Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Four Hour Affair

Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks, Sydney
Nothing on my trip was set in stone except our lunch at Quay, followed by a ballet performance at the Sydney Opera House (Unfortunately, Opera season ended in April and doesn't start till June... Impeccable timing I know).
Coming in at number 26 in the S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurant (A one spot jump from 2010), Quay has been steadily climbing the charts in recent years and is a 'Three Hats' status award recipient for 9 consecutive years. Helmed by chef Peter Gilmore, Quay has been offering nature inspired dishes before it became the hot new thing. Two menu options were available; A 3 or 4 course menu with multiple choices for each course or the 8 course tasting menu. Searching through the Urbanspoon you will no doubt find several posts on the former. Though it all looks amazing and is very much drool inducing, I decided to go for the latter. As a wise friend told me (not in exact words) 'Go big or go home'.
So without further ado, I present to you the ever elegant tasting menu.
Situated at the end of the Overseas Passenger Terminal at The Rocks, Quay offers one of the best views of Sydney's most iconic landmarks- the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Upon arriving, we were seated by the window overlooking the Opera House. It was such an amazing view.

We were quickly presented with a seaweed pudding hors d'oeuvre upon ordering. Served on a shell plate, the pudding is garnished with sturgeon roe and leaves of baby arugula (rockets) and fennel. The combination was so flavourful yet very refreshing. If only the portions were bigger.

The first course to arrive featured thinly sliced pieces of Hiramasa kingfish sashimi with pickled kohlrabi, octopus, nasturtiums and white dashi jelly presented in a very tasteful manner. The little balls of dashi jelly have little leaves solidified inside. Biting into the jelly balls unleashed a flavour explosion unlike anything I've ever experienced. The kingfish was fresh and sweet. So good.

Course 2 features black lipped abalone and shiitake mushrooms braised in seaweed and oyster juice. It is served with a ginger milk curd and purslane. The abalone and mushroom were pretty amazing as it had absorbed all the tasty flavours of it's accompanying ingredients. The ginger milk curd was super smooth and not too gingery. A perfect mix in my mind. My dad used to make it at home but he always use too much ginger juice. I think the secret is to not boil the milk directly, provide passive heating over water instead.

Course 3 features native freshwater marron. Marron is a freshwater crayfish and, as such, exhibit a less salty and sweeter taste than their oceanic cousins. De-shelled and cooked to perfection, the flesh was sweet and succulent and the flavour was rich yet not overpowering. The dish is served with organic pink turnips, jamon de bellota cream, oloroso caramel, almonds and society garlic flower. I have no idea what half of those things are but it tasted super amazing. And that's all that matters right? 

A tea type drink was brought out for us to clean our palates after the marron in preparation for more tasty non seafood dishes. Slices of freshly baked sourdough bread were also brought out for us to savor as the remaining dishes were prepared.

Course 4 is the butter poached coturnix quail breast. Served over a pumpernickel and ethical foie gras pudding and truffle custard, the quail meat is then finished with crushed walnuts, quinoa and milk skin flakes. The flavour is much richer than the previous dishes. The quail breast was very tender which contrasted the crunchy walnuts and quinoa.

Pig jowl was the focus of course 5. Jowl is the lower part of a pig's cheek. Think bacon... But better. We were advised to pause and immerse ourselves in the rich aromas of the dish. The smell of pig fat and caramel filled the air, taking us to a whole new world of ecstasy. The meat was slow braised to an otherworldly state of tenderness. It would literally melt in your mouth when you take a bite. Topped with a layer of crispy maltose crackling (which also melted in your mouth) over a bed of cauliflower cream and prunes, it was simply amazing just like all the previous dishes.

Don't be fooled by the picture, course 6 was not the start of the desserts. It is in fact a giant chunk of wagyu beef poached in an oxtail and morel reduction and coated with farro and ezekiel crumbs over a pool of molé (chocolate) purée. It's a nice transition though. The beef was cooked to a medium rare. The molé sauce had a very strong cocoa taste but did not taste all sugary like a chocolate bar. It was pretty tasty but pales in comparison to the pig jowls and the quail breast in terms of flavours.

The start of the dessert began with the arrival of course 7. Under the recommendation of our hostess, we switched our first dessert from the jewel in the snow to the famous snow egg. Check out this sweet YouTube video on how it's prepared. He makes it look so easy. The meringue ball features a maltose biscuit melted around like an egg shell. This sphere of awesomeness is then placed on a bed of strawberry and guava granita (shaved ice). Cracking the shell reveals a sweet gooey custard. The meringue was so smooth and light. Words cannot describe how amazing the snow egg is.

Course 8 featured a caramelized white chocolate walnut palm blossom sugar brioche with a prune sorbet. It was decent but the snow egg was definitely the star of the show. They should have swapped the order.

Upon completion of our meal, we were offered a cup of coffee and a couple of bite size pieces of chocolate. The light brown ball was stuffed with a whole hazelnut with a hazelnut cream. It was pretty amazing. I forget what the other one was but it had a really rich cocoa taste.

This was by far the most amazingest meal I’ve ever taste in my life. It was also the longest. We arrived at noon and walked out shortly after 4. The staff was preparing for dinner service as we left. Speaking of the staff, the service was amazing! Water was consistently topped up, I don’t even recall my glass being less than half full. Ever. A brief description of the featured ingredients were presented to us as each dish was brought out. Annnd there was a mini vacuum like contraption that they used to clear the bread crumbs between courses. I’m a sloppy eater. Don’t hate. 
So what did I think of it?

Atmosphere: 10 out of 10. Amazing view! The interior was warm and inviting. The plush purple carpet was a nice touch. Do note - Dress for success at Quay. You will feel underdress in a golf shirt and chino pants. So if you plan on rolling in with a wife-beater and MC hammer pants. Don’t. Just sayin’. 

Food: A million out of 10. Delicious. Heavenly. Scrumptious! Soooo good! I would eat here everyday if I can afford to.

Presentation: 10 out of 10. Beautiful presentation. It looks too pretty to eat. So I captured the moment and chowed down. I'm not paying the big bucks to look at it.

Price: 10* out of 10. This is a very ambiguous category. If you look at the price, it is extremely pricey. But if you consider what you get, I thought it was worth every penny. All 22000 of them. Per person. It is really dependent on what you value more. If you are eating to not be hungry, then Quay is probably not for you. Would I do it again? That would seem unlikely. I would probably try the 3 or 4 course menus. But I will no doubt remember and cherish this experience for the rest of my life. 

Service: 10 out of 10. Impeccable service. The staff was professional and knew what they were talking about. Not like that fifteen year old who brought you your quesadilla at Applebee’s. 

Overall: 10 out of 10. Experience of a life time. Check out these sweet photos I took. No, I didn’t take these photos from a postcard! 

Quay on Urbanspoon

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