Ever been in a public place and caught a waft of smelly feet and hoped, for the love of God, it wasn’t your own?
This happened to me in a Bistro Dom, a smart restaurant in Adelaide. I happened to be dining alone – that is, alone in the whole restaurant (it was very early evening). It was a mortifying moment. Convinced I couldn’t be the culprit it didn’t take long to sniff out the source: a saucer of complementary saucisson before me.
The paradox of good food is that it sometimes it smells bad. Camembert springs to mind. Stock made from prawn shells stinks the whole house out, but the resulting seafood risotto is heavenly. Deep fried polenta bites with a mix of three cheeses ponged when I cooked them recently, but there were devoured by my guests within minutes.
And so it was with the saucisson. The small discs were flecked with fennel and subtly spicy – I was pleased that my solo dining status meant I didn’t have to share them. This was a damn fine dried sausage.
I was lured to Bistro Dom during an interstate trip because of former pleasant dining experiences I’ve had there. The staff are generous of hand – complimentary olives, saucisson, hand-baked bread, for example – and of spirit, making a solo diner feel special, not rabid.
The small plates on the menu were another attraction: the chance to sample several dishes despite dining alone.
A pan-fried scallop with speck and cauliflower puree ($6) was my first pick. The scallop (Japanese, I was told) was fat, cooked with a light hand, and wrapped in a piece of speck that was so thin it could barely be seen but lent the faintest hit of saltiness – all that was needed. It sat in a puddle of puree, encircled with green olive oil – a classic match.
A salad of Persian feta, courgette and mint ($12) was rustically charming. The courgette was quartered lengthways and char-grilled, the pieces draped over one another like lovers’ limbs. Smudges of Persian feta were ample, delivering a promise of salt that retreated rather than over-empowering the dish as lesser feta can do.
I rarely say no to a pie, and the biodynamic beef pie with potato puree ($14) was no exception. The pastry, made on site, was buttery and golden – a star ingredient in its own right. A perfect puff pastry lid was let down a little by a slightly undercooked pastry interior. The filling was shamelessly meaty, just two pieces of carrot amongst the sensationally tender beef – but there was no sense of loss, just satisfaction. A lack of seasoning was the bigger let down.
The meal concluded with a faultless crème brûlée ($12). I liked the small dessert bowl it was served in – no pretentious crockery, just a homely end of meal feel. And it was a smashing brûlée – literally. The thin, caramel veneer on top shattered like iced puddles on an English winter’s day to reveal a custard well peppered with vanilla.
Bistro Dom is elegantly French: wooden chairs, coat hooks on the wall, individual names of dishes scrawled on the odd blackboard, and gallery paintings that tempt the diner to consider more than just the food in front of them.
I like the long, thin room with doors at either end and tables stretched in a line between them. I like it that the staff will have a chat, and a laugh. But most of all I like that it delivers comfort when eating alone, away from home.
24 Waymouth Street
Adelaide CBD SA 5000