Tangled Up in Blue
5 Bates Hill
"I seen a lot of women
Beef pie with fat chips.Photo by Karl Wells/Special to The Telegram
Tangled Up in Blue
5 Bates Hill
"I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind, and I just grew
Tangled up in blue." - Bob Dylan
That was for all of you who might have wondered how Mara Lang came up with the name of her restaurant. Yes, it's from Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up in Blue." If you'd like to delve deeper into why the song is significant for the young restaurateur, you'll need to ask her.
Tangled is billed as an "Australian style café-bar." At first blush it isn't obvious that Tangled is that different from any other mid-range Canadian café-bar. Mara Lang is from Australia. That was obvious when she spoke, as with her sister, Jesse, the manager. But, let's face it; Australian accents aren't that uncommon in St. John's in 2007.
You won't find kangaroo tail soup or any other kangaroo dishes on the Tangled menu. Nor will you find anything billed as having come from the "barbie." Truth is, most Australians don't eat kangaroo. They do sell millions of dollars worth of the lean meat to Europe and Russia every year. And, although it's a very legitimate part of Australia's food culture, I suspect "barbie" has become too cliché for Mara Lang. Blame Paul "Put another on the barbie" Hogan and Crocodile "Come and say G'day" Dundee.
Although subtle, Australian influences are present. Tangled has a loose, friendly atmosphere - no doubt helped along by Lang, who has a sparkling, open personality. There's a definite sense of fun. Restrooms are identified with shadowboxes containing a tie, tie clip and cuff links for the men's and necklace and earrings for the women's. Colours are bright, dominated by Ferrari red.
It's in chef Sid Agarwa's menu where you'll detect signs of contemporary Australian cuisine. Originally from India, Agarwa comes to Tangled from Melbourne, Australia, where he cooked for some years. Hiring the 27-year-old was a smart move. Not only is he savvy about current Australian cuisine, he's got talent to boot.
Modern Australian cooking has been influenced by neighbour countries in Asia and by Australia's immigrant cultures. That's why you'll find Greek, Italian, Asian and British styled dishes on Tangled's menu. It's an eclectic list but it is in that idiosyncratic collection of dishes where you find Australian authenticity.
Scanning the appetizers we checked soup of the day with pide (pronounced pye-dah but also called pita), bruschetta with balsamic and the macadamia prawn cakes.
The soup, squash and ginger, was sweet and refreshing but with enough zip to give my taste buds a tickle. Tangled's bruschetta was comforting. Fragrant tomatoes, red onion, olive oil and balsamic vinegar sinking gently into warm, soft slices of fresh bread would motivate anybody's digestive juices.
Thanks to the main ingredient, plump pieces of prawn, Tangled's macadamia prawn cakes had lots of texture. The obvious freshness of the crispy brown cakes, as well as a tangy dollop of citrus mayo gave me great pleasure. Crushed bits of my favourite nut, macadamia, made an appearance inside and outside of the cakes.
You'll find a good selection of fruity young wines to wash down your choices at Tangled. Naturally, Australian brands like Rosemount, Penfolds and Wolf Blass hold sway. However, you'll also find a few New Zealand products as well, Oyster Bay and Matua Valley.
Meat pies have always been popular in Australia, no doubt as far back as the days of Capt. Cook. Tangled's beef and Guinness pie with fat chips was a tasty effort. I did have a slight problem with the gravy. It was too liquid for me. Most of it ran through the tines of my fork, making a quick escape from my anxious lips. The flavours of the pie were splendid and the beef showed no tough side whatsoever.
(By the way, fat chips are simply thick-cut fries. Many of us in the Commonwealth like them that way. I'm happy Tangled is offering them. Their version is skin-on as well, a little better for you.)
Like many countries with Queen Elizabeth on its currency, Australia has a soft spot for fish and chips. Thank God, because otherwise I wouldn't have had the opportunity to taste chef Sid Agarwa's brilliant deep-fried, beer-battered cod. The golden batter was almost paper thin and astonishingly crisp. The cod was as fresh as I've ever tasted, moist and falling apart.
My friend Gerry Dyer, a New Zealander, was visiting me last month. I was steaming some sweet potato for supper one evening when he told me that in New Zealand they call sweet potato "kumara."
I felt like a real smarty-pants when I saw it listed on the Tangled menu. Chicken with kumara was a dish of mildly spiced, dry rubbed strips of chicken that had been roasted in the oven. These were served with sliced, roasted kumara, a rocket salad (mixed greens), and pecan salsa. It was delicious, especially the extra moist chicken.
Lang brought a three-foot blackboard to our table with a list of the day's desserts. With the exception of poached pear in Cointreau, most was quite calorie-laden. Included were baklava, oatcake berry stack, carrot cake and something called vanilla eat-more stack.
I had a nibble of the baklava. It was very nutty and rich. However, I settled for something called an ANZAC biscuit. ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.
The name goes back to the First World War. The recipe, containing coconut and oatmeal, has been around since 1927. The more recent recipe is, to say the least, more palatable than the original that was meant to keep for months to feed soldiers in the trenches.
Mine was a sweet, pleasingly chewy conclusion to a very good meal. The frothy topped cappuccino I washed it down with, was decent as well. Good luck to Mara Lang, as well as mum and dad Lang, her business partners.
A meal for four at Tangled Up in Blue - including four drinks and gratuity - was approximately $180.
The noise level at Tangled Up in Blue was moderate and it was not wheelchair accessible.
Tangled Up in Blue is open daily from 7:30 a.m. for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Food and service.
Areas for Improvement:
Thicken the pie gravy.
Tangled Up in Blue gets a very strong 8 out of 10 points.
7 points = satisfactory, 7.5 points = good, 8 points = very good, 9 points = excellent, 10 points = perfection
Karl Wells is a restaurant panellist with enRoute magazine. To reach him, log on to his website: www.karlwells.com.