Nicole and I landed on Gertrude St. one night for a Book for Cooks event. Luke Nguyen was in town and he was promoting his new book (the Songs of Sapa) and Little Lantern Foundation. We originally thought we should probably hit a pho joint or something Vietnamese but Nicole didn’t want to be too far from the book shop and rush there last minute (so we went outlet shopping on Brunswick St. first, figures).
We went past Anada and I remember about this place being recommended highly by @redvespa so we decided we would go in. It was literally 5.55 and we were waiting for it to open at 6pm (we had to be at Books for Cooks before 7). They did, right on time and graciously let us in without a reservation. Despite it being Tuesday, the place filled up around 7. So make sure you get a reservation in.
As hungry as we were, we wanted to have a light meal and tapas seem perfect. We both ordered a few different dishes to try. I ordered a glass of sherry (you gotta have sherry, surely) and Nicole ended up with a glass of rose.
We were served some bread to start with some nice olive oil and funky black salt. It tasted like normal salt. Yes I did nibble at the salt crystals. I do that.
The bread was fabulously chewy and flavourful. I would love to be able to buy this sort of bread at home. The first serve was free and subsequent serves were a couple of dollars (I think) but as much as we enjoyed it, we didn’t order extras.
(Fried zucchini flower with Le Celestina cheese & Iberico jamon – $5.50 each)
The special of the day was zucchini flower stuffed with goat’s cheese and sprinkled with crunch jamon bits. Nicole and I had one each (as opposed to sharing one of each tapa) and they were definitely winner. It was warm and crunchy and cheesy and generally very more-ish dish. Yum.
(Crumbed lambs brain with pork belly & red lentils – $4)
I had decided that today would be a good day to try a lamb’s brain. So I ordered it. The sauce was sort mushy bits of pork and lentils and it was good. The brain itself was crumbed and well-fried. I didn’t attempt to take a picture after it had been halved but it was kind of cool. It didn’t taste like what I expect it to taste (i.e. more offal-ish) it was sort of soft, creamy texture but didn’t taste much of anything. So now I can say I have had brains. Ta da.
(Rabbit empanadilla – $4.50)
Nicole ordered the rabbit empanadilla. It didn’t stand out as something worth remembering in either good or bad way so I regret to say that I just can’t remember what it tasted like.
(Salt cod & garlic shoot croqueta – $3.50)
I ordered the salt cod croqueta as I figured croqueta is just one of those tapa things that you have to have and I never tried it before. It was soft and creamy and flavourful – just like a croqueta should. I thought anyway – I have had other croqueta since and I can concur that this was a good one.
(Western Plains pork belly with fennelseed & smoky aubergine – $17.50)
Our star of the night was the pork belly. Like any diva, she appeared much later than every dish (each dish was served as it was ready) but she was definitely worth it. The pork was beautifully, meltingly tender with crispy skin (I love pork belly, I can eat it day and night). The smokey eggplant dip type thing that it was served with complimented it perfectly.
churros with chocolate – $10.00)
By now it was 6.35. And Nicole demanded that we have desserts. I personally was getting nervous because I really didn’t want to keep Luke Nguyen waiting! Let’s face it, he’s such an awesomely nice guy. But we crossed our fingers and ordered the churros anyway. They turned up only 5 minutes later (thank you!) and we were treated to warm, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside churros and rich chocolate sauce. I’m glad we ordered it. So well done, Nicole. We were both stoked with the food and service at Anada and are making plans to return. Eventually. We have wide bases to cover, you know!
We then headed off to Books for Cooks and met Luke Nguyen. He talked about his trips to Vietnam, his passion for cooking and of course his new book, the Songs of Sapa. It was an awesome night. He was lovely and down to earth and a great conversationlist. And he concurred that pho with dried rice sticks is just not that great (told you!) I loved him.
Rilsta of My Food Trail was also at the event – she covered the event in her blog post. Swing over there to read about it. She also took a fabulous photo of me and Luke (I didn’t have my camera), which I’m so stoked about as it’s my proper ‘celebrity & me’ photo ever (yes, the one with Brad Pitt was fake. I can’t believe people actually believed it).
Anada Bar & Restaurant, 197 Gertrude St., Fitzroy