Take one LuMi co-owner, Anastasia Drakopolous, add Veneto-bred chef Alessandro Intini (ex-Aqua Dining) and you have Noi Restaurant plonked in the middle of Little Portugal, Petersham. It’s the kind of fancy restaurant you wouldn’t expect in Petersham, but one that’s likely to accommodate the changing demographic in the inner west: one that likes good food with parking and isn’t too far from home.
The seven-course tasting menu is priced at a very reasonable $72 or choose your own adventure with a la carte – entrees range between $18-$21; mains are $26-$31.
It’s a reasonable proposition once you factor in the complimentary items. We’re immediately presented with amuse bouche of lemon thyme pastry puffs with mayonnaise and mini tacos with salmon and wine jelly. They’re incongruously served in a Chinese steamer basket, but functional and cultural inexplicabilites aside, it makes for a welcome and appetite-inducing introduction.
Milk bun, focaccia and bread sticks with extra virgin olive oil and smoked paprika butter
There’s a sense of LuMi hospitality too in the presentation of the complimentary bread offering, a trio of options served in an elegant timber box. Quell any hunger pangs with the mini milk bun, a square of crusty focaccia and elongated bread sticks. Smoked paprika butter is dolloped into a wooden pinch pot; extra virgin olive oil is dispensed using a (plastic) pipette. While the novelty value of the pipette is high, my only quibble would be it wasn’t quite enough for three people.
Maybe I’m looking for the similarities, but the decor has LuMi vibes too, a sense of understated luxury with its cool tones of dark timber, brass and midnight blue. The napkins are heavy, water is poured into beautiful ceramic cups and industrial lights illuminate exposed brick walls and stripped back floorboards.
Kingfish, young fennel and wild rice $20
The menu reads more like a list of ingredients. You can always ask waitstaff for more details – or look on Instagram (you bet we did). It leads us to lock in the kingfish with young fennel and wild rice. The entree is light and refreshing, delicate slices of firm kingfish contrasted with the acidity of pickled fennel and the nutty crunch of wild rice puffs.
Pig’s head terrine with coconut, turmeric and sherry vinegar $18
Pig’s head terrine is steadily becoming one of Noi’s signature dishes, raved on about across Instagram. The picked morsels of pork are compressed into a neat little log, crowned with a dollop of whipped coconut cream and scattered with toasted coconut flakes. The coconut adds a tropical decadence although it does feel a touch overwhelming – perhaps even dessert-like – against the soft and tender fattiness of the pork.
Risotto, Cloudy Bay clams, asparagus and sour cream $21
We skip the housemade pasta options in favour of risotto. The rice is cooked to a toothsome chewiness, strewn with petite nuggets of de-shelled Cloudy Bay clams and crisp spears of asparagus. It eats better than it looks, fortified with pinstripes of asparagus emulsion and sour cream.
Lamb, hazelnut, kipfler potatoes and buerre noisette $29
Lamb cutlets are cooked to a textbook shade of juicy pink. The fat has been rendered, the skin is crisp and the buerre noisette and toasted hazelnut crumbs add a nutty and textural enhancement.
28-day dry aged black Angus sirloin with spring onion, shallots and juniper $31
The 28-day dry aged black Angus sirloin feels a little chewy by comparison, although I am a fan of the charred and caramelised spring onions and sticky jus.
Hapuka, green papaya, baby cos and ginger $31
For a lighter main, the hapuka delivers on all fronts, a hunk of fish cooked to flake-forking tenderness that we swipe through polka dot dollops of of green and white.
Broccoli, satay sauce and cashew nuts $8
We order a side of vegetables on our waitstaff’s suggestion. Roasted broccoli sounds delicious but in hindsight the satay sauce is an odd inclusion, especially as its pervasive creamy spiciness jars against all of our mains. The broccoli is cooked to the point of soggy softness which does make me appreciate the crunch of smashed cashews even more.
Miso oil, mascarpone and coffee
Terramisu continues the Asian-Italian pattern, a mash-up that works well here. It’s a playful presentation of umami-laden miso soil scattered across mascarpone cream.
Matcha creme, pistachio crumble and mint ice cream
Green is a triple combo of matcha, pistachio and mint. Do they work together? I’m not sure. The match and mint don’t feel like a natural pairing, even if the pistachio works valiantly between the two.
Yoghurt pannacotta with melon and almonds
The most unassuming dessert ends up being my favourite. Yoghurt pannacotta is impressive in its nuanced subtlety and delicate fragility. There’s a distinct echo of honeydew melon in the aerated foam. This is just the kind of dessert to leave you refreshed and content after a long meal.
Chocolate meringue with jam
We linger so long in the dining room (there’s only been one other two-top present throughout the entire Sunday lunch service) that we score complimentary petit fours, chocolate meringue shards with jam. A bottle of peach-cello also materialises – it’s like limoncello but made with peaches instead of lemon – and everyone is treated to a shot.
In a suburb cloaked with the aroma of charcoal chicken, Noi is not like any of its neighbours. Even seafood restaurant Fich next door looks to do a heavier trade in takeaway than dine-in. Noi means “we” or “us” in Italian. Here’s hoping Noi finds its tribe.
108 Audley Street, Petersham, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9337 7377
Lunch Thursday to Sunday 12pm-3pm
Dinner Thursday to Tuesday 5pm-10pm
Closed on Wednesdays