Adelaide Food Central was invited to the blogger dinner at Ai Fiori. All food and drink were provided free of charge.
Ai Fiori is located at the gateway to the city in an old insurance and bank building. Designed by an American architect to be earthquake proof, the structure is as solid as it gets. The marble walls are interlocked within each other, and the windows are reinforced. When one walks in, there is so much character and old world charm to this place. The magnificent high ceilings and concrete floors are complimented by the intricately detailed timber and leather seating. I always feel a sense of awe when I’m in this building because there is so much space.
Food bloggers and media were given a special menu tonight that was a representation of what Ai Fiori had to offer. With a selection of entree, mains and desserts, it was set to be a fantastic evening.
The Olive Verdi (Green Olives) were Kalamata and Sicilian green olives marinated in thyme with confit garlic and rosemary. These olives were dense and slightly bitter with the herbs enhancing their flavour.
You can usually judge a restaurant is by how good their bread is. The freshly baked bread from Ai Fiori was soft and spongy with a slight crusty exterior. Soaked in olive oil and then dipped into a blend of roasted almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachio, sesame seeds and Grana Padano, the bread was delicious and a great way to start the evening.
For entree, I had the slow cooked Murray Valley pork belly served with a pan seared Japanese scallop, green apple compote, walnut soil and sherry vinaigrette. The pork was well marinated, and the skin perfectly crunchy. As everyone knows, pork works well with something sweet, and the green apple compote certainly delivered. The nuttiness of the walnut soil was amazing with the juicy and succulent scallop.
The Atlantic salmon was locally caught and cured with citrus. It was served with dill, horseradish emulsion, Sicilian sea salt and lime gremolata. A well presented dish with perhaps a tad too much sea salt for my liking, but delicious none the less.
The Arancini was made with pumpkin and blue cheese and served with snow pea tendrils, tomato passata, Grana Padano and oven baked proscuitto. I’m a fan of anything with blue cheese so it was always going to be a thumbs up. The nicely sized risotto ball was crumbed a fried to a light golden brown. The rice was well flavoured and perfectly cooked. The pumpkin was soft and delicate, and the blue cheese was not overpowering.
The main I ordered was the 350g chargrilled Grasslands yearling rib eye steak served with cafe de Paris butter, chargrilled Sterilgarda mascarpone polenta and grilled asparagus. Steak can often be hard to cook with the inconsistencies in the thickness, but my steak was cooked perfectly. Charred on the outside with a lovely pinkish centre, the chargrilled flavours of the meat were prominent with every bite. The contrasting textures were at work here with the grainy texture of the polenta and the crispness of the asparagus.
The friend sitting next to me had the pan fried 200g Barramundi fillet that was served with Winter green vegetables, in sugo sauce, salsa verde and extra virgin olive oil. She reported that the barramundi was perfectly cooked and was quite satisfied with the dish.
One of the side salads was the Ai Fiori signature salad of rocket, orange segments, seasonal micro herbs with light extra virgin olive oil, dill pollen and seasonal edible flowers. The salad was fresh and crisp, and complimented by the citrus tang of the orange. I thought it was perfect with my steak.
The other side was the Verdi Saltati which consisted of snap beans, broccolini, snow peas and zucchini. The vegetables were sauteed with butter, cracked pepper and dill pollen. The vegetables were nice and firm, and just made more decadent with the butter.
There’s no better way to finish off the night than with desserts, and Ai Fiori did not disappoint. The Panna Cotta was beautifully presented and executed just as well. The Panna Cotta was firm and gelatinous with lovely chocolatey flavours. It was complimented by the natural sweetness of the Winter berries and a blood orange curd that reminded me of caramel.
The Semifreddo was just as good as the Panna Cotta. The soft and delicate chilled almond mousse was highlighted by the crisp and crunchy honeycomb. Sitting on top of a firm layer of sponge cake, every bite will send you to heaven and back.
I was thoroughly impressed with Ai Fiori. The presentation and execution of the dishes were to the standard that I expected. Coupled with the great service and elegant surroundings, and it was certainly a night to remember. While only sampling a fraction of what they had to offer, I look forward to coming back another time!
WHERE: 21 King William St, Adelaide