Matt Jefferson doesn’t do anything by halves.
The owner/chef who guided Rocksalt Modern Dining and then Social Eating House and Bar on the Gold Coast to critical acclaim and consecutive Good Food Guide hats has now opened his third restaurant, together with his wife Dayna: Orzo on Oracle Boulevard, bringing sophisticated modern Italian dining to the area.
Opening its doors just as New Year 2020 lit the sky, it has taken only a month for Orzo’s fame to spread to movie stars, moguls and local diners, the restaurant pleasantly busy when we dined on a weekday lunch.
In a prime location at a crossroad of dining precincts, the former O-Sushi venue has been transformed beyond recognition. The modern dining room with blonde wood tables and chairs and light green banquettes provides both comfort and modernity, spilling out to an alfresco area at the front of the restaurant.
An open rack of fine wine graces one wall, split in two by a mirrored display of decanters, a trio of champagne bottles and part of Matt’s cookbook collection. It’s a touch of formality in an otherwise relaxed venue, a nodding reference to the restaurant’s culinary heritage. A curved tiled bar fills one corner, doubling as working space for staff.
Service is welcoming and polished but the view into the open kitchen at the rear of the small venue reminds us that it’s really all about the food: fresh, local and simply well-made.
An abundance of starters and house-made pasta form the main part of the one-page menu, followed by a choice of three mains and sides. This is food to linger over and savour from noon onwards, teamed up with the best Italian wines and spirits; fine modern Italian fare to share; the chef’s take on centuries old favourite dishes.
In this seaside venue, it’s fitting to begin a meal with seafood: a Blackman’s Bay Tasmania oyster each, served natural with pink pepper and prosecco mignonette. House focaccia with whipped ricotta arrives as well to fill the spaces, but it’s worth saving your appetite for the dishes to come.
Fine Italian burrata comes with fruit instead of its usual tomato, the chef’s own twist on ‘cheese and muscatels’. Served with halved amaro-soaked black grapes, figs and pistachio salsa, the dish gains sweetness and texture to offset the oozing creaminess of the burrata, married together with an EVO-based sauce. It’s a sensational dish not to be missed.
So too is the veal tartare, served with insanely moreish handmade potato crisps and a dressing of tuna mayo, pickled onion and caper leaves.
We could dwell in the pasta section for some time. A single handmade ravioli fills the plate, its filling of Moreton Bay bug, prawns and snapper well matched with a dashi butter, enhanced by the sweetness of prosecco and the tang of lemon myrtle.
Parpadelle laced with duck and shitake mushrooms finished with parmigiano is a hearty traditional dish. Then of course there’s the namesake orzo, perfectly al dente, floating in a magnificently rich roasted seafood shell bisque with leek and mascarpone, a duo of scampi topping the orzo. The deceptively simple presentation of this dish belies the hours spent cooking the stock.
We have not ventured past starters and pasta. There’s been no need, our shared dining driven by curiosity and appreciation. To us, satiated, desserts are almost an afterthought as we move from a DOP Falanghina to settle on a glass of Amaro Montenegro, its distinctive botanicals of vanilla, orange peel and eucalyptus a fitting finish to such a fine Italian meal on the Gold Coast.
From fine food to well-chosen Italian wine, beer, cocktails and apertifs, if you crave a taste of Italy, Orzo is not to be missed.
The Oracle, 3 Oracle Bvd, Broadbeach Ph: 07 5570 3476
Open: Mon – Sun 12pm – late
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of Orzo.