It was the perfect plan. Splurging on a dinner at Quay can always be difficult to justify in your budget, but if you have a fellow food lovin' friend who also happens to be a Scorpio, you can very easily take each other for a birthday treat! Everybody wins!
The whiskey trolley
We arrive early for our 6pm booking, allowing us plenty of time to appreciate the harbour views. The decor is deliberately understated - who wants to look at the walls when the Sydney Opera House is on your doorstep?
The million dollar view of the Sydney Opera House
Producer acknowledgements on the menu
Dinner offers two options: a four-course menu for $165 or an eight-course tasting menu for $220. Particularly impressive was the personalised acknowledgement of the specific farmers, growers and providores and their contributions to the dishes at Quay.
We choose the four-course menu, selecting different dishes from each set of five choices.
Amuse bouche: Tuna sashimi with dashi jelly and eggplant cream
The complimentary amuse bouche of the evening is an elegant arrangement of tuna sashimi in the tiniest of glasses. The tuna is sweet and firm, texturally playing off against the soft and salty dashi jelly. A puddle of eggplant cream at the base is wondrously smooth and silky. It's the ideal teaser for our palate in preparation for the meal ahead.
Sonoma bread and butter
The handmade ceramics are an immediate talking point. A quenelle of whipped butter perches in the thumbprint of what looks like a weather-beaten stone. We're soon distracted by the basket of breads -- all from Sonoma, we're told. We try the sourdough and the wholewheat versions, but the sunflower seed bread is the one we enjoy the most, and yes, waitstaff were happy to provide us with seconds. And maybe thirds.
Course 1: Sashimi of blue mackerel
with smoked eel flowers, sea scallops, pickled apple and nasturtiums
The sashimi of blue mackerel is so prettily plate you can't help but admire it thoughtfully for a minute or so. The blue mackerel is achingly fresh, and not half as fish as you'd expect, livened by thin slivers of pickled apple and the prettiest 'flowers' of smoked eel.
Course 1: Poached native marron with lemon syllabub, young almonds,
pomelo, green mango, elderflower, bergamot, chamomile
Poached native marron is delicately sweet, and though we find the segmented pomelo refreshing, it feels a little too fridge cold against our teeth.
Course 2: Gentle braise of black lipped abalone and rare breed pig belly
with shiitake, warrigal greens, ginger milk curd and earth & sea consomme
For my second course, I choose the black lipped abalone, whisper thin slices that are tender in the mouth. This is a dish of exploration, with silky ginger milk curd, fat shiitake mushrooms, warrigal greens and a tile of fatty pork belly buried at the bottom.
Course 2: Gently poached southern rock lobster, golden tapioca, shaved squid, lobster velvet
There's plenty to discover in the dish of gently poached southern rock lobster too. Slippery ribbons of shaved squid are coiled around glistening pearls of tapioca. The lobster is sweet and yielding.
Course 3: Risotto made from 7 year aged Acquerello rice
enriched with rice germ, truffle, white asparagus cream
Risotto doesn't instantly grab your attention but one mouthful of this dish, and I'm hooked. The crunch of rice puffs is what gets your attention first, and the masterful restraint of truffle, cream and cheese in the rice is what keeps you returning for more.
Course 3: Berkshire pig jowl with maltose crackling, prunes and cauliflower cream
perfumed with prune kernel oil
I'd eaten the Berkshire pig jowl before but I can't resist ordering it again. Our giggling waitress passes on instructions from the chef that we should take a moment to appreciate the aromas in this dish before eating it. I place my head over the plate and breathe in deeply.
There's much to love about this dish. There's the satisfying crack as you shatter the layer of maltose toffee "crackling" on top, there's the luxurious river of smooth cauliflower cream, but ultimately it's all about the pork, so unbelievably soft and fatty and unctuous that all you can do is sigh with every mouthful.
And yes a bowl of salad leaves will definitely cancel out the fattiness of the pork you have just ingested.
Course 4: White nectarine snow egg
Dessert is what we've been looking forward to all night of course, and we dutifully order the dish of MasterChef legacy, the snow egg. Cracking open the "egg" releases a cloud of icing sugar as the maltose toffee shell breaks apart to reveal a core of white nectarine ice cream encased in a fluffy marshmallow meringue.
The white nectarine granita is cool and refreshing, scraped into fine crystals that melt on the tongue in an instant.
Course 4: Quay's eight texture chocolate cake
Quay's eight texture chocolate cake comes with the spectacle of a table-side ceremony. A spoonful of warm chocolate sauce is silently spooned from a gleaming copper pot and onto the middle of the cake. It's mesmerising to watch the sauce slowly but surely disappear into a rapidly emerging sink-hole in the middle as the cake appears to disappear into itself.
Quay's eight texture chocolate cake
It's a chocoholic's dream come true, with a thin disc of chocolate on top protecting a masterful construction of chocolate mousse, ganache, chocolate and hazelnut dacquoise, chocolate caramel cream and a chocolate cake base.
The dessert is gloriously rich, and probably best shared between two.
We scrape the plate clean.
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Hickson Road, Circular Quay West, The Rocks, Sydney
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Quay, Sydney (Apr 2011)
Peter Gilmore at the World Chef Showcase 2010
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11/14/2011 01:44:00 a.m.