One of the lowest-priced places to receive relatively high marks from the Good Food Guide this year is Cafe Mint. The place is a pretty tiny restaurant on Crown Street in Surry Hills, a bustling area with numerous restaurants and stores. They call their food modern Mediterrannean, with a strong influence from Africa and the Middle East.
It was quite a bit of work actually getting into the restaurant. The first time we tried to go there was a 2 hour wait (they have a first come, first serve, walk-ins only policy - I quite dislike this way of running a restaurant), and the second time we tried they were closed (they close on Saturday, of all days, unless you book a special function). On the third try, they quoted us 30 minutes, so Dan and I went over to a bar around the corner for a beer while we waited. Eventually, we got a little table in the back. The restaurant really is quite small and cramped inside, but there is fairly lively crowd, and every table seems to be always be filled.
Service, though friendly, was a bit inattentive and agonizingly slow, as is often the case in low-mid priced restaurants in Sydney. After having to wait a bit for our table, we were ravenous as we watched other people's food go by. When this plate of apps came, we wolfed it down pretty quick. It was quite delicious - the chicken was moist, flavorful, and tender, the kefta was extremely fragrant, and the sausage had an unusual but very interesting taste.
It was this dish (which was raved about in the Good Food Guide writeup) that really caught our eye and made us want to try this place. The description had us salivating. It turned out to be quite disappointing. While the ravioli and lamb mince were actually pretty good, the yoghurt element (which is sort of hidden under the lamb in the photo) really overpowered everything else. Too bad, really - it could have been a great dish.
We decided to try this gnocchi, which turned out better. The gnocchi were off a more doughy consistency than potatoey. The chorizo was delicious, and almost reminded me of a spicy version of Chinese sausage (lap cheung). Capsicum, if I haven't mentioned it before, is the Australian term for bell pepper - I don't like them much usually, but they were okay here. Still, the whole experience was a bit disappointing. I guess the description of the ravioli dish had us thinking it would be a surefire hit, and the dominating yoghurt was a total letdown. Add all the waiting during every aspect of the meal, and Cafe Mint just didn't seems worth the trouble.