So a priest, a chef and a diner walk into a restaurant… no, seriously, I had a real-life version of this when I went to the launch of Two Wolves Community Cantina, a not-for-profit restaurant run by the Jesuits. Located on the corner of Broadway and City Road, this boho chic eatery is adorned with photos of their charity work on the walls, and fits right in with the Uni crowd.
The idea behind Two Wolves is that they will run on mostly volunteers, with just five core (paid) staff: Head chef, sous chef, bar manager, assistant manager and volunteer coordinator. The profits will help charity work overseas, and Father David Braithwaite wants this cantina to run as a restaurant in its own right, and foster a sense of community.
The menu for the night promised cuisines from all over the world, and for someone who is experienced um, in the art of eating, this can only be a bad thing. Too many techniques, too many ingredients to understand, and usually nothing gets done right.
waistline hips don’t lie, but I’m actually quite sorry to be right. Some things were done quite well – Sister Hien’s Bun Thit Nuong was a fresh Vietnamese rice noodle salad tossed in a sweet and salty dressing, with pieces of pork, fried shallots, fresh herbs, peanuts, shredded carrot, beansprouts and roasted peanuts. Lots of flavours and textures, just like a good Vietnamese salad ought to be.
The Vietnamese chicken, lemongrass and sweet potato curry however, not so much. Especially next to the vibrant salad, it missed the mark in flavour, and the vegetables in the curry – cauliflower and sweet potato – were left in large chunks and were pretty much raw on the plate. But that means that it’s retained all the vitamins, right?
The Korean Fried Chicken was a decent enough glazed fried chicken, though I’m not sure Korean was the best word to use. What makes Korean Fried Chicken (KFC as it’s affectionately known) different is a light-as-air coating of potato starch, followed by a punchy glaze made (usually) with soy, chilli and/or garlic. Ingredients can chop and change, but one thing is non-negotiable: it has to pack enough flavour that you need to be reaching for that beer to wash it all down. KFC is notoriously expensive in Sydney, and it has always earned its keep. It felt like tonight they were cheating with the name, which ultimately detracted from what would’ve been a perfectly acceptable dish.
Of the desserts, the Eton Mess was lovely – smashed up chunks of meringue, with cream and berries made me very thankful to the Eton boy of legend who decided to mush up his dessert.
The treatment of the Black Sticky Rice with Mango and Coconut really had me questioning whether it was just the Asian dishes that were going to cop the problems. There’s no nice way to put this: it was watery. Black glutinous rice thats usually cooked to either a sticky clump (as glutinous rice should be) or a creamy porridge, was left in a sad state inbetween, with a dark purplish puddle surrounding the rice and mango.
Ultimately, I love the idea of dining out for a good cause, but I expected more from the paid chefs. And with all the easy access to obscure cuisines nowadays, diners WILL have expectations, trust me.
I realise I’m being a hardass, but if paying the chefs is going to cut into profit, then they need to be able handle the different cuisines and provide a consistent quality across the menu.
Let me take a quick moment to highlight the efforts of the unpaid volunteers. Every single server was just fantastic; very professional and warm in their service. They set the stage for a lovely family dinner, and well, it was a family dinner, one that was perhaps prepared by that aunt for whom cooking isn’t a strong suit.
Despite the teething problems, I really want Two Wolves to do well. The volunteers seem to enjoy being there, and I’m rooting for Father David’s vision of a bustling cantina up above, and a classy cocktail bar in the space below. Very chic, very Chippendale.
Great vision, great cause, and great atmosphere. Not great food, so that needs to go.
The live jazz can stay, though, that was pretty great.