We all have our signature dance moves. Yours might be The Robot or The Stomp, or perhaps The Time Warp or The Twist. But have you ever done The Cockle Shuffle?

This is a dance move that’s been perfected over centuries, right here in South Australia.

Step 1: Find the right stage – the shoreline is your best bet. Step 2: Bend the knees and separate slightly. Step 3: The all-important twist.

You’ll need to do all of this barefoot and in the wet sand at the edge of the crashing waves, at the mid-tide point that only the experts seem to identify exactly. Watching the locals who come out each day is especially important if you want to find the perfect pipis, buried beneath the surface. And you know what they say: location is everything. And one of the best locations to source this seafood delicacy is on the beaches surrounding the coastal town of Goolwa.

Just up from Goolwa’s main beach, nestled in the foot of the sandhills, is the humble Kuti Shack. It’s a passion project which saw a former beach kiosk converted by some passionate locals into a little seafood lovers’ paradise. This is as locavore as you can possibly get. It is mere metres from the ocean and the only thing that separates our table from the source is a stretch of sand, a bunch of beachgoers and a distant group twisting the afternoon away down by the water.

Kuti Shack is only metres from the shoreline where its popular cockles are harvested. Supplied image

While casual, the interior of the shack is contemporary in design, with café-style furniture and minimal fixtures and fittings, the most thematic of which are seagrass and wicker-style light fittings. The venue is framed with panoramic windows with each direction offering its own coastal landscape vista.

Also casual-looking is the menu itself. A clipboard that separates dishes into Share plates and Substantial meals looks a little simple, until you read deeper into each of the listed items. Immediately obvious is a pan-Asian influence to many dishes, with a healthy dash of Italian in others, and what I now like to refer to as Fish-n-Chip Shop Chic.

Whitebait is proof that former fish food is a perfectly acceptable ingredient for humans. Kuti prepare theirs in a light tempura-style batter and each little morsel is crispy, with an oceanic flavour intensified with a little more salt. Dill mayo balances the saltiness and offers a creamy contrast to each bite. Order these in place of chips – you won’t regret it.

And then from the specials board comes a dish that features slivers of bluefin tuna with a Japanese edge, swimming in a pool of light chilli oil mixed into a zingy herb salsa. The tuna tastes like it’s fresh off the boat and the sauce has a layered spicy flavour with herbaceous notes that is well balanced so as not to outshine the hero ingredient. Sesame and micro herbs are sprinkled over the dish and a dollop of kewpie-style mayonnaise completes this delicious little starter.

Still firmly in Asian-fusion territory is Kuti’s karaage. Juicy bite-sized pieces of golden fried chicken sit on a bed of modestly prepared and undressed coleslaw. In place of a typical mayonnaise comes an XO-flavoured aioli that again offers a little chilli-infused heat to both chicken and salad. This is a simple dish that has us singing its praises, only wishing we’d ordered more.

XO pipis are almost always on the menu at Kuti, but sadly, not today. We’re told that supply is a little low this season and this is one signature dish that they just can’t keep up with. In its place is a pipi linguine, which proves as a more than satisfying alternative. Perfectly cooked pasta is coated in a simple butter and lemon sauce that also pools around the mollusc contained in each pipi shell. Wakame is a locally sourced seaweed that provides all the seasoning this wonderful dish needs, along with a light sprinkle of parmesan cheese. This is a dish for anyone who likes vongole, minus the typical addition of chilli but with a satisfying amount of added butter.

Pipi linguine.

Whitebait with the tuna sashimi in the background. Supplied image

Fortunately for those who prefer to keep feet on drier ground, Kuti Shack is a partner with Cockle Shuffle experts The Goolwa Pipi Co. The business supplies the Kuti kitchen with fresh catches each week, ready for various dishes that have become synonymous with the eatery, for obvious reasons. Other produce is sourced locally, too: it’s all part of the ethos of chefs Brendan Roach and Vanessa Button, who respect and recognise the history of the local Ngarrindjeri people who have been sustainably harvesting these ingredients for thousands of years.

Seafood and sustainability are key to the ethos of this delicious little place by the sea, but there’s also a real sense of fun and culinary adventure.

So, come on everybody, let’s do The Twist.

Kuti Shack

Goolwa Beach carpark, Beach Rd, Goolwa Beach

Phone: 0418 965 163

goolwapipico.com/kuti-shack

Open: 8am to 4pm, Thursday to Sunday

 

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