Worlds apart (at least, they should be)

Name: Digress Restaurant & Lounge

Address: 11 Akuna Street. Canberra City, 2601

Ph: 02 6248 6183

Website: www.digress.com.au

Hours: Lunch, Monday – Friday: 12pm-2pm. Dinner, Monday – Saturday: 5:30pm-10pm.

 

For some reason, people throughout history have liked to combine two completely different things, smashing them together into one homogenous lump. In the days of myth in ancient Greece there was stories the half-man half-animal creatures like the Minotaur or Centaurs. More recently the world of film gave us the absurdity of mixed-genre films, such as Cowboys vs Aliens.

In the field of food, there is fusion cuisine.

Fusion is sometimes beautifully subtle and clever, taking just the best aspects of different cuisines and combining them to make something great. This is, in many ways, all that “mod-Aus” is, with French technique, pan-Asian ingredients, and a somewhat Italian sensibility.

Then there is the style sweeping the world at the moment, typified by dishes such as Korean-based tacos. This takes basic flavours of one nation, and putting them into just the form of another. Tacos and burgers are the most obvious example, where they are blank canvases to hold the other flavours.

Lastly, there is the type of fusion that takes flavours and ideas from two entirely disparate cuisines and forcing them together like pieces from opposite sides of the puzzle. If they don’t really fit, you just hit them until they do.

Digress Restaurant and Lounge belongs more in this last category with their intriguing combination of Italian and Indian.

As a concept, Digress made me extremely worried. In the spectrum of cuisines it is hard to find two more convergent styles. Italian food is all about freshness, taking no more than four or five great ingredients and letting them speak for themselves. Indian, on the other hand, is much more about complexity. Rather than only a few ingredients, you can often have dozens of spices creating layers of flavour. They are completely different styles.

Served in a somewhat soulless basement dining room, the food at Digress sits somewhere between the two, and is less of a travesty than it could have been, but still somewhat unneeded. For example, a simple naan bread comes stuffed with sundried tomatoes, and it’s nice enough, thanks mainly to the light, flaky nature of quite good bread. But the tomatoes don’t seem necessary, and the plain naan on the menu would probably be more enjoyable.

Some mozzarella and paneer fritters, served as some fried croquettes with a pot of jalapeno aioli, were a particularly strange concept. Two very different cheeses, combined together to be indistinguishable from each other, somehow end up being completely bland. The sauce, while not fitting into either of the core cuisines, was nicely hot but little more. This was very much a nothing dish, and I was just thankfully it wasn’t too oily.

The mains, with choices of pastas, pizzas and risottos, take the haphazard fusion even further. A dish of mango murg linguine was basically pasta and chicken pieces in way too much spiced mango cream sauce. It was a bizarre dish, with the sweet of the mango, the fat of the cream and the meat of the chicken making the whole thing quite overpowering, and a little out of balance. It isn’t that it was unpleasant as such, but it was incredibly rich, and a little confusing. I won’t be running back for seconds.

The saving grace was dessert, where eschewing fusion and instead going for a traditional Punjabi kulfi proved to be a great idea. Home-made ice cream with pistachio and cardamom made for beautiful sweet spiciness. Not to mention, it was served on a stick and eaten like a high class Paddle-Pop. A delight to eat, despite its somewhat phallic appearance.

Cocktails also had that inventive streak to them, with the Proud Punjabi being basically a mango lassi with coconut rum. It was decent, if a little silly, and not something to really get excited over. Though it was better than the wine list, where an Italian Pinot Grigio was cheap and tasted cheaper.

Service was fine. It was friendly, and usually efficient, although they need to hire a bartender. At the moment the wait staff disappear whenever anyone orders a cocktail.

It wasn’t expensive, and it wasn’t as bad as Indian-Italian food was in my head, but I doubt this is the next big thing.

Some things should just be kept separate.

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About freehugstommy

Food, films and politics are my triumvirate of passions.
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3 Responses to Worlds apart (at least, they should be)

  1. Taneesha says:

    Not really too happy about the review written about the new Indian/Italian place i’ve happened to eat there a couple of times and every dish i have tried has offered something unique to my palette. Before making such outlandish remarks about a new restaurant you should probably try other things on the menu. For example the dish I had was the tandoori chicken penne along with the fetta naan and both were fabulous! Its people like you that don’t encourage creativity on the food scene. And by the way i had the same cocktail as you and i’ve never tried anything like it!

    • I am glad you enjoyed your meal at Digress, Taneesha. However, I didn’t particularly enjoy mine, as I have written in my review. I have never made any claims that this blog is anything more than my personal opinion. These are the views of one person, usually on the basis of one meal. It is not definitive.

      As to trying other things on the menu, I tried as much as I could in one sitting. This is just a hobby of mine, paid for out of my own pocket, and as I try to have somewhere different to review each week, I usually can’t afford to eat at places multiple times before reviewing them, as much as I would like to.

      I am a big supporter of creativity in the food scene, and of unique ideas, and I would love to see more of it Canberra. But just because something is creative and unique, it doesn’t always mean it is good.

  2. Jacky says:

    On the subject of fusion, I came across an intriguing recommendation recently. Tender Value Meats (a butcher here in Sydney) are apparently renowned for their gourmet sausages, which include flavours like:
    Sang Choy Bow
    Butter Chicken and Yoghurt
    Moroccan Lamb & Raisin
    Beef, Vegemite and Cheese

    I’m finding it difficult to imagine a Sang Choy Bow sausage, and I’m not exactly sure whether I’ll like it, but I can’t wait to find out!

    http://www.tendervalue.com.au/sausage_list.html

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