23 August 2015
It was a long flight, but not as bad as I thought despite the not-so-great airline called Jetstar and their rather sub-standard “business class” service (which is not even near a premium economy in other airlines). But the flight was on a Dreamliner, and it is noticeably more comfortable (especially the quality of air). But it was annoyingly hot, considering how much I was melting in Hawai’i…
But Sydney airport is beyond efficient. Within minutes I was off the plane and thru immigration. Baggage took 10 minutes but then within a few more minutes I was thru customs and hopping on the 15-minute train to Central. Damn it, Heathrow, you really, really suck… #Deathrow
I chilled out and tried to get my head straight that I’m finally in Australia after all these years. And thank goodness it was winter, as it was nice and cool outside. Loving it.
Dinner tonight was planned weeks in advance, and it is Quay — one of the best restaurants in Australia, and for many years an entry in the 50 Best list around the middle area (at 58th this year). For one, the views next to the restaurant at the Passenger Terminal is fabulous, with a straight view at the iconic Sydney Opera House. The historic Sydney Harbour Bridge was just adjacent also. Wow.
I was seated in the beautiful restaurant with a clear view of the aforementioned Opera House, which was the view for the evening from one side; and the adjacent corner was the Bridge. But the surprising thing for me is that this restaurant is lauded not for its view, but for its cuisine. I shall put that to the test with the tasting menu tonight.
After a relaxing cocktail and a tasty amuse bouche, I began my 8-course tasting menu, starting with the marron.
Marron is a type of Australian crayfish, very tasty. The Dory roe was a nice touch, fabulous and mild. An excellent start! I went with the wine pairings as well, and the pours are not short nor generous. Relaxed a little but the second dish was out soon, the congee.
Not quite what you may expect, but a solid dish. Not very congee-ish without the rice in the right way, but the flavors were all there, with the mud crab as the highlight. Culturally a bit of a miss, but flavour-wise spot on. Chilled out a little before dish number three appeared, the mysterious XO.
Well, not that mysterious when I saw it — just various seafood in a XO sauce. Seafood done very well, the sauce milder than most XO are (again, maybe toned down here). The jamon was probably not necessary as it was wee salty in an already salty dish. But the seafood was excellent.
I relaxed and noticed the wine pours again weren’t generous, but for someone just off a long flight and the dinner beginning at about 9pm, this was fine. I was starting to blink more as I know my energy is limited when the next dish arrived.
This was a star, the smoked pig jowl. Fabulous flavour and texture here, you almost feel guilty eating it. The richness is wonderfully in your face, and it just dominates your palate. Excellent, the dish of the night so far. Worked well with the Tasmanian pinot noir paired with it. In fact, the mostly-Australian pairing has been excellent in relations with the food, from the rose for the opener and the pinot gris for the XO.
The place was obviously getting busy again for their late seating and the service slowed a wee touch, but nothing significant. In fact, it was welcomed, as the dishes got larger and deeper. The next was the duck.
I’m sorry the photo didn’t come out too clear, but it is a black rice miso topping. To be honest this dish didn’t do much for me. I’ve had so much good duck lately, from Tulsa to Napoli, this was really average. Oh well, no biggie, can’t have a tasting menu without 1 or 2 weak dishes, even on the very best ones.
The last of the savoury dishes appeared next, and I was very excited as it was beef-centric.
This is the wagyu harami (outside skirt), from a special breed that sends all of their products exclusively to Quay. It’s not Japanese, but it’s pretty damn close in quality. Beautiful flavour and marbling, the key to all great wagyu. Rich taste, cooked to perfection. Another star of this menu, excellent!
I was quickly running low on gas to be honest, and that last savoury dish was so good it sent me into semi-slumber. I kept going, as the first of the desserts showed up — one of Chef Peter Gilmore’s signature dishes, the Snow Egg.
I’m not a dessert person, but a nice crushed flavour ice dish with ice cream in the middle. But for some reason my stomach just kicked me that moment I was finishing this dessert, and I had to sprint to the bathroom…
I got back quickly but I think the flight has took all my energy and I’m running on fumes now. The last dessert, based on chocolate, I barely touched…
Too bad, as it looked good. They happily called a taxi for me as I finished a coffee and headed out. Too bad my system gave out at the end, but that was a fabulous tasting menu. The beef was the highlight alongside the pork jowl, and the wine pairings — despite not being very generous — worked very well. Excellent and friendly service as well.
But the lesson is — don’t jump off a 10-hour flight and go do an 8-course tasting menu like you aren’t feeling the flight…
Day 1 in Sydney a success! Now to catch up on sleep and to try to forget Jetstar…
3, Overseas Passenger Terminal
George & Argyle Street, The Rocks
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia