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Wednesday,16 January 2019

FOUR scallop shells lay on a tussock of seaside greenery as if they’ve been tossed up by a storm surge. The milky-coloured meat has been sliced into strips that are so pure and delicate they may never have seen the outside world. Their frilly skirts have been stripped off and transformed into a funky essence with a hint of smoke. A pale slurry of lemon myrtle granita has washed over the top. Oh, my goodness!

And the scallops even come with a backstory of diver Paul Polacco who collects them by hand from the waters around Kangaroo Island where an encounter with a white pointer is always on the cards.

It’s the kind of dish that you would be happy to find when paying top dollar in one of the country’s elite diners. Somewhere like Orana upstairs.

But we’re downstairs, at Jock Zonfrillo’s new and improved Bistro Blackwood, where demands on time and budget are far easier to swallow. A place with a $10 kids’ menu to make it more attractive for mum and dad.

The revamp starts with stylish splashes of navy and tangerine, and includes an open kitchen, glamorous bar and plush booths, all on the upper deck, though from our seat at street level, in a narrow alley of tables near the window, a plywood barricade divides the room and blocks all this from view.

That’s close to the only negative I can find in the changes. If the brief was to make the place more inviting, it’s a complete success.

The floor staff, led by the effervescent Greta Wohlstadt, are smart, energetic and comfortable in their own skins. And the cooking has shifted a few notches from focusing on the chef, or the message, to prioritising what diners will love.

That early scallop dish is slightly deceptive because the passion for native ingredients that is the signature of the owner is more pragmatic now, a secondary concern to including dishes that are super tasty, whatever their origins might be.

So a classic Italian pasta sits alongside a Parisian steak tartare, Caribbean pork and a South-East Asian prawn salad, like a collection of treasures brought home from a global expedition of the sort that Jock frequently makes.

Local artisans are also included, starting with the bread from Soiboii in Port Adelaide and the divine San Jose Black Pig jamon.

A Malay-inspired prawn roti is street food from another stratosphere. Triangles of crisp, flaky bread are dotted with blobs of prawn mousse with a hint of the funky flavour that I guess comes from the goo in the head. A little bowl to the side contains an insanely good fermented chilli sambal. The roti is finger-burning hot but that’s quickly forgotten as pieces are torn off, dunked
and eaten with glee. It’s sure to develop a cult following and is a lock for one of the dishes of the year.

A second prawn course is altogether more refined. Spencer Gulf king prawns are given a flash over ferocious heat, then left to warm in a mild pandanus vinegar, until the flesh is at the tipping point between raw and cooked. They are served on a simple salad of shredded green papaya .

A fillet of mulloway, again of supreme quality, has been brushed with a malt and ginger glaze that has reduced into a sticky coating with an appealing umami punch. Cabbage leaves that have been left to scorch and wither close to the fire make a smashing accompaniment.

The Caribbean jerk seasoning that has been sprinkled generously on both pork shoulder and a roasted sweet potato is so tangy, spicy and madly addictive it might have you salsa dancing on the table. Pickled red cabbage and a squeeze of lime helps restore a little order.

And, to finish, a crazy mashup of coconut sorbet, chocolate and native currant compote is like the love child of lamington and black-forest cake, and guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

It’s a consistent theme for the new Blackwood. Nothing is too cerebral, fussy or overblown. Just terrific food at reasonable prices. A true bistro experience, based in Adelaide, but inspired by the world.

Go now.

Original Article: The Advertiser