Our foodie friends took us to Hill of Grace restaurant because of the menu's Filipino influences and its partnership with Henschke wines didn't hurt. I still recall being perplexed when we fronted up to Adelaide oval wondering if our dinner was in a food truck or kiosk lurking around the corner. Maybe, we're getting a pork adobo (a stew with pork marinated in vinegar, soy sauce and garlic) roll while we watch an AFL game. It was all a bit surreal as we entered the deserted stadium and were ushered into a formal room that curved alongside the oval. I'd love to see what it's like when a game is on. It's hard to imagine how the restaurant can maintain its muted voices, soft footsteps and uncreased linen while an adrenalin-fuelled crowd was raging right beside it without looking like a scene from Monty Python.
We only ordered the Filipino inspired items because how often do we get the chance to try Filipino dishes, fine-dining style, in an oval and outside of the Philippines? I was excited when I saw the words longanisa, sinigang, kare kare and sisig on the menu. We chose the 4-course menu ($105 per person) and that didn't include the wine; this is the least amount of food you can order because they don't do ala carte.
The amuse bouche of oysters was a fabulous theatrical start. The fresh oysters were topped with a finger lime froth and moored in a foggy seascape made of dry ice and seaweed. A little less froth might've been better as the tanginess overpowered the oysters a bit.
All the Filipino-inspired dishes were easily recognisable in terms of taste but garbed in modern French plating. The sinigang, was outstanding, particularly due to the clarity of the broth and its taste. They did, however, have longanisa as a starter, sisig as an entree and kare kare as a main. Each of these dishes are quite rich one their own. If you were eating these at a Flilipino table, you'd be sharing them, eating them with rice, flavouring some of them with a squeeze of calamansi and all these go a long way in preventing taste and gut overload. This isn't to say we didn't enjoy our meals but by the time my main of kare kare arrived, I could barely eat it because I was so full. My overall observation is that some of the dishes were wobbly when it came to the balance of flavours, tending to be overly sweet, sour or rich.
My father was anticipating the arrival of his kare kare kangaroo tail only to find the tail had gone largely into the stock and bagoong. The big piece of meat on this dish was actually from the area above the tail. This sparked off a lengthy discussion which eventually included the waiter and one of the chefs explaining why the appendage was missing from the plate in its traditional form. The chef who came out to talk to us was lovely (sorry I forgot her name) and she explained how they decided to use a normal looking piece of meat because they weren't sure how people would react to dining on a plate of tail.
I think presenting a type of cuisine most people are unfamiliar with can be quite challenging. Those who grew up with it will want it the way their mothers made it while those new to it may struggle with flavours, textures and cooking styles they're not used to. I would love to see Filipino food enjoyed by more people and I'm glad that Hill of Grace is giving it a good go.
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