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Food & Drink

SA’s 14 Best Kept Off-The-Menu Secrets

SA's 14 Best Kept Off The Menu Secrets
Photos: Daniel Purvis

You know you’re a valued customer (or just darn spoilt) if you walk into a restaurant, cast the menu aside and ask for something that isn’t on there. They might not shout it from the rooftops but some chefs whip up special non-menu items for diners in the know.

“If people come in and ask for Magpie Goose it means they’ve been following us and know what we do, so we reward them.”

A decent secret is worth sharing, so we hit kitchens to lift the lid on their secret dishes. Ask and you (may) receive. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. 

1. Africola

Africola

Chef Duncan Welgemoed loves to mess with our heads. Two secret items served at his South African joint are the quaffable kind. There’s a cockle shot made with pippis and a bourbon shot whipped up using dripping. It’s not uncommon for a hush-hush dish to work its way onto the regular menu though. When Duncan whipped up an epic crispy chicken skin sandwich for a bunch of winemakers, people caught on. It’s now something us mere mortals can scoff too.

 

2. The Confessional

The Confessional

Photo: Ben Macmahon

There’s only one way to describe Cass Holland’s duck spring rolls – the best kind of sin. Sorry Daffy. Cass whips them up at The Confessional Boutique Wine Revelations cellar door and restaurant but don’t expect them to be a firm fixture on the menu.

“They’re the perfect drinking food,” she says. “The recipe has progressed and we’ve finally found the secret blend that everyone loves. We originally served them at a function and everyone went ‘Oh my god, we need more’. People started ordering extra, saying ‘We’ll pay for it!’”

The spring rolls are worth the hype. A group of city professionals recently heard about them on the grapevine (see what we did there?) and based on the dish’s reputation, made the trip from Adelaide to try them. Alas, Cass had to break their hungry hearts.

“Not today guys, they’re not actually on the menu.”

Word spread, demand peaked, and now the tasty little blighters are available to those who ask nicely. Taste some La Curio, Pieri Wines and Skin Deep wines and say hi to Maisie the winery dog while you’re there.
 

3. Restaurant Orana

Restaurant Orana

Here, it’s all about Magpie Goose – for anyone in the know, that is. The native black and white birds are considered pests in the Northern Territory (damaging mango crops isn’t good for a feathered friend’s rep). In a bid to control the birds, a business providing employment opportunities for Indigenous people from Darwin traps and kills them. They’re a rare find in top restaurants across the country.

We generally always have some goose somewhere in the building,” manager Greta Wohlstadt says. “We don’t serve it consistently on the menu but there have been people in the past who’ve asked for it and we’ve given it.”

When some high-profile diners book a table online, they specifically write ‘Magpie Goose please’ in the comments section. It’s worth the hype.

“If people come in and ask for Magpie Goose it means they’ve been following us and know what we do, so we reward them.”

 

4. Press* Food & Wine

Press

One of the old favourites at this Waymouth Street haunt is the steak sandwich. It is no longer listed on the menu but when the team is asked about it, they are happy to make it.
It’s a mix of cheese, pickles, chicken fat butter, caramelised onion, and horseradish with fries. Winner, winner, steak dinner.

 

5. Blackwood

Blackwood

Staff at Blackwood Restaurant know their way around a cracking steak. You won’t find them all splashed across the wall though.

“We don’t always have it on the steak board but we generally always have Longhorn here,” chef Shannon Fleming says.

“So if people are super interested in steak and want something different I can do it for them. Longhorn doesn’t usually sell that much because it’s so pricey but if someone is really keen we’ll make it happen.”

 

6. Ballaboosta

Ballaboosta

There’s really no reason to deviate from the menu at Lebanese café Ballaboosta. It’s all wonderful, especially the baba ganoush and sambousik (pastry pockets filled with minced beef and pine nuts). However, a little birdie tells us they’ll whip up a fish dish for special family friends. Start sucking up.

 

7. Marcellina

Marcellina

When customers ask, Marcellina owner Brian Aoukar delivers. ‘No’ isn’t a word he uses often, so when people hit the pizzeria asking for breakfast, they get it. This year, the city dough institution celebrates 50 years since opening in 1967 as Adelaide’s first pizzeria. It now has 12 locations. That’s a lot of special requests.

Brian (who can usually be found out front of the city site rolling dough) often has regulars requesting pizzas that aren’t on the menu. Oyster Kilpatrick pizza, chicken parmigiana pizza or chip pizza, anyone?

