struggling a bit too. I really liked the charred flavour of the prawn though. M thought it was a bit of a rip off for $9 per prawn!
We had a slightly more substantial dish course after this - sharing the John Dory with yoghurt and sesame and the asparagus, broad bean and mascarpone salad. We both really loved these dishes - they went perfectly together. The delicate flavour in the yoghurt and sesame was gorgeous and earthy and the creaminess off the mascarpone perfectly set off the the tanginess in the dressing.
Finishing on dessert was certainly a good choice. We had been debating whether to order another serve of croqueta and the asparagus but settled instead on the dulce de leche cream pot with peanut praline and the chocolate bunuelos with hazelnut sauce. The chocolate bunuelos were kind of like a rustic doughnut, and they were good, but the absolute stand out was the cream pot! The texture was deliciously smooth and the peanut praline on top was incredibly moreish! We had to draw a line down the middle with a spoon as I think M and I could have had a pot each!
Overall we really loved Casa Ciuccio and will be back for sure! There's still heaps on the menu we haven't tried and I'll be back even if just for the dessert!