Fasta pasta @ The Italian Bowl, Newtown

Every time I walk past The Italian Bowl on the perpetually bustling King Street, it is jam-packed. Well, not every time. There’s about an hour between 3 and 4pm when it finally dies down. One night, while walking past rather late, my dining friend and I spotted an opening and somewhat athletically jumped at the chance.

It’s cheap and cheerful; it looks like a takeaway joint and to be honest, from appearances alone, you probably wouldn’t think the pasta would be particularly good. You know those ones…Step 1: pick your pasta; Step 2: pick your sauce. Nevertheless, when in doubt, follow the masses – that many people can’t possibly be wrong…can they?

We kicked off our Italian fiesta with a…sadly uninspiring herb bread. The bread itself was fairly nice and crusty, but at the end of the day, it was just 2 slices of bread, smacked with butter and a sprinkle of McCormick’s finest mixed dried herbs. And not really enough of it. That said, it was $2.50. Does anyone really have the right to complain at that price?

Garlic breath, let the night begin

Garlic breath, let the night begin

Fortunately, the tides had turned by the time the pasta dishes were revealed. My dining friend went for his boring usual, chicken risotto. The risotto was delicious. There was a healthy amount of chicken (although I can’t help but think how much nicer it would have been for some freshly grilled chunks of the meat to be sitting on top as well), but in terms of the rice itself, it was quite….solid. You know how they say the perfect risotto is supposed to not really form a mound on the plate (but at the same time, not be a rice stew) – well, this one definitely had a backbone to it. That said, it tasted pretty good and the rice was nicely (if not ever so slightly overdone) cooked. I can empathise, in the sense that risotto invariably takes far too long to cook, especially for what is essentially a “fast” pasta restaurant, so they’ve obviously had a pot of the stuff hangin’ around for a while…still, it was solid. $16 regular; $23 large (we…mistakenly got the large)

Rice-a-riso (not really)

Rice-a-riso (not really)

My pasta was a fettuccine marinara – my favourite. The pasta was deliciously al dente; the seafood was plentiful (prawns, calamari, little chunks of fish) and the sauce not too heavy, but altogether garlicky and flavourful. Once again, made the mistake of getting the large ($16 reg; $23 large) and couldn’t finish it. The seafood was well cooked too.

It'sa marinara!

It’sa marinara!

Bonus points for The Italian Bowl – they don’t have fake parmesan in their shakers! I don’t know why I’m so impressed with this, but it’s such a small thing that makes such a large difference. The meals came out fast, they were hot and delicious – decently large serving and nicely flavoured. We didn’t try any of their meat dishes, but there are definitely some refinements that could be made to the dishes we tried.

The Italian Bowl
255 King St, Newtown NSW 2042

Food? 7/10. A decent, casual eatery. Lots of traffic, a good “fast food” option. Meals are fairly unrefined….but perhaps that’s how mama likes it
Drinks? N/a – we had a coupla cans of lemon squash and they were as good as any lemon squash I’ve had
Atmosphere? 6/10 – nothing special. The restaurant is long and thin so you often feel as though there’s not enough room to sit more than a couple of people at a table. Service was friendly and efficient though.

The Italian Bowl on Urbanspoon

Liiiiisa, why would you eat me? 6 hour roast lamb

I like the concept of roasting low and slow. That you can take a cheap, shitty cut of meat and turn it into something truly wonderful. Something, juicy, tender and altogether moreish. I recently had a whole day of having to stay at home, studying. What better way to pass such a hideous day, than to have wafts of lamb floating through the house throughout the day. And what better way to achieve such wafts than cooking lamb over the course of an entire day. Well, half a day, because battling inner-city supermarkets at 9am is a several-hour mission in itself.

Anyway, the lamb. I bought a nice, big fat piece of shoulder from the butcher and roasted it at 120 for 6 hours with various flavours added along the way. The concept is that you get a shitty old piece of meat that has heaps of fatty bits and sinew running through it, which all render out and / or go all tender and melty and by the end you have this absolutely delicious piece of lamb on your fork – knives need not apply because this baby just falls apart in your mouth.

You will need:
– 1 piece of meat. You could use pork, beef, lamb, whatever. The idea is just to get one of the cheap cuts. These are the ones that benefit from the long, slow roast. Premium eye fillet ain’t got no home here. I chose lamb shoulder, as mentioned, about 2kgs
– 1 cup of dry white wine
– 1 cup of stock
– a couple of bay leaves
– 4 cloves of garlic
– a few anchovies (optional!)

Phase 1 – get stuffed: The first thing to do is trim up your meat. You don’t want to be too harsh – some of that fat and sinew in slow roasting is a good thing. What you want to remove is that really thick, pale yellow fat that looks like it could clog up your arteries with just one glance. After you’ve spent a bit of time doing that, place a few incisions nice and deep into your lamb shoulder. In it, slide a few slices from the garlic cloves and, if you like, a little piece of anchovy – don’t worry, it seems to mellow and break up during the cooking process. Turn your oven up to 120 degrees at this point. Then you want to get a pan nice and hot with a little oil. You want to brown the lamb shoulder in said appropriately sized pot (because it ain’t gonna get nice and brown cooking at 120 degrees). It’ll take about 10-15 mins and when you’re happy with the golden-ness, deglaze that hot mess by adding your wine and stock to the pot. At this point, add your bay leaves (oh and I also added half a leek, chopped in half…though I’m not quite sure what this added. Sweetness of some variety).

Lamb - phase one complete

Lamb – phase one complete

Phase 2 – hot hot heat: Into the oven goes your lamb, in the pot, lid on. That is all. Seriously, leave it there for the next 6 hours, perhaps turning ever couple of hours. I did the cartouche thing – i.e. putting a piece of baking paper over the lamb so it loses less moisture.

Phase 2 - complete

Phase 2 – complete

Phase 3 – get some lamb (or pork) on your fork: all you need to do now is let your lamb rest in the pot for about half an hour. This is coincidentally the time it takes to organise some epic roast pumpkin / potatoes. Then get your fork out – save the knife – and go mental

Phase 3 - get it in ya

Phase 3 – get it in ya