Trapped at the end of an auxiliary road along Interstate 25, New South Wales never proved an easy destination for would-be customers. COSMIX made a tough situation tougher, construction eliminating the one direct interstate exit to the seafood and steak restaurant.
Owner Gary Flewellen had a choice to make: struggle through the construction, or close and make a few upgrades to the 16-year-old place. Choosing to close may have been difficult, but 10 months later, kitchen staff reunited, it's appears wise.
New South Wales, largely nondescript save for green accents, looks more like a former Perkins restaurant than a fine, Australian-themed seafood restaurant. Even with aboriginal artwork, the freshly painted and carpeted dining room smacked a bit plain on my visits.
A fun variety of hard "shelled" delicacies of the land and sea dotted the appetizer menu. Nothing against the alligator and mussels, but we opted for the perfectly briny bites of tender clams ($10) and escargot ($8). The former were fine, but the latter shone, the snails arriving piping hot in a ramekin full of garlicky herb and minced mushroom olive oil and butter liquor. I'd suggest eschewing the mini-fork for a spoon, and saving some bread to soak up the tasty bits left behind.
A choice of soup or salad accompanies each entre, and we found you couldn't really go wrong with either. One note: The French onion soup, while delicious, sported chunks of beef, which does not a French onion soup make.
New South Wales is plenty proud of its fresh fish, most of which runs $20 or above. The monkfish ($21), otherwise known as the "poor man's lobster" (based more on look and texture than taste), was firm, yet moist. The orange roughy ($22) caused a stir: Though delicately breaded, it was overwhelmed by the overly sweet, brown-gravy-like chutney of Dijon, peach and brandy.
The steak-like swordfish ($20) appealed to my husband's manly side. Expertly seasoned, firm and served with drawn butter, it inspired a satisfied nod.
I, however, scored the knockout with the grilled bistro steak ($26) also known as a hanger steak covered in barnaise and topped with king crab. I ordered it medium and didn't quibble when it arrived sliced and medium rare. Apparently, the chef knows this cut is easily ruined if cooked too long. The tartness of the barnaise, sweetness of the crab and the flavorful-yet-tender beef all complemented one another.
The eatery's side dishes could use some jazzing up. The twice-baked potato lacked punch, and the mushroom risotto featured undercooked onions on both visits. An added vegetable side would also serve well.
One thing New South Wales nails and it's evident instantly is service. Pop (as he asked to be called), Flewellen's father-in-law, serves as a sort of goodwill ambassador, greeting and offering company until additional guests arrive, even bussing tables on the weekends. Flewellen also checks on each customer.
The restaurant's lived something of a hard-knock life, but now with both north (Nevada Avenue) and south (Corporate Center Drive) exits off I-25 open, opportunities abound for this plain Jane to show it's special inside.