Images: Georgia Haynes
I was recently invited to attend a blogger’s dinner, sampling the newly formed dinner menu at West Village Café. The cafe feeds hungry professionals by day, and is looking to expand their customer base with a dinner service on Thursday and Friday nights.
The night was great – good company among fellow food bloggers, lovely and funny service, and good food. West Village Café was a warm refuge against the cold rain that pelted down outside.
We began with a grazing plate and ended in a luscious dessert of hot chocolate fudge brownie, honey macadamia ice cream & salted caramel praline. Including the latter, there were, of course, some other standouts along the way.
The Pan fried Saganaki, lemon & grilled Turkish bread was a spectacle, in that the saganaki was brought to the table and set aflame in front of us – a bit gimmicky but nonetheless the saganaki was delicious. As our waiter pointed out, it was lovely soft and melty on the inside because it was made with haloumi rather than the standard kefalograviera cheese. I know it’s hard to get wrong, but it’s a crowd, and certainly a me, pleaser. I was also pretty happy with the mozzarella-stuffed veal meatballs with tomato and saffron glaze that followed – meat stuffed with cheese, crumbed and deep fried. Yes please.
This is where the chef’s ability really shined, and seemed to step up a notch in terms of sophistication.
The Hanoi duck spring rolls with Asian herbs & chilli caramel dipping sauce were just spot on – the shredded duck cooked to pull-apart perfection, the salt, sweet, sour, spicy flavours as balanced as a Vietnamese dish should be.
But favourites were the slow-roasted pork belly with pan-seared scallops, cauliflower puree & truffle oil and the side of duck fat-roasted kipfler potato. It’s easy to screw up pork belly, and some of the best in the business HAVE – but these morsels were tender and flavoursome, fat rendered down as it should be, skin crispy and cracking in your mouth. Coupled with the sweetness of the seared scallop and the rich smoky truffled cauliflower puree, well, that’s a heavenly combo in my books.
West Village obviously has a couple of things to refine – the broccolini and the spinach sides need to be more interesting; they need to strengthen their branding and image (are they a New York-style cafe? Are they Italian? European? Modern fusion with some Asian thrown in? I couldn’t work it out) but I assume that will come if their dinner service expands.
And I hope it does, because, along with a warm atmosphere, reasonable prices and great service, there are some culinary gems here.