Rabbit worth hopping into

RABBIT is not often found on restaurant menus these days where the grey, bush bunny is thankfully out of fashion. When bunny does appear, it is cultivated and is a far better eating than the big-eared beast from the bush.

Braised rabbit pieces is one of chef Andrew Evangelista’s specialities. It is a treat I find myself ordering whenever it stars as a chef’s special at Gavino Restaurant in Subiaco.

Andrew has mastered the art of keeping the rabbit tender. It is one meat that can come up as tough as a prize fighter if not handled cleverly. He calls the dish coniglio alla limone e capperi.

His secret is essentially a long braise.

Pan sealing the flesh and lemon wedges play a large part in the dish. After sautéing the meat in butter and virgin olive oil, he removes unwanted fats by straining the flesh.

Then in the original pan go the lemon, chopped onions and fresh rosemary. The onions are then flour-coated and rejoin the other ingredients in the pan.

In go the rabbit pieces with white wine added while simmering. Capers are added along with some stock and demi-glaze making sure the bunny bits are almost covered in this sauce.

He then adds parsley, covers the dish with foil and cooks it for some 40 minutes.

Finding Ristorante Gavino is a challenge because the place is hidden in a corner of Subiaco Mews Shopping Centre off Hay Street.

There is nothing pretentious about this dining hideaway and the place has its own following who are not necessarily local.

It is a friendly trattoria, totally uncomplicated and easy to be comfortable in. Conversations between tables are not uncommon and the communication takes place simply because I always seem to find some person I know there.

Andrew is a cook with a flavour knack. His sauces are well planned, fairly refined and never heavy, but they always seem to boast an explosion of tastes that makes whatever dish you choose an experience.

It’s a Mediterranean style using oregano, parsley, rosemary, garlic and tomato and always cooking with the best olive oil.

He has made his mark on Gavino as much or more than any person involved.

A major attraction is the affordability, where the bulk of the principal meat courses struggle to break the $20 mark.

Entrees range from $11.50 for chicken livers and white onions in bay leaves and white wine through to $13.50 for garlic prawns or grilled squid in a simple parsley and olive oil finish.

As with all seafood, they are at the top end of the Gavino price scale and sit just under $30.

Even with an added extra such as a tomato and basil salad ($3.50) the food remains affordable.

Dishes to try are the oven-baked capretto. Once again in a herbed-white wine based sauce, the baby goat meat all but falls from the bone and costs $18.50.

Another is the di vitello alla pizzaiola. This $18.50 dish is of medallions of lightly bashed veal pan-fried in garlic, fresh tomato sauce, white wine, plum tomatoes, chilli, oregano, stock and parsley.

Don’t season your meal here before tasting it because the chef seasons while cooking.

You can dine at Gavino at prices that reflect something of a time-warp as they are mid 90s prices in many cases.

The winelist on the other hand has modern pricing but it is a fairly scarce selection.

Only a dozen reds grace the Australian list and four others from Italian vineyards.

On the white selection, the loyalty to the WA wine industry is credible, but again you won’t have to speed-read the selections.

Be confident that the food quality is unchangingly consistent, as is the restaurant and Andrew’s cooking style would have Italian mamma’s asking for a second helping.

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