Jamie’s Italian – A Mixed Bag

I’ve actually put off Jamie’s Italian for quite some time. I was probably going to continue putting it off until I’ve covered some other restaurants first but then I heard about how awesome one of their dishes is so I had to give it a go. As I was already going to be out every night for the next two weeks or so, it had to be a lunch! And so, on a Thursday, with Bonbon generously arriving there earlier to wait in the queue for me (and ordered too!), I arrived and began taking it all in.

In retrospect, it’s probably a very good thing that I was able to go into the restaurant with no queue and no need to order since the food does take a wee bit of time to get out. That’s not a surprise though since we did arrive at pretty much peak lunch hour. Thus, it’s totally forgivable. Besides, with the right company the time just flies past! Having said that, gotta be conscious of the amount of time one has for their lunch break…and it is a 10min walk each way to get there from where I work.

Restaurant: Jamie’s Italian
Number of Visits: 2
Date Last Visited: 20/09/2012
Address: 107 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Specialisation: Pasta (so it’s claimed)
Good for: casual lunches/dinners, dates, very cheesy (literally) Italian flavours
Not good for: carb-haters :P
Go-to dish: Burger Italiano

Usually I don’t pay much attention to a restaurant’s layout or decor since I’m just there for the food, but if it’s very…unusual I will point it out. Jamie’s was pretty interesting in that the walls were pretty much caked with deliberate graffiti. Couple this with the low ambient light and the somewhat industrial look of the place and it actually works quite well!

Jamie's Italian

Though if you saw just that wall by itself you’d be getting some serious ghetto vibes. A turnabout from many a fine dining restaurant that’s for sure!

The place has two levels, we were seated on the second. I actually liked that even though we didn’t get sofa seats. You get this kind of “view” of the happenings below (see header pic).

After a couple more minutes (I’d say there would’ve been a 15min wait) the first of two mains arrived. Oh and yes, both those mains were for me 😛

Jamie's Italian Burger Italiano

Burger Italiano – Wagga Wagga beef with fontina cheese, salami, soft lettuce, tomato salsa, dill pickles, cherry tomatoes, chilli & fried onions

N.B. Yes the colour temp of this photo is a bit off but I took it in low-res JPG so I wasn’t willing to fiddle around with it too much. Alas, just imagine it with a less…uhh pinkish hue. Classic noob who forgot to switch his camera settings from JPG back to RAW after doing shooting a few events sigh…

Terry Durack, who some of you may know as one of the chief editors and chief food critics of the SMH Good Food Guide (he and Joanna Savill pretty much make or break restaurants with the hatted system) has considered the Burger Italiano to be one of his top 10 burgers in Sydney. That’s quite a claim. I had this hype in my head as I took my first bite.

Luckily, taste buds aren’t exactly subject to change just because you’ve received hype. Good tasting food is still good tasting food, after all.

So what do I think?

It’s a damn good burger. Yep, that’s it in a nutshell. You can’t really go wrong with this burger because it ticks many, many boxes.

The presentation is just awesome – a formidable TOWER of ingredients sandwiched between two pieces of glazed bun-halves. Wow, and I was thinking how I could actually eat this without causing a delicious train wreck on the wooden board it was served on. Oh and – the wooden skewer is a very clever feature keeping it all together.

I am almost certain that the bun is brioche even though it wasn’t specified. You know all about me and my love affair with brioche. That box is ticked and ticked well.

The PATTY. The texture is spot on – it’s quite crispy and a little crusty on the surface which I actually like in tower burgers. Crumbles nicely, nice and hot and amazingly well marbled on the inside. It’s a beautiful patty – I personally would’ve liked it to be a bit more flavourful, but that’s up to personal taste.

Veggies were crisp as they should be and didn’t soak up the bun. I didn’t really taste the onion all that much but that’s more because there was a wonderful medley of flavours going on here that caramelisation didn’t dominate – a good thing.

The cheese tasted different to what I usually get which is cheddar. Then I read that this burger has “fontina cheese” which is a high-fat cheese that has a very woody and smoky taste (which would make sense since it’s smoked…). I like cheese. I like this cheese. It just works and the smokiness is wonderful.

One last ingredient that deserves mention – those dill pickles. Not a common ingredient in a burger to be sure (or in general), but wow they really do add something! What is this something you ask? A crunchy, salty texture! It actually brings the burger beyond the general mush texture you get with most burgers. Sure, veggies deliver that same punch BUT they are generally flavourless. This is a crunch with a burst of flavour. I don’t quite know why, but it marries with the patty’s flavours ever so well!

How did I eat this delicious monstrosity? Guess what – you really can just pick it up, squeeze tight and begin munching on it like there’ll be no dinner. The burger is masterfully designed – I spilled only a few drops of sauce (I was expecting a flood!) and 2 halves of the cherry tomatoes (they’re not so easy to keep in).

I’m having a hard time deciding whether this is one of my own top 10 burgers of all time, but I’m sure if I remember it 6 months down the track…it definitely will make that list.

Heck, it probably is already clawing its way up the mental ranks…

Get this burger if you haven’t already. I cannot see you disliking it.

Polishing off the burger I moved onto the next main…

Jamie's Italian Fish Baked In A Bag

FISH BAKED IN A BAG – Local fish of the day with clams, mussels, fennel, chilli, anchovies & Sicilian cracked wheat

The two dishes could not be more contrasting. Unfortunately, that goes for more than just the ingredients.

I get a distinct feeling that Jamie’s don’t know how to make good fish. Or maybe it happens to be just this particular dish. Well, I hope so for the sakes of people who get other fish dishes here.

There really isn’t much going for it – it’s a somewhat cool presentation: literally fish and mussels and various herbs and whatnot baked in a bag. It is unfortunate though that the fish itself is almost completely tasteless. Good texture yes – but tasteless. That didn’t work for me. The same could be said of the mussels. I recall one of the first things I said out loud after trying the mussels was “I’m not really tasting anything”. That statement applies in hindsight as well.

So it was up to the oodles of home made tomato sauce to save the day. Unfortunately, they did not. Who’s ever had fish and chips and remarked that the sauce saved what would otherwise be a very bland fish? Besides, I personally don’t believe tomato sauce is the best condiment for fish anyway. Having said that, we are talking about an Italian restaurant, so that tomato-heavy influence is undoubtedly there.

The fennel – wasn’t needed. They were more of a coarse obstacle for my taste buds rather than flavour enhancers.

Ahhhh, what goes up must come down. This fish is the down to the burger’s stellar rise.

I know I’m being harsh on the fish, but I consider myself to have a very specific and refined taste in seafood. Fish baked in a bag doesn’t make that cut.

Well, that was an exciting first journey into the world of Jamie Oliver’s Sydney restaurant!

I only consider this an Entrée review because I’ve only had two dishes on the menu – this restaurant is worth revisiting. Stay tuned for updates!

I give Jamie’s Italian a grand total of seven Caesars out of ten – 7/10

Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon

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