Fino - Willunga - Go to McLaren Vale and make a day out of it

After spending the day in McLaren Vale helping out a friend being 'extras' on a documentary for a winery (very fun with some wine tasting in between takes), what better way to end the day with a late lunch at Fino Restaurant in Willunga. 

Fino Willunga

This is a restaurant that I have only heard good things about, so after a friend again recommended I should go try it out...I did!  Located in Willunga, this unassuming restaurant has a lot to offer.  The restaurant itself is quite small with a nice indoor and outdoor setting (note:  I was unable to properly view the outdoor location given a private birthday function taking place).  Atmosphere was fun and casual - really enjoyable.

Fino's dining concept encourages the sharing concept which has become quite popular in recent times.  I must admit that Fino does it well and from the pictures below you will be able to see that the dishes themselves are presented in a way which makes it quite easy for the diners to do so.  As a result of this sharing concept, diners have the option of sharing a-la-carte, or having a set menu.  My friend and I went with the a-la-carte menu.   

Fino Willunga
Sour dough & Diana 'Novello' extra virgin olive oil - $2.50

To start off the meal, my friend and I go for the sour dough.  Note that the above picture shows a serving for two.  Sour dough and olive oil is a classic, simple combination and Fino does it well with fresh bread and good quality olive oil.

Fino Willunga
Roast beetroot, carrots and woodside chevre - $18.00
The next item on the menu was the beetroot salad.  The salad itself was quite basic in its concept with the chef letting the produce speak for itself.  The beetroot was sweet and tender whilst the carrots were cooked al-dente with a slight bite to them.  The chevre (goat's cheese) was creamy and salty and when combined with the vegetables make for a great dish.  Simple in concept, great in execution.

Fino Willunga
Berkshire chorizo and pickled green tomatoes - $18
Second course was the chorizo.  Looking at the chorizo, it had all the elements that I liked.  The chorizo had a char to the skin which gave it a great texture with the fat inside the chorizo being well rendered.  No lumpy, uncooked pieces of fat here.  The chorizo also had a nice flavour with slight heat.  As mentioned above, the chorizo was already cut for us making the 'sharing' concept much easier for the diner.  The pickled green tomato, whilst potentially sounding a little too strong for some, packed a lot of flavour but did not overpower the dish.
Fino Willunga
Garfish, green beans, almonds and aioli - $33
Course three was the garfish.  Now I must admit that I am not a huge fan of fish, so my review may be a little biased.  Having said this, the garfish was not overcooked and was flakey in texture.  My friend and I agreed that the taste of the fish was subtle, but in combination with the beans, almonds and aioli, it was a nice dish.  Beans again were not over-processed and the almonds crunchy. 

Fino Willunga
Wagyu beef - price not provided
The fourth dish was the Wagyu beef.  Whilst this dish was available as part of the set menu option, it did not appear on the standard menu however was available for diners to try.  My personal preference (which is completely open to comment) is that any restaurant that serves beef should ask the diner how they would like it cooked - in this case Fino didn't.  My personal preference for beef is medium-rare and the Wagyu came out rare.  Now, I don't know whether this was deliberate on Fino's part given the quality of the beef cut being used - but this is me being really nit-picky here!

As noted, the Wagyu came out rare, you could definitely see the quality of the cut with the beef having the fabled 'marbling' of fat throughout the cut.  The beef cut (as can be seen) had a great char on the outside which gave it a great flavour with the beef speaking for itself.  In some cases the beef did not cut a smoothly or softly as I would like (however I am not sure if this was due to the knife that I had).  I would have preferred a little more cooking time so the fat rendered a little more.

Depending on how much you like to eat, 4-5 dishes between two people is sufficient.  I do recommend speaking with the waiting staff about how many dishes may be required, as the combination of dishes will depend on sizing (between entree and main).  Ok, now - dessert!
Fino Willunga
Dark chocolate mousse, salted caramel and berries - $16
When I sometimes see chocolate and caramel, I get a little worried.  Each flavour is so strong by itself, that in combination can be too sickly and sweet.  You do not have to worry here.  The dark chocolate mousse was light and creamy with a slightly bitter quality given the use of dark chocolate.  The salted caramel is limited in its quantity and is there to support and cut through the mousse.  Berries are slightly tart and balance the entire dish.  A favourite for both myself and my friend...*drools*

Fino Willunga
Crema Catalana - $16
Not thinking that one dessert was enough, we ordered the Crema Catalana - Spain's version of the Creme Caramel.  There are a few things that I look for in a good Creme Caramel.  The 'snap/crackle' of the sugar top with a creamy filling.  This did not disappoint.  The picture shows that the top was blow torched correctly with a nice crack being made when the spoon was put through.  The sugar was sweet and slightly chewy and not hard or bitter (indicating that it may have been over torched).  The filling was so smooth, creamy and luxurious - like custard again, *drools* (no lumpy bits at all).  The infusion of citrus made the custard mixture sweet to taste with slight citrus tones.  Two great desserts to finish off a great meal.

In total, the above dishes with a latte, short black and two glasses of wine totalled $161.00.  Not a cheap meal, so just be aware of this if you want to try it out.  In terms of booking, I would recommend it as the facilities are a little small.  Plan ahead, and make a day out of it as the restaurant is located in Willunga about 15 minutes away from McLaren Vale and some wonderful wineries.

Ambiance:  4/5 - I like the casual vibe and small location...looks like you are coming into someones house....someones great looking house with awesome food
Service:  4.5/5 - Staff were attentive and knew the restaurants philosophy and dishes whilst not being over-attentive
Food:  8/10 - A few points off for the fish (again, a little biased), and the Wagyu not being as soft as I would have hoped

In total, Mjrko gives Fino 16.5/20 chops on the chopping board. 

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