Mamma Mia: delicious degustation at the Mount

We bought a GrabOne voucher for a five course degustation menu at Mamma Mia an Italian restaurant at the Mount.

Unprepossessing exterior of Mamma Mia (ex-Vivo)

Mamma Mia Ristorante Italiano
14B Pacific Ave
Mt Maunganui

07 575 8245

It doesn’t look like much and has recently changed hands (and name), but the degustation menu looked interesting. The regular menu does not look exciting but contains some gems.

We had:

Thin slices of orange with toasted fennel seeds, watercress and an olive oil dressing. The orange and fennel worked beautifully. The sprig of watercress added a nice peppery bite. (Barbara loved the olive oil dressing, I’d have liked to add some vinegary sharpness.)  [From regular menu.]

Carpaccio with incredibly thinly sliced eye fillet1 seasoned with lemon juice, olive oil topped with capers and parmesan, then served with wild rocket and fried bread.2 This was just delicious and beautifully presented, the meat so thin and tender.

Gnocchi “Mare”: Homemade Gnocchi with garlic, fresh tomato, chilli, prawns, shrimps
& herbs topped with Pecorino cheese. The gnocchi were beautiful, tender but firm, and the sauce (in which the chilli was barely noticeable but added just a touch of warmth) was simple but worked well with the seafood and the gnocchi. This was one of the highlights of a delightful meal. (From regular menu.)

Another highlight followed (not from the regular menu) dried salted catfish poached in milk and wine on mash with a lightly creamy sauce and a cherry tomato. The flavours blended beautifully and the use of salted dried fish, and the tasty sauce, lifted this way above “poached white fish and mash”!

For dessert we had iced zabbaglione, a slice of rice pudding flavoured with coconut and a “Soupa Inglezi” concoction of custard3 sponge, chocolate and fruit flavours with desert wine softening the sponge. Each was delicious, but together they almost persuaded two diners who usually pass on desserts that they were the best course of a superb meal.

I have dined as well (or even better?) in France, Thailand, at a few of the best restaurants in Auckland, but this was by far the best meal, and several of the best dishes, we’ve had in the Bay of Plenty.

Definitely one to recommend. And both the chef who helped a busy service by bringing some dishes to the table, and waitress, used a charming mix of Italian and English :)

  1. The chef must have superb knife skills as the meat was really paper thin! []
  2. The “fried bread” was also wafer thin and crisp. []
  3. Yes, real egg custard :) []

Soul Bar and Bistro: Cuisine – Villa Maria Restaurant of the Year

Soul is on the waterfront overlooking the boats

Soul Bar & Bistro
Viaduct Harbour,
ph: 09-356 7249,
Lunch & dinner 7 days  (5-31 July) $70

Entrée Smoked salmon with salsa verde & toasted sourdough

Main Jerusalem artichoke  risotto with truffle, parmesan  & a poached egg
OR roasted Harmony pork chop, Puy lentils, silverbeet & apple purée

Dessert Tamarillo brulée
OR Kaimai Creamy Blue – Waharoa NZ & Soul’s oatmeal biscuits

Choice of two wines:
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Verdelho 2008
Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2007
Reserve Noble Riesling 2009

The starter again quaintly designated “Entrée” was simple and nicely balanced, understated elegance, with a tasty pesto and a strong olive oil drizzle that set off the salmon beautifully.

The pork chop was huge, but pronounced really good. The artichoke risotto continued the understated balance, with nice touches like the little crispy bits (I do not know the technical term, and the waiter understood what I meant) made from  very thinly sliced bread rolled thinner and deep fried. I would never have thought of using Jerusalem Artichokes in a risotto (starch on starch) but it went so well.

The Tamarillo brulée was a nice finish to a really good meal.

The wines were delicious, the Verdelho went really well with the risotto, but I was less convinced by some of the other matches, and also wonder if 2 from 3 is a cop out. It would have been a fairer comparison, and more fun for us to list the wines against the courses and then say 2 from  3 – after all food and matching is part of what it is about!

Again though a lovely meal, very good service and superb value :)

BTW in case you are wondering at two expensive meals in two days, the previous week Barbara was on holiday, and we were both sick and so hardly stepped outside the door, some holiday! This is part of the make up :)

Prego: Cuisine – Villa Maria Restaurant of the Year Competition

In the evening there is parking next door, but on a rainy lunchtime we arrived like drowned rats :(

226 Ponsonby Rd,
ph: 09-376 3095,
Lunch and dinner 7 days $65

Entrée Crispy skin pork belly  & pistachio nut roulade on  peppered beetroot & spinach with peach aïoli with Villa  Maria Single Vineyard Omahu Gravels Viognier 2007
Main Pan-roasted duck breast, vanilla mashed yams, sautéed cavalo nero, tamarillo compote  & black fig molasses, with Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2005

This was a brilliant matching of food and wine, with the viognier strong enough to partner the heavier than usual starter. (Why do Kiwis call starters Entrées when in France, USA and the UK this word refers to the main meat course? Isn’t it time we either grew up and said “Starter” or learned to use the foreign term more or less correctly?) The superb Syrah also complemented the duck well. In neither case did either the food or the wine overpower the other.

The service was also excellent, when we arrived in a windy downpour staff explained that the vacant table might suffer a draft and explained our choices. The young woman who served our table was attentive (even spotting a grimace from Barbara and checking that the problem was not with the meal) and seemed enthusiastic about the food. Service was prompt (apart from the inevitable wait at the start, late on a busy lunchtime), efficient and not obtrusive.

The starter was interesting, though I would have liked the pistachio to be more evident, and think the pork skin should have been crisp (as indeed the menu suggests) even when served round shredded meat. Despite those quibbles this dish was interesting, and a fine match for the deep and interesting wine.

The main was a delight. The vanilla yams and the fruity juices complemented the duck as well as being interesting in their own right. The wine again worked with the food rather than one or the other “winning” :)

Food: Very good
Wine matching: Excellent
Service: Excellent

We can’t wait to try the next one!