So I'm probably the last person in the world to visit The Star since its renovation; there are Eskimos who have been there before me I'd wager. But I tend to do that - if a restaurant is particularly out of my way I won't be that motivated to go unless I happen to be in the area. I guess this is a product of not being able to drive - I try to plan my trips economically.
Due to happy coincidence in which Stephen and I were scouting out places to hold our wedding ceremony, we ended up near Pyrmont, and I knew the chance had come to check out the new casino. It was as impressive as I thought it would be, all gleaming white tiles and sunlight, but as we were walking through one restaurant caught my eye - Balla.
Balla, the latest undertaking by one of Australia's leading Italian chefs Stefano Manfredi, is spacious and airy, with an open plan kitchen and wall-to-wall windows overlooking Pyrmont Bay. According to the website, Manfredi is "seeking to redefine the classic osteria Milanese, with the menu built around the heart of traditional Italian cuisine". Walking up the ramp into the restaurant, I feel like I've walked into a place you might find in the movie Nine - there are vintage spotlights in the corners, and mozaic designs on the columns around the room.
Assorted Bread - Complimentary
We were seated by a friendly, efficient hostess and served an assortment of bread. I tried a ciabatta roll with a beautifully fruity extra virgin olive oil, but there was also foccaccia and sourdough to choose from.
We ordered something from the antipasto menu as a starter, and were pleased with what came out. The ciabatta was nicely toasted on a grill plate and served with the creamiest goat cheese I ever had in my life. This was topped by a fiery salami mince, which is definitely not what I was expecting - I thought it would be the usual thinly sliced cured salami.
Stephen ordered a dish of firm, light potato gnocchi and a gamey duck ragu. The ragu was slow-cooked to fall-apart perfection, although Stephen wasn't used to the texture as he found it a bit more stringy than a beef ragu.
The cannelloni was prettily plated in a cloud of grated parmesan. The pasta, made in house, was perfectly al dente and filled with a tasty mixture of ricotta and eggplant. It was cooked in a thick, slightly sweet tomato sauce and topped with micro herbs.
I found all of the components of the salad to be unpleasantly bitter, which was quite unfortunate as I has been looking forward to some greens.
The service, view and atmosphere is amazing at Balla, and I was very impressed by the food. I definitely look forward to trying the rest of the menu the next time in the area. We would have tried a dessert, but we had plans to go to Adriano Zumbo so we passed.
Level G, Harbourside,
80 Pyrmont St
Phone: 1800 700 700