Friday, 8 February 2013

Cheap Eats - Bitter Suite

Sunday night is usually movie night with SC and a couple of good friends, CI and TB, but due to a bit of a sore back from SC we decided to skip the movie and just have dinner instead.  We all wanted to avoid the usual Sunday dinner spots that we often frequent and try something a new.  After hunting around on Urbanspoon we finally decided upon a little beer bistro in New Farm called Bitter Suite.

As we booked into Bitter Suite, it struck me that I had heard the name before and went searching through my emails.  After a little digging I came across an email from the enterprising owner of Bitter Suite, Katherine, who had emailed me to introduce herself and the bistro.  I say enterprising because the email obviously stuck with me when I looked for a restaurant that we would not normally have frequented.

Bitter Suite is very much a beer bistro, they have seven different beers on tap and over 55 bottled beers available, as well as a pretty comprehensive cocktail menu.  TB was pretty excited about this...  Oh, I almost forgot, they serve food too!  As befitting a beer bistro the food comes out tapas style and is very much share dining.  After the CI and TB ordered cocktails and SC a beer, we set about ordering a pile of food to share.  We could not really decide on what to share as a quartet, so we ordered as couples instead.

Unlike most tapas or grazing restaurants where the food comes out slowly over a period of time, the food at Bitter Suite came out pretty much all at the same time.  Out table was completely full and there was almost no room left for the cocktails and beer!

First of the plates sampled was roasted suckling pig, apple and horseradish puree and a pickled cabbage salad.  Suckling pig is quite expensive normally and can set you back a pretty penny for a large serving and as such I didn't really expect too much on the plate for the price.  What we received just about met expectations, but considering it was a share plate, there was not a lot to share!  The suckling pig was delicious, with sweet tender pork pieces and a decent size piece of crackling.  The apple and horseradish puree was pretty benign and I expected a bit more of a punch with it.

Next up and most definitely our favourite dish of the whole nigh was the house specialty, duck pancakes with hoi-sin sauce and coriander.  CI and TB also ordered a serve of the duck and also agreed that it was pretty special.  There was a generous helping of sweet sticky duck wrapped in a pancake roll that tasted amazing.  The duck had nice crispy skin that contrasted well with the soft pancake wrapping.  The sauce was delicious but we would have loved a little more, maybe in a dipping bowl.  We all agreed that we could have just eaten these for dinner and been super happy.

SC loves terrine and was drawn to the crispy pork terrine with mustard glazed peaches and pickled onion.  Quite an unusual mix of flavours here that had a real possibility of not working together but amazingly did.   The terrine was quite a bit different from the traditional terrine as it was deep fried and had a crispy coating.  Again, this could have gone horribly wrong but worked.  SC really enjoyed the mix of flavours and the sweetness of the pork was offset by the tangy mustard flavour.  The pickled onion added some extra oomph to the dish.  I didn't like this one as much as SC.

Another dish that all four of us ordered was the confit chicken wings habanero, sweet corn and chorizo.  We all love chorizo and thought that the combination sounded really interesting.  There was again a generous amount of food on the plate for the price.  Clearly inspired by Mexican food, this plate was very spicy, which is just what you want with chicken wings.  The flavour combinations were fairly complex with the habanero chilli and chorizo kicking the heat into overdrive.  SC had her beer to help cool down her mouth and it was about this time that I ordered a cocktail.......

Next up for CI and TB was scallop ceviche, cashew and coconut puree with grapes and ginger.  They were pretty excited about this dish but were a little let down once they started eating.  The main problem was that the citrus juice that the scallops had been ceviche'd and simply overpowered all the other flavours on the plate.  I ended up having one of the scallops and completely agreed, there was no other flavours discernible here.  Something for Bitter Suite to think about for future menus.

One of the other problems on the night was that the marinated squid and octopus which came with a squid ink sauce was cold.  All of the plates had been delivered at the same time so by the time CI and TB got to sample some of the squid and octopus it was a little unpleasant.  Where they could get some of the flesh that was still warm, it was ok, but apart from that the rest of it had gone a bit rubbery.  The flavours on the plate were ok, but it's hard to eat cold squid!

We were advised by the wait staff that the desserts were quite unique and thought that sounded great.  SC and I decided that we would have a go, but CI and TB opted for another cocktail instead.  There were three desserts on offer with two really 'out there' options and a more sedate option.  I chose the more sedate dessert of a cookie sandwich with peanut butter fudge and chocolate milk.  The chocolate milk was the best thing about the dessert, it was rich, dark and very chocolaty.  That was about it though, as the ice cream and cookie were not that nice.  I ate a couple of bites of it before giving up and letting TB eat the rest of it.  For me it was just a bit boring.

SC's dessert was anything but boring and looked very much like scrambled eggs and grilled tomato, but was in fact almond mouse with a grilled peach, sherry jelly and basil.  I really don't know what to say about this dessert.  It was weird.  The texture of the mouse was lumpy but you could taste the almond.  The grilled peach also tasted OK but not really in combination.  SC thought the sherry jelly was nice as well and matched great with the basil.  I really would have liked to see an option of a traditional dessert on the menu as well.

While it sounds a bit like we didn't enjoy out dinner at Bitter Suite, this is not the case.  When considering that most of the dishes were sub $20 dollars and there was a heap of food provided, it was actually pretty good.  There were some real winners on the menu and I will never forget the duck pancakes, they were sublime!  I also think that the food coming out in one hit is an issue, some of the food simply went cold before we could eat it!

Considering it was a Sunday evening, there was an excellent vibe at Bitter Suite.  We found the wait staff to be really friendly and helpful and they were always there when we needed them.  They also saw that we were struggling with sticky fingers due to the chicken wings and brought us over a bowl of water and extra napkins to help clean up.

Bitter Suite is as much about the beer as it is about the food and SC found the staff to be very knowledgeable about the brews on tap.  She also really enjoyed her pale ales.  TB and CI  also enjoyed the numerous cocktails and even I ordered a cocktail (which I almost never do).  For a fun and interactive meal that won't break the bank Bitter Suite is definitely a great destination.

Bitter Suite on Urbanspoon Bitter Suite

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