Criniti’s, Manly

With a Scoopon voucher in hand for an entrée, main and dessert, I checked out Criniti’s at their Manly location. Our table was in the window seats area, perfect for enjoying a gentle breeze on a sunny day. After a bit of confusion about the conditions of the Scoopon voucher (it was our waiter’s second day on the job), it was time to order some food.

Soft Shell Crab – lightly fried & tossed with garlic, chilli & shallots

  • A decent pile of little soft shell crabs that were on the salty side.
  • The lime wedge was a bit sparse, and the chilli didn’t come through.
  • More than edible but nothing special.

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Agnolotti – scallop & prawn with salsa pomodoro pachino

  • I had imagined visible pieces of scallop and prawn encased by the pasta but the filling was actually more of a semi-solid paste that didn’t taste of much.
  • The sauce had a slight kick from the chilli and I did like the very tender pieces of tomato that were proof of a long sauce simmering process.

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Tartufini – homemade profiteroles filled with chantilly cream, rolled in decadent dark chocolate fudge & covered in dark chocolate shavings

  • I went back and forth on ordering these as I had liked the description when perusing the online menu before my visit but the picture on the iPad menu made them look like little chocolate truffles that suggested a smothering of dense chocolate.
  • Thinking they’d be bite-sized, I was surprised when they arrived as full-fledged profiteroles with much less chocolatey intensity than anticipated.
  • They were definitely the highlight for me as they were light, not too sweet and lovely to eat.

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Criniti’s had a few things going for it – a very extensive menu, a spacious restaurant in a good location and the vague promise of authentic Italian food. The food came out very quickly but dessert took forever to arrive. I wouldn’t be opposed to eating there again but the food wasn’t phenomenal, and I would question whether it was overpriced without the Scoopon deal.

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Jamie’s Italian, Sydney

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  • Over the years, I’ve eaten at Jamie’s Italian a couple of times and have always left with the impression that it doesn’t really live up to the hype.
  • The menu is a bit of a hit-and-miss, and a particular gripe of mine has been that the pasta dishes aren’t up to scratch considering that it’s supposed to be an Italian restaurant.
  • On my most recent visit, I went for some new dishes, as well as some I had eaten previously and liked.
  • My overall verdict is that Jamie’s Italian makes for a decent meal as long as you know what to order.
  • It’s always rather busy and noisy but the service is okay.
  • Portion sizes are a bit of a letdown (more on this if you keep reading the food breakdown below).

Fried Three Cheese Gnocchi – Delicious crunchy gnocchi with a fiery arrabiata dip

  • I was picturing this like a bowl of popcorn at the cinema except on a smaller scale i.e. a cute little basket with gnocchi instead of popcorn.
  • Oh, I was so wrong.
  • This was served on a long wooden plank that held a total of six small gnocchi pieces that were sitting on little dollops of sauce.
  • Bang for your buck? Nope.
  • Though, they were tantalisingly tasty (sauce wasn’t anything to write home about) so I would probably order them again.

Crispy Arancini – Stuffed risotto rice balls with sweet red chillies, mozzarella, spicy arrabbiata sauce & Parmesan 

  • These were crispy but very lacklustre and forgettable.

Polenta Chips – Crispy fried with rosemary & Parmesan

  • These are a tried and true favourite of mine.
  • The texture was crispy but there was a slight resistance/chewiness that made eating these chips very interesting and fun.
  • There was a hint of parmesan and the rosemary sang a little haphazardly but these are definitely a must-order item for me.

Wild Game Ragu Pipe – Slow-cooked seasonal game, red wine, tomatoes & Parmesan with pipe pasta

  • I did mention that the pasta dishes at Jamie’s Italian have been a point of contention for me in the past.
  • This pasta dish was actually not bad, and the best one I’ve had at Jamie’s Italian thus far.
  • The first forkful I had was too salty but I think that may have just been a case of poor mixing.
  • The game was tender, the dish was aromatic and it had that perfect wintry stew feel to it.
  • The pasta wasn’t soggy/super soft but still slightly overcooked for my liking.
  • Given that we went for the main size version of this, I shudder to think what the entrée size would have been like because it seemed kind of insufficient.

Prosciutto, Pear & Pecorino – Salad of prosciutto, rocket, crisp pear, toasted pine nuts & pecorino with an olive oil & balsamic dressing

  • This is another dish that I’m quite fond of.
  • It was a lovely combination of flavours.
  • The sweetness of the pear added an element of freshness but also mingled really well with the saltiness of the prosciutto.
  • The pine nuts added a bit of crunch, and the rocket wasn’t bitter.
  • Absolutely delightful salad that I’d recommend trying out.

Jamie’s Signature Porchetta – Slow-cooked free-range Australian pork belly filled with herbs, garlic & spices with fennel crackling & a watercress salad

  • The meat was tender, and the crackling was sound.
  • Seasoning could have probably been better.
  • Personally, I would pass on this dish because I’m not the biggest fan of pork belly but my dining companions liked this quite a bit.