Thursday, July 17, 2014

Quay - The Rocks

Peter Gilmore's 'Quay' restaurant has probably received the highest accolade of Australian dining. There's an asian twist on a lot of his dishes, along with fresh ingredients and harmonious textures and flavours. I had put off coming here for years for fear of being disappointed but I knew that hubby had always wanted to try this place. So, for his birthday (or rather, 6 months before his birthday), I booked us a dinner for two at Quay. Having booked so early, we probably had one of the best tables of the restaurant - awesome view of the bridge, opera house, circular quay area and luna park.

Service is quite impeccable and we were served promptly and with smiles all round. I don't know if its cos we were Asian, but there was an unusually high proportion of Asian waiters serving us. I started with an interesting sounding mocktail - cloudy lime juice and pineapple were the main ingredients, and though I encouraged hubby to get the matching wines, he decided that he would be better able to enjoy his food without being super tipsy before the last few courses.
The amuse bouche was small bowl of potato mash with shaved truffle on a pool of ox tail consomme. The truffled mash was smooth and creamy and the clear broth was really rich. Loved both elements - but separately. Eating them together was a bit odd... there's a reason why most people don't put mash in broth.
First course on the degustation menu was a beetroot dish. Raw beetroot cubes served with rosehip, cultured cream, Manjumup truffle and violets. The frozen cream was an interesting element and I think that the dish went together nicely, but hubby was not 'wowed' by it.
As I am not a beetroot eater, my first course was subbed out for a salad of celery heart. It was refreshing and light. The thin celery heart slices were served with Pantelleria capers, feta, herbs and flowers. It was a pleasant dish with subtle flavours.
Course 2 was a mud crab congee. I'm used to my mud crab congee coming in massive bowls from Beverly Hills. This was a little different. It was delicate. The rice was soft and congee-like, there was plenty of sweet chunks of Australian mud crab, circles of fresh palm heart and the yellow thing on top was a creamy egg yolk emulsion. It's the 'high class' version of an asian congee. I liked it.
Bread came with the next course. Perfectly quenelled melty butter with a choice of sesame or sourdough bread. Both bread times had a crunchy edge and soft innards. Both tasty (I think I overheard that it was from Sonoma? ... could be wrong).
The pig cheek was probably the highlight of my savoury dishes tonight. Although you can't really see it in the photo, there was a perfectly succulent and juicy smoked piece of confit pig cheek hiding under the scallop and crumble mixture. The crumbly bits comprised of kombu, koji, shitake and sesame - reminds me of japanese jako rice. Loved the flavours and the textures of this dish - absolutely deliciousness!
XO sauced seafood was next. I could pick out abalone, scallop, cuttlefish, octopus, prawns and I think there was one more. It was an attempt to vamp up the traditional XO sauce. The crispy pancetta was nice... but really, XO sauce is XO sauce. It's a sauce that's hard to 'vamp up' because the original format is already so tasty and delicious.
Onto the mains - the first being the duck . No crispy skin >.< . The duck was cooked or roasted in a masterstock. It was tender... but not melt-in-your-mouth so. There was also a thick layer of fat which posed a dilemma for me... do I eat it? If so, it feels super unhealthy and if not, it lacked a bit of flavour. The duck was served with crispy black rice, thin persimmon slices, miso, endive cream, and the white flowers you get on chinese broccoli. Tasty, but not super impressive.
The beef felt like repetition. Again, a succulent but not melt-in-your-mouth protein with crispy black things. Except that the crispy black things were barley and not black rice. There were also some shaved truffle on top. Again, tasty but not anything to write home about.
By now, I was a bit full and glad for a change of flavour - from savouries to sweets. The much anticipated signature dessert - the snow egg - was a lot larger than I imagined. Yes, all the elements were there. The crack of the egg, the powdered sugary snow, and soft meringue and custard, and the cold shaven granita - all delivered and was delicious. All the flavours were well balanced and I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. Although, due to how bit the dessert is, I couldn't finish it - but when the waiter saw that I'd left some, he made me eat all the last few bites. Oh well - tasty anyway.

My favourite chocolatey bits of the night were next. The chocolate ethereal was this chocolately blob with caramel, almond and muscatel hidden and spokes of tempered dark chocolate, toffee, milk chocolate and milk film (? I don't know the technical word) sticking out. It was delicious! Loved the chocolately/caramelly/toffee-y combination.
And I couldn't leave Quay without having their Eight Texture Chocolate Cake. We've all seen Masterchef contestants struggle with the 8 layers of chocolate done in different ways. And it's delicious. But I have to say, it all kind of mushes together to be a really chocolately dessert. Yes there's crisp and there's mousse and there's biscuity... but in my mouth ? Just chocolate. I love chocolate ... but this is definitely a cake to share as it's super rich and decadent.
Petit fours and coffee and tea were also presented to us. All four chocolate bites were yum! But you have to bear in mind that I just demolished a chocolate blob and a massively chocolatey cake. Chocolate truffles were less appreciated than what they would, at other times, be. Luckily, they gave us another four to have a home - and these four were enjoyed immensely :)
So all up, we had a great dining experience. Friendly staff, good food, amazing views. I don't feel comfortable in rating the food... I know it's meant to be super WOW - but we weren't that impressed with most courses. We loved the pigs cheek, snow egg and chocolate ethereal, but we judged the other courses as rather average. Wouldn't be rushing to dine here again, but I would encourage people to eat here at least once in your lifetime.

Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal
5 Hickson Road
The Rocks
NSW, 2000
Tel: (02) 9251 5600


Riley Mackey said...

Good foods and nice views really make it an amazing dining venue. I prefer a place like it as a traveler.

Anonymous said...

I felt the same about my dining experience at Quay - not wowed by it but worth a try! I loved the chocolate/toffee films as well!

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Haha I love that the waiter made you finish the last of your snow egg!