I don’t know enough about Spanish food to gauge how authentic it is at Encasa. What I do know is that we’ve been coming here with groups of friends for close to 5 years now. The garlicky aromas which envelope you as soon as you enter the doorway next to their pizza prep area are heady and inviting. The food quality is consistent plus Mr Awesome knows the owner so we often get a tailored deal or complimentary dishes. Oh, for the love of free food.
Encasa holds fond memories for me because it almost always involves large groups of friends, and usually for the occasion of birthdays. Lots of chatter and laughter (and one particular incident of the red, toilet-seat cover) and sharing of food, which is what is always so great about having dishes that are made to share. Regardless of what selection of friends we’re with, there is always a selection of tapas that appear time and time again: ‘Chorizo a la plancha’ (grilled chorizo), ‘Gambas al ajillo’ (prawns in garlic oil), ‘Champiñones al ajillo’ (garlic mushrooms) and, occasionally, some balls – ‘Albondigas’ (meatballs in almond sauce).
I always want bread to go with these – bread to sandwich the chorizo and soak up the spicy, red oil which oozes out, bread to dip into the garlic oil of the prawns, bread to top with the garlic mushrooms and bread to mop up that sweet, nutty yet tangy almond sauce. But stomach space has to be conserved for things to come.
For there are other wonderful things such as ‘Patatas bravas’ (fried potato with garlic mayonnaise and tomato salsa), ‘Vieiras en azafrán’ (scallops with saffron sauce), ‘Mejillones a la marinera‘ (black mussels in fresh tomato sauce) and ‘Pinchos morunos’ (lamb fillet skewers). Seriously, who says no to fried potato? Especially when there are oodles of creamy mayonnaise blanketing their tops and, although the scallops are a little small, the sauce is fragrant without being too rich and would be great over some plain rice. The mussels are plump in the refreshing sauce and the lamb skewers are well-spiced which is welcome by friends who are worried about their ‘lamb-iness’.
For carb-fix you simply cannot go past Encasa’s pizzas. Below are the ‘Meat Lovers’ pizza (ham, cabanossi, pepperoni and bacon), ‘Mar de Asia’ pizza (seafood and sweet chilli sauce) and ‘Campesina’ pizza (artichoke, roasted capsicum, roasted eggplant but we asked for mozzarella to replace the usual goat’s cheese as Ms Sourdough’s not a fan).
And what’s a Spanish meal without paella? Although this ‘Arroz Nero’ was without the requisite crusty bottom, I did enjoy the striking dark colour from the use of squid ink. Not having any particular taste, it is fun to watch people acquire streaks of black across their lips and teeth as we make our way through this. What is better than the rice dish itself, is the aioli which comes alongsige – rich, creamy, garlicky and very addictive.
To wash all this down, we have a jug (or several) of sangria to share. Whilst chatting at the end of the meal I always notice us girls trying to pick out the fruit to nibble on – perhaps it’s to neutralise some of the residual garlic flavours, or perhaps it’s just to add some extra sweetness to the drink’s flavour, but whatever it is there’s no elegant way to do it!
423 Pitt St (between Campbell & Goulburn Sts), Sydney NSW
Tel: (02) 9211 4257
Opening Hours: Mon 5:30pm-late (dinner only)
Tue-Sat 12pm-2:30pm (lunch)