"Excitement! Dinner at Quay :D All dressed up. Mr NQN in sneakers and sailing shirt love it lol" I tweeted one Saturday night. As a way to celebrate moving into our new place Mr NQN and I thought we'd do it with a dinner out at Quay. It had been years and I mean literally years (the last visit was B.B. aka Before Blog) since I had last dined there and when I called up a couple of weeks before moving in I was told that the next table for two on a Saturday night was 6 weeks away (owing to the Restaurant of the Year accolade no doubt). It looks like I'd have to keep waiting.
We chose to eat early as we like to watch the changes in the views and sky over nightfall (and we'd get better photos). We had almost had our wedding reception at Quay and we were all set to sign on the dotted line until I asked a seemingly innocent question about cakeage only to find out that cakeage was $10 per person. If you do the calculations that makes it $650 to plate up a slice of cake for 65 people. Hmm no-one told me that they had an Investment Banker doing the job of cutting up wedding cake at that pay rate.... ;)
Even at 6pm, there are a couple of tables enjoying the view. We're shown to our table, one right at the front with a lovely view and service is uniformly polite with varying degrees of warmth from stiff politeness to effusively warm. Diners can choose from either the 4 course menu at $155 per person or the signature menu at $210 which includes their highlights but everyone at the table needs to have the same menu. We choose the 4 course menu as this allows us to try all of their signature dishes and then some.
We're presented with our amuse bouche, a kingfish sashimi with sour cream and tapioca. The sour cream is an unusual accompaniment to the kingfish as we're used to sashimi kingfish being treated in a Japanese way and the pair is unexpected.
The three breads we are offered are all organic, a white sourdough, a polenta and seed bread and a wholemeal bread. The butter is unsalted so I ask for a little salt to go with it nad the favourite is the white sourdough followed by the wholemeal. The polenta and seed bread has an almost cakey, nutty flavour to it.
Our first courses arrive and the marron is sweet and delicate against the other components of the dish and the salty seaweed jelly in the centre which is very soft and a tad difficult to place on the fork. The sauteed spring onion bulbs are slippery to spear and I find myself muttering "Slippery little suckers" fearing a Pretty Woman moment.
_Mud Crab, Yuzu and Tapioca Sea Pearl with silver leaf
We couldn't go past the Sea Pearls which start with sashimi tuna, smoked eel, yuzu and mud crab coated in tapioca and silver leaf; dashi jelly with abalone and scallops. Our favourites were the simplest tasting sashimi tuna and the sea scallops with wasabi flowers with the scallops being so delectably soft and sexy. The Dashi Sea Pearl was perhaps one of the most beautiful in appearance and has a ribbon of abalone swirled throughout it although as abalone has a relatively mild taste and a firm texture, it tasted more like the dashi. The Mud Crab and Yuzu one was strong in Yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit).
Gently poached partridge breast, bitter chocolate black pudding and walnut crumbs, truffle custard, fresh palm hearts, white borage buds
The partridge breast is shaped like a sausage and it has an unusual texture almost like a smoked chicken. The chocolate black pudding has the distinct flavour of chocolate to it and crunch via the walnut crumbs and the wobbly truffle custard and palm hearts complement it nicely. Although Mr NQN is rather naughty and points out that the partridge looks like a finger complete with nail.
This dish was given the white glove treatment literally as the waiter came out with a two part dish. She separates the two halves of the bowls and in one half is the lobster consomme with lobster custard and on the second plate is the lobster and tapioca dumpling on the bottom with some tail meat and a lobster velvet which is the texture of soft tofu. My favourite is undoutedly the richly flavoured consomme with the lobster custard although after this rich stock, the other lobster section was bland in flavour after it so I'd suggest eating the non consomme half first.
The groper is well seasoned and the dish with the baby abalone, periwinkles, scallops hasuimo and winter melon. It is delicious and beautifully cooked and soft and tender within.
_Confit of pure bred milk fed Suffolk lamb, fresh milk curd, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, quinoa, Spring vegetables.
I'm getting the feeling one must really love jelly, tapioca, gels and custards as they feature so much and I'm hankering for something a little different in texture which arrives in the form of this dish. The lamb loin confit is soft and easy to cut and they ladle some milk curd and pinenuts, seeds and quinoa on top. The crunch from the toasted nuts and seeds is a much needed and welcome crunch against the milk curd custard and soft loin.
We order dessert as I had heard fantastic things about their desserts. This was a rather ambiguously titled dessert but since it was on the signature menu and the waitress proclaimed it to be her favourite we chose this (although Mr NQN had his eye on the Jackfruit and Apple Snow Egg). It's divine, with the sugar coated almonds giving a lovely crunch against the vanilla flecked cream and sweet fresh raspberries and violet jelly and there's a sugar decoration that gives more crunch. I try and bargain Mr NQN to try and keep his half to no avail.
I'm not usually a chocolate dessert sort of person preferring fruit desserts but the description of an eight textured chocolate cake was too tempting. The round cake was accompanied by a waitress bearing a copper pot and a ladle. Now the sight of me taking this to bits whilst Mr NQN was busy taking photos of the other dessert must have seemed odd to other diners but I was determined to separate the flavours and then put them together again (call it the foodie version of a child taking apart a radio to see how it works). I thought I could discern 8 different elements: a soft ganache poured on top, a set ganache, the outer ring, mousse, biscuit, nut, the sponge base and wafer sphere in the centre (of course I am just guessing at this stage in the production process).
The white chocolate coated poraline discs are nice but not particularly nutty as some pralines are but I adore the cigars which are paper thin on the outside and with a brandy snaplike gingerbread-ish cream inside. The tea is a flower tea which unfurls while it steeps to show a pretty pink flower.
We go for a little walk and return to the car and watch as the fireworks explode on Sydney Harbour. I look to my right at the crowd next to us and I see Chef Peter Gilmore watching with his family.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you prefer to eat early or late and why?
And yes that's right, it's Wednesday again (doesn't it roll by so quickly nowadays?) so here is your Wallpaper Wednesday! It's a mouth watering Katsu sandwich (limited edition no less!) from Atomic Espresso.
Upper Lever, Overseas Passenger Terminal
The Rocks, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9251 5600
Open for lunch Tuesday to Friday Noon to 2:30pm
Open for dinner 7 days
Parking available for 20 cars for a $20 fee per car, book a space when making a reservation.