 

8. Amalfi Pizzeria Ristorante

Amalfi Pizzeria Ristorante

Amalfi opened its doors in late 1981 and in the 35 years since, some menu items were dropped because they didn’t sell enough or because fashion changed (Rosette sauce peaked in about ’94).

“Today Amalfi has maybe a dozen dishes that are not on the menu or on the specials board and are consistently ordered by our regular customers,” owner Frank Hannon-Tan says.

“Some customers take great delight in ordering dishes that are not on the menu, especially when they are dining with friends who are also Amalfi customers and are not in the know.”

So, what are they?

“The Foccacia #4 is totally hidden from the menu. It is a focaccia bread base with mozzarella, roast potato pieces and chili oil. It has reached cult status for those in the know thanks to its perfect cheesiness and chilli oil, carb-on-carb heaven.”
It’s not all about bread. Other hidden menu items include scaloppine limone, Risotto ragu, barbeque chili squid, con pollo rosette, old-school caprese and linguine jasmin.

 

9. Whistle & Flute

Whistle & Flute

Photo: Katie Spain

When chef Stewart Wesson left Flinders Street Project to cook up a storm at this Greenhill Road bar and café, a few dishes followed him across. Ask for the local haloumi on toasted rye with avocado, leaves and dukkah and you shall receive. French fries with herb vinegar and grated provolone is also a winner.

 

10. Pizzateca

Pizzateca

Photo: Ben Macmahon

We hear on the grapevine that Gerard (owner of Russell’s Pizza in Willunga) had been banging on so much about wanting to make a tuna mornay pizza, staff at McLaren Vale joint Pizzateca made him one. Ain’t that sweet? This one might be a case of the right friends in the right (pizza) places.

 

11. 2KW

2KW

There’s something about the crayfish dish at this rooftop bar and restaurant. The chefs are regularly asked to prepare and serve it in ways that are different from the menu.

“Can we have the crayfish like the locals do?”

They oblige, naturally. The results have included whole crayfish served with seafood sauce, vinegar and crusty bread; in a bisque; as part of a bouillabaisse; poached in butter; and as part of a mac and cheese. The team also once had a customer arrive at lunch with a truffle which they asked the team to cook. Voila… a truffle degustation ensued.

 

 

12. Addis Ababa Café

Addis Ababa

Photo: Ben Macmahon

If you were to walk into an Ethiopian home and your host wanted to show how much they care for you, they’d make you ‘sirsir’.

The concept is simple – it’s love on a plate. That’s what Addis Ababa restaurant manager Zed Wondimu serves regulars he genuinely cares about.

“It is a double portion of my love specifically tailored just for you. With only your name on it – that is the concept of the dish,” he says.

Each person’s sirsir is different. If Zed knows you love the restaurant’s vegan dishes, he’ll mix portions of each, specifically suited to your taste. If he knows you dig meat, you’ll get a mix of his family’s traditional dishes. Sirsir is served with injera (Ethiopian flatbread made with rice and flour) and is best eaten with your hands.

“It’s like a loyalty system. If you are a regular and I know and love you, I also know everything you like. It takes away every depression because I’m serving love on a plate.”

It might take a few visits for the genuine relationship to build but once it does, you’ll thank the sirsir gods above.

 

13. The Henry Austin

The Henry Austin

You’ve got to hand it to restaurant manager Max Mason and head chef Shane Wilson – they know how to make diners feel special. The Henry Austin is on the Magpie Goose bandwagon, too.

“It is an extra dish of which we only serve four portions each day,” Max says.

Treat yourself to the “top menu” and you’ll also get a green ant and eucalyptus ice block as your final course. It’s a nightcap of the native Australian kind.

 

14. La Trattoria Restaurant

La Trattoria Restaurant

King William Street Italian joint La Trattoria is now in its 42nd year. They’ve clocked up some serious regulars in that time.

“We have thousands of regular clients who often ask for special dishes,” manager Bill Duff says. “These are usually modifications to our existing menu. Examples of this would be spaghetti vongole. We use vongole/cockles in our spaghetti marinara but quite a few of our customers just like the vongole on its own.”

The restaurant is also known for pizza.

“We often make pizzas to order which are not on the menu.” Go on, throw ’em a culinary curve ball.
Know of any non-menu secrets around town that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.

Smiley Fritz

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Samantha Tipler

    24/08/2017 at 12:29 pm

    Queenies Store at Largs Bay is amazing. I booked a group in for one of their banquet dinners and one guest was vegan (which I didn’t realise in advance). They went out of their way to make up a special meal for her that made the rest of us completely envious!

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