Bar cod with Greek basil
Is there any greater delight than fresh sashimi? Delicate morsels of purest fish, shiny and plump, are transferred like precious cargo into the mouth with trembling chopsticks. It's firm to the teeth yet seems to melt on the tongue, a sensual encounter that is all satin and softness and cleanness of taste.
After watching Raita Noda conduct a cooking session on his deep-fried baby snapper salad, we pampered guests are seated outside to enjoy a multi-course lunch from the menu of Ocean Room. The balcony outside faces onto the Opera House, a glorious view of water and sails and ferries chugging their way past to Circular Quay.
Rice wine vinegar marinated trevally
with a shotglass of scampi in sake plum jelly
Given my sashimi confessions above, I'm delirious with joy when the long platter of fresh fish arrives. It's a tasting journey that starts with shavings of bar cod dressed in Greek basil. A neat mound of trevally, marinated in a light rice wine vinegar sits prettily in a scooped-out bowl of half a lime.
Morsels of raw scampi, soft and sweet, wait patiently in a shotglass, submerged under a muddle of sake plum jelly. A deep purple basy shiso leaf sits jauntily on top.
Tuna noodle with mandarin oil and orange zest
(background: hiramasa kingfish and ocean trout)
Thin slices of tuna, cut so they resemble a "noodle", are doused with a splash of mandarin oil and dotted with finely chopped orange zest. It's a combination that works surprisingly well.
Firm mouthfuls of ocean trout and seared hiramasa kingfish round out the journey, a series of perfectly placed salmon roe provide shiny tasty pit stops. I always eat these one by one, carefully biting them between the teeth so they emit an explosive burst of the salty sea.
Tapas plate with crab dimsum, bacalao and tomato tomato tomato
A selection of tapas arrives on a glass plate reminisicent of the sea.
with ginger pedro ximenez wine dipping sauce
salted cod puree with stewed eggplant, gordal olive salsa and parmesan sable
Tomato - tomato - tomato
tomato jelly foam, marinated cherry tomato
with sun-dried tomato cream
They are all intense little mouthfuls packed with flavour. My favourite is probably the tomato-tomato-tomato. The homage to the tomato seems to be a theme with Noda: one of his signature dishes from previous restaurant Rise was his deep-fried agedashi organic tomato stuffed with foie gras.
Deep-fried baby snapper salad
with a mustard vinaigrette and summer herbs
We feast on the deep-fried baby snapper salad which is a light summery mix of golden-fried fillet pieces mixed with assorted herbs and drizzled with a mustard vinegar dressing with soy and mirin.
The fish bones have been deep-fried three times for maximum crispness and crunchy eating. I go straight for the head and manage to consume almost all of it: some of the facial bones are a little too sharp for comfort but the eyes are good, if a little powdery.
with skordalia, cavolo nero (black cabbage), grape tomato and kalamata olives
The feast continues with pan-seared alfonsino, a deepwater fish caught in the waters between Australia and New Zealand. As Noda is sitting next to me (yes! I know!), I ask him about the Mediterranean influences in his dishes. Asians have a certain way with seafood, he agrees, commonly using the steaming method and ingredients like ginger, shallot, salt and pepper. However he appreciates the way in which Mediterranean dishes bring out another side of seafood and thinks the two approaches complement each other in the Ocean Room menu.
The skordalia, a Greek puree of garlic with potatoes, is smooth, creamy and almost buttery in texture.
Salt and five peppercorn wok-fried king prawns
with chilli lime vinaigrette, mustard aioli and lotus root crisps
Our final dish emerges as salt and pepper king prawns, a spicy dish made with five types of peppercorns. The lotus root crisps are particularly intriguing, made from fresh lotus roots and delightfully more-ish.
The prawns are firm and sweet, in a crisp peppery batter that we splash with a dressing reminiscent of Vietnamese nuoc cham: fish sauce and lime juice and vinegar and chilli.
Petit fours: dark chocolate candy bar, palmiers,
pecan nut pie and mandarin passionfruit jelly
A platter of petit fours prove there's no rest for the wicked. I try the mandarin passionfruit jelly and the opera. The opera is divine: nutty and chocolatey, with layers of cake and wafer and chocolate ganache.
Petit fours: Opera and palmiers
There's plenty more I could talk about: the beautifully designed interior with its textured wallpaper, signature fish tanks, and specially-made palm lights that gracefully twist their way down from the cavernous ceiling. The fish tanks, built into the wall so they become a living wall feature, are a striking welcome to those who enter the restaurant. They're not cheap to maintain either: Noda tells me two full-time staff are dedically wholly to their upkeep and maintenance.
The food is impressive, the sashimi is bliss. I'm still reminiscing about that sashimi platter.
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Ground level, Overseas Passenger Terminal
Circular Quay West, The Rocks, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8273 1277
Lunch Tuesday to Friday from 12pm
Dinner Monday to Saturday from 6pm
Related GrabYourFork posts:
Ocean Room (Feb09) and (Oct06)
Ocean Room NYE Cocktail Party (Jan08)
Ocean Room Cooking Demonstration with Raita Noda (Oct06)
Cooking session with Raita Noda, Ocean Room
Rise, Darlinghurst (May 2005)
Rise, Darlinghurst (February 2005)
Rise Darlinghurst (August 2004)
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10/10/2006 11:58:00 p.m.