Orto Trading Co.

This dinner was funny, delicious and mortifying. Oh so mortifying.

Catching up for dinner with my friend Dan last week, I asked him what kind of cuisine he felt like having. Japanese or Mexican were his two suggestions. After some thought, I floated the possibility of going to El Capo which does street style Latin/Mexican in a casual setting with a bit of an outlaw theme. From Monday to Thursday, there’s an option of the prison plate which as per prison, you eat what you’re served, no questions asked. It’s a gimmick and the silly side of me loves that idea. I guess it helps that generally I’m not a picky eater. Discerning maybe but I am the kind of person who will eat when I’m hungry and not make a big fuss if something isn’t perfect.

But why is this post labelled Orto Trading Co then, you might ask? I met Dan at his place and we strolled over to El Capo. Deep in conversation, we saw the large El Capo sign and walked straight into the restaurant without pause. Sitting down, we were offered water and had a brief discussion about the booking policies with the waiter.

Perusing the menu, my eyes lit upon the logo at the top right-hand corner and my heart sank. Instantly, Dan noticed and asked what was wrong. I stabbed at the menu and hissed: We’re at the wrong restaurant!

The logo on the menu...

The logo on the menu…

Dan wasn’t convinced but I’d heard of Orto Trading Co and looking around, the interior looked nothing like El Capo! Not to mention the menu wasn’t remotely Latin. The light and airy restaurant was almost empty and I feel sure it’s a wonderful brunch location. But for the time being, what to do, what to do? Laughing quietly and whispering at our predicament, Dan said he’d walk outside and just check to see how we’d managed to make the error. In the meantime, I studied Orto Trading Co’s menu to see if I was interested in eating there.

Returning, Dan quietly advised that El Capo was next door but shut up, with a note on door saying it was closed due to unforeseen circumstances that day. We murmured to each other as we discussed our options.

  • Should we leave?
  • But we had been served water!
  • How to do this elegantly without being rude?
  • Should we tell the truth?
  • The Japanese restaurant two doors down looked good…
  • What there anything we wanted to have from Orto’s menu?

Materialising at our table, the waiter announced: “I know what’s happened here. You guys thought this was El Capo”.

Busted! This just made Dan and I laugh even more. A little shamefaced, we admitted to it and were reassured that “believe me, you’re not the first person to do this. Also, yes El Capo do only take bookings for tables of six or more”. Sure, it was funny but it was also very mortifying. Our cheapie Mexican dinner obviously wasn’t to happen but we decided to stay.

The light feature about the bar

The light feature about the bar

Orto Trading Co has a most enviable location. A short stroll from Central Station, there’s a courtyard on the side with outdoor seating. On a balmy summer’s night, sitting al fresco with a few drinks and friends would be a great way to spend a few hours. Even inside, the space is bright with enormous glass doors that lead out to the outdoor area. Old bricks are dotted with the occasional splash of pale green/blue and the lighting feature above the bar means Orto is a beautiful dinner destination.

Three cheese and parsnip cigar 'bite'

Three cheese and parsnip cigar ‘bite’

As it was a weekday, I didn’t want a heavy meal but wished to start with something a little fun. I opted for the three cheese and parsnip cigar which was listed under “bites” so was more of a snack than an entree. Dan chose the pea and ham shot with crispy pig’s ear. After we’d ordered we had a discussion whereby Dan suggested that it wasn’t really pigs ear that was going to accompany his shot. I laughed and said of course it was! Incredulous, he insisted that it was probably just another name for crackling. Sometimes I forget how comfortable I am eating everything… Finally convinced that it was actually pig’s ear, Dan felt a little wary of his forthcoming “bite”.

The infamous pig's ear on the pea and ham shot

The infamous pig’s ear on the pea and ham shot

Once served the shot, he nibbled on one end of the pig’s ear and decided it wasn’t quite his thing. Waste not, want not! Did I finish it off for him? Yes, yes I did. I do think Dan liked the pea and ham soup shot after all that. My own crisp cheesy cigar turned out to be like a spring roll and the perfect size to start the meal.

For mains, we both had fish. Dan had one of the daily specials; blue eye trevalla with wild rice, radish, watercress and fresh coconut. The coconut came in two forms; strips of fresh flesh and also as a refreshing, coconut water jelly. I had confit ocean trout (apologies for the photo. I didn’t manage to take a clear shot) which came with mussels, pippis, salmon roe, watercress and a chipotle rouille.

To drink, we had several glasses of pinot grigio and verdelho. Hell, we needed some alcohol after the embarrassing start to the meal!

Confit ocean trout, pippis, mussels and salmon roe

Confit ocean trout, pippis, mussels and salmon roe

Special of the day: Blue eye trevella with wild rice and fresh coconut

Special of the day: Blue eye trevella with wild rice and fresh coconut

Dessert options included a pumpkin brulee, spiced Eccles cake, and salty chocolate ganache but Dan and I were ready to stroll back to his place via Gelato Messina for a scoop or two and more conversation.

On the bright side, Orto Trading Co gave us a lovely dinner, Dan’s first taste of pig’s ear and the nearby Izakaya Fujiyama is now on our hit list. After we satisfy Dan’s Mexican craving of course. Perhaps next time we’ll also briefly pause our chatter to concentrate on entering the right restaurant.

Orto Trading Co
38 Waterloo St, Surry Hills
Breakfast & Lunch Tuesday-Sunday, 8am-3pm; Dinner Tuesday-Saturday from 6pm
Phone: 0431 212 453
Email: dine@ortotradingco.com.au