Current Issue #488

Review: Ruby Red Flamingo

Review: Ruby Red Flamingo

You know that The Manse, a Tynte Street fixture for as long as anyone can remember, is no more, don’t you? But are you on to Ruby Red Flamingo? Everyone else is. I went to Ruby Red days after its unannounced opening and there was a carnival inside.

The Manse and its rambunctious successor, Ruby Red, have only one thing in common, the site.

The menu and dress code are the same: sharp casual. The menu is written up on blackboards dotted around the walls. Dishes can and do change rapidly at the whim of the market and Chef Enzo Zerdino. Chef Zerdino is a star in Veneto and in Adelaide where he has a loyal group of Italian followers. Chef has a share in the business at Ruby Red along with Vittorio Ventura, someone I didn’t expect to see back after all these years. Your knees, Vic, your knees. They won’t take it.

I can speak to Vic in this odiously familiar way because we have shared a few sherbets in pubs around the manor. He didn’t tell me about Ruby Red. Secretive b*gg*r. The other partner is Lauro Siliquini. You know Lauro. Somewhere he has served you. Lauro was a surf lifesaver in his hunky Italian youth. Yeah. I know. Italian. Surf. Lifesaver. Giggle.

Lauro told me that his position (I can’t say “life-saver” again) gave him invaluable inside knowledge about who was up who and who was paying the rent. He runs the pumping floor of Ruby Red in an easy rhythm that only comes with skill and experience. Lauro drew a picture of my nick-name (you will never know my nick-name – ever) on the butcher’s paper that serves as a table cloth here.

When shaded garden tables open in summer and upstairs opens as a bar to handle guests waiting for a table, as well as more restaurant space, Lauro will have even more to run. Little accumulative touches like the digestivi, the before and after herbal drinks that Italians have according to their region, come from Lauro’s region, Ascoli Piceno. They are Anisetta Meletti, a drink lightly touched with liquorice, not clobbered by it, like an average Sambuca. If you are at Ascoli Piceno on a surfing holiday, visit Caffè Meletti. It is one of the finest cafes in Italy. Truly elegant.

After starting, say, with Lauro’s Anisetta and a jug of Flamingo Spritz, you might like something to eat. After staring at the menu I would, and did, have a half serve of almost everything, shared, of course, with my two chaperones.

I will mention some dishes that cannot be missed. Maccheroni (a large tubular pasta cut into short pieces) with eggplant, tomato, smoked Scamorza, (like mozzarella on steroids) with dried Ricotta ( “Ricotta” already means “re-cooked”, drying it concentrates it further into a slightly grainy cheese that is sweet and a little salty)

So. Eggplant pasta, eh. Possibly one of the last dishes I would order from a menu. Not so at Ruby Red. If the Pope tasted this pasta it would be canonised. Absolutely marvellous. Would convert a doubter to eggplant. Order a whole dish to share ($21.50) or there will be squabbles at the table.

I was enveloped by a wave of nostalgia when I saw Paillard on the menu. You could call it Paillard di Vitello (veal) in Italy or paillarde in France – it was named after a French restaurateur called Paillard – but whichever way you slice it there is no place to hide. It is cooked for a very short time on a hot grill. If it isn’t good meat the dish is a tragedy. At Ruby Red it is a classic that turned out perfectly, char-grilled with roast potatoes and spinach. $12.50 for a half serve. $25 for a full serve.

Other stars were Gnudi, naughty ravioli who will not wear their modest pasta shells ($11/$22). A beautifully designed and wonderfully executed ring of polenta plus a mix of four cheeses with a heady mix of strongly flavoured mushrooms with spinach spilling over the rim. I didn’t realise that there was a mushroom-wort at the table until I had to make a desperate lunge for the last forkful ($12/$24). I don’t know what has happened to polenta in restaurants. Five years ago I wouldn’t have touched it with a sturdy stick.

The Mushroom detests trifle (Zuppa Inglese at Ruby Red) ($9). Their version turned her completely around and she intends serving a Ruby Red facsimile at Christmas. I thought the Tortio al Cioccolato ($11) were absolutely fab. Cooked up in 10 minutes apparently. Discouraging for the home cook.

To finish off we went to the bar for a Strega, a special model Strega, with Vic. The shot glasses are the little goblet kind, much favoured by the Italian community. Something like Marie Antoinette’s nipple after a boisterous night with the Dauphin. Glasses and crockery here are a mixed bunch. Cutlery is not changed after each course unless you request it to be. Bottles of aperitifs are left on the table to be inspected. You could pour yourself a schooner but somehow you don’t if you are trusted. All this is aimed at keeping prices affordable and service fast.

Red Ruby Flamingo has made a big splash. That splash will get bigger.

Ruby Red Flamingo 142 Tynte Street North Adelaide 8267 5769

HOURS Lunch and dinner, Wednesday to Saturday

BYO $12


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