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The Independent Weekly
Ann Oliver email@example.com
Bistro food is fashionable
in Australia, but getting it
right is tricky because most
Australian diners, chefs and owners
don t understand the concept.
Unfortunately, there have also been
some terrible attempts at this old
concept in the past few years.
Bistro Dom pitches it just right
and it should come as no surprise
to diners that owner and patron
Ben Johnston lived and worked in
France for a long time. He married
a lovely French girl, Dominika, now
his partner in business and life, and
has fallen in love with the concept
of the bistro.
The long, narrow room is well lit
and the tables are jammed together,
French-style, with a wooden
banquette running the full length
of the dining space and classic
Bentwood chairs. The walls are
plastered with huge, edgy paintings
by local artist Steve Langdon, and at
the kitchen end is the wine storage
area, which is usually littered
with boxes waiting to be unpacked
-- nothing wrong with that; it s a
bistro, after all.
The only thing missing,
compared with a real French bistro,
is a cloud of blue Gitane smoke
hanging low over the diners and,
of course, a couple of dogs sitting
up to lunch. Glassware is quality
and the service, such a rare find in
Adelaide, is excellent and informed.
Bistro Dom works on many levels,
but it is important to explain the
true concept of bistro food and
make clear that a bistro is meant to
be the local s local. In France, even
in the posh areas around Chanel,
there are tiny bistros where the
clientele has been going for years,
even generations. Rather than
being complacent diners, they are
demanding because they expect
their local to always deliver.
A bistro is a place were you
always feel comfortable; you often
go there to eat and drink because
the food is reliably tasty and
satisfying, the wines are good, the
price is right, the staff remember
your name and the patron welcomes
you as a friend.
In a good bistro, you should (and
you do at Bistro Dom) find good
bread and food that is generous
and seasonal. The menu, if written
down at all, should never be more
than a single page, and while a
couple of items might be perma-
nent, it should change often.
On two recent visits, my love of
offal was shamelessly indulged.
Pan-fried lambs brains with potato
salad and confit onion ($19.90,
entr e) and, on my most recent
visit, sublime roasted sweetbreads
and saut ed livers with potato
puree and green beans ($29.90).
One of the most annoying things
for a sweetbread lover is that you
are lucky if you get three pieces
about the size of a small marble
-- you are just getting the taste and
they are gone. Also, it is difficult
to perfectly cook small pieces of
sweetbread, so they are frequently
At Bistro Dom, I had three
heavenly great lumps of perfect
sweetbread and the liver was not,
as I had expected, chicken or duck
liver, but three perfectly cooked
medium-rare slices of veal liver.
I abhor the current fashion of
serving raw liver and know the chef
does not share my passion for offal
if they think it is served like that.
Bistro Dom chef Andrew Davies
has always been an offal master.
The sauce was rich, with caramel-
ised onions, and the beans were
cooked but still with just the right
amount of resistance. The dish was
gorgeous and the only nit-picking
would be to suggest they peel the
liver before slicing and cooking it.
The brain dish on a previous visit
was delicious but I don t like brains
that haven t been peeled because
the outer layer takes on a rubbery
texture that seems at odds with the
soft texture of the rest of the brain.
The mushroom tortellini with
Swiss browns and mushroom
bullion was so good it totally
outshone the brains (for me, at
least). The tortellini presentation
was unexpected, with a perfectly
textured subtle porcini sauce
served as a respectful and beauti-
fully textured foam with a generous
smattering of fresh truffle. I suspect
the chef may have added a few
extra slices of truffle, but the base
flavours and textures were brilliant
and didn t rely on the truffle for
taste or texture.
A chocolate tart had a beautiful
silken centre and a good taste, but
was soggy-bottomed. A silly choice
on my behalf, since at home we
make a chocolate tart that is made
and eaten on the same day and
never sees the fridge.
I should have chosen a
slice of one of the just-baked
tarts displayed at the front of the
Bistro Dom is neither cheap nor
expensive, with all but one main
-- the dry aged beef -- under $30. It
is value for money, with generous
portions and intelligent cooking
that delivers individual flavours and
textures with no nasty surprises. A
main, a good glass of wine (or two)
and a coffee will not set you back
more than $50, but because there
is such fantastic temptation on the
wine list we are obliged to list Bistro
Dom under the $80 section.
You can easily tailor Bistro Dom
to suit your budget without going
home thirsty, hungry or unhappy.
The bistro is just entering its
third year and, with the talented
Andrew Davies bringing classical
skills to the food, it has settled
nicely with a loyal and regular
clientele who love the food, the
concept and the wine. A good
friend who knows a lot about food
and wine loves Davies signature
roast duck breast and confit leg
(the accompaniments vary with
the season) and admits to always
looking forward to the same thing.
As for me, I can t wait to go back
to have the liver and sweetbreads
Ben Johnston is a true Francophile
and his list is that of a real patron
who only buys and sells the wines
he loves. One might also suspect
he is in the process of building a
formidable restaurant cellar with a
wonderful back vintage list.
He opens great bottles at random
to sell by the glass, happily knowing
that what the clients don t consume,
he will enjoy at the end of the day.
The Australian wines listed are
mainly favourites -- all Australian
benchmark examples of the
The list at Dom is very sexy.
Wines by the glass start at just
$9, but there is also the welcome
opportunity to taste a much more
expensive wine where a bottle
might not be within the budget but
a glass can be written off as wine
education without so much as a
second s bad conscience.
Mushroom tortellini with a beautifully textured
foam and a smattering of fresh truffle.
The walls at Bistro Dom are covered in paintings by local artist
Shop1/24 Waymouth Street, Adelaide
t 8231 7000
OPEN Monday to Friday from 7am; dinner
Thursday to Saturday from 6pm; closed
Sunday; reser vations recommended
PAT R O N Ben Johnston
CHEF Andrew Davies
OWNERS Dominika and Ben Johnston
Ph: 8556 3083 / 8556 3072
Restaurant open 7 days lunch & dinner
Private cellar dining available (up to 32 people)
You ll be blown away too by the
new Victory Hotel winter menu...
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