This February I celebrated my milestone birthday with Kent through a quiet dinner at Sydney’s Quay restaurant. It was on the cusp of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Australia. We felt very fortunate that we were able to stick to our original booking; without been cancelled or postponed due to the unpredictability of COVID-19 cases and the associated restrictions.
As it’s such a special occasion, I had my hair and makeup done. Then I threw together a look with something given, something new and something from the past. My aim was to look glam yet be relaxed and comfortable for a journey of epicurean adventure. We arrived a little early, so I had time for Kent to take a commemorative portrait outside Quay restaurant, at this stunning location looking towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge. When our table was ready, we were led through the main dining area, past the long bar, up a wide flight of stairs to the upper section inside the round tower with 360-degree view.
Late February, the end of the Southern Hemisphere summer and at 6pm it was still bright. Soon we comfortably settled in stylish Adam Goodrum leather chairs and it’s time for first drinks. Kent started with a glass of Negroni while we were checking out the menu. We had our minds set on the 8-course tasting menu and to have the full Quay thrill, we chose the Sommelier’s 8-Course Wine Pairing.
Walnuts, with a touch of humour. A ‘spot me if you can’ exercise from a bowl of real walnuts to find the ones that don’t break your teeth (yes we were warned)! These walnut-look-alike mouth amusers were nutty, moist and finger-licking delish. It definitely offered us a glimpse of the chef’s artistry and showmanship.
2010 Mitchell McNicol Riesling, Clare Valley
Our wine arrived before its pairing dish. Well we didn’t mind, especially what came to the table was bright golden-yellow Riesling with such beautiful apple aroma. The finish is clean, refined and balanced. I’m not a big Riesling fan but this Riesling might have changed my mind.
Raw Scallops, Agretti; Oyster Cream, Fresh Squash Seeds; Liquorice Kombu
These raw scallops were so fresh and sweet. In fact, the liquorice kombu was subtle, so much so that Kent and I could hardly notice it was there. I enjoyed the contrast in textures from the creaminess, softness of the scallops and the crispness from agretti, pumpkin seeds and seaweed.
So thoughtfully prepared, that none of these unusual components overpowered the scallops. The fruitiness and the freshness of its pairing wine was perfect, and maybe had the edge on the starter itself.
2018 Clos Cibonne Tradition Tibouren Rosé, Côtes De Provence, France
Amber! The colour of this French Rosé is just stunning. This golden orange hued Rosé has a rather strong cheese and cumin spice on the nose. Once tasted, what replaced the cheesy smell was a light and fruity flavour. And yes, we loved it.
Smoked Eel, Green Walnuts; Oscietra Caviar, Sea Cucumber Crackling
Another exquisite looking dish! ‘It takes five whole eels to make a litre of delicate smoked eel cream.’ Our waitstaff explained. And who has heard of sea cucumber crackling anyway (let alone trying it)… The flavour? Smoky, creamy and crunchy all in one bite. The smoked eel cream alone was mouth-watering. Layers of smoke and the zest of the Rosé went so well combined. For me, a plate like this is the reason why people choose fine dining.
Henriot Brut Rosé Champagne
It’s Henriot Brut Rosé Champagne… What more to say… Cheers!
Poolish Crumpets, Smoked Roe; Cultured Cream
Apparently, poolish is a technique of making the crumpet more aerated and more moreish. Leaving the technique behind, what I liked about our surprise course was that the crumpets were served in a toaster-like wooden holder… what a clever idea!
This bonus course was a palate refresher; appetizing and much welcomed. And who could say no to a glass of Henriot Brut Rosé Champagne?!
In between the dishes I looked up and discovered the mirror ceiling. Although personally I do prefer the old world charm when it comes to dining interior. Well we all heard about Quay’s four-million-four-month renovation in 2018, but what happened to the crisp, snow-white tablecloth? Perhaps it makes more sense for a venue which dedicates to the innovative, modern Australian cuisine to have a totally contemporary set up.
2019 Emmerich Knoll Grüner Veltliner Federspiel, Wachau Austria
Fruity on the nose, a touch of peppery spice on the palate. Another top-shelf European wine. Kent and I both enjoyed it.
Southern Squid, Fresh Bamboo; Pin Striped Peanuts, Super Chicken Broth
Bamboo, squid and pin striped peanuts… what an unusual combo! Don’t get me wrong, as a Chinese/Taiwanese I am used to having (and loving) bamboo. I’ve had lots of bamboo with seafood in countless Thai dishes as well and I enjoyed them too. The odd one for me here is the pin striped peanuts. They were hard and personally I don’t think the nutty flavour went well with the rest in the same bowl.
As for the creamy elements… Sure it looked pretty with flowers attached on the bowl wall. Unfortunately once it mixed with the soup, it seemed to lose purpose. The colour of the Super Chicken Broth looked promising; however, it was a bit flat and lacked of saltiness for me. Of course with fine dining, you need to carry your own salt-and-pepper… just in case!
So far we liked the pace of how our Quay discovery journey was slowly unfolding. Kent and I took our time to enjoy the pairing wines, to exchange thoughts regarding the food; to indulge in the dining atmosphere and to take some snapshots for one another. My previous worries regarding COVID dining time restriction was not exist… in fact, quite the opposite.
2018 Nick Spencer Maragle Vineyard, Chardonnay, Tumbarumba
Australian wine maker Nick Spencer believes that 2018 vintage has produced some of the best fruit he has seen. Sipping this Chardonnay, which has been sold-out from the market; it was smooth and very easy to drink. Although we did not love every dish served tonight equally, the wines we tasted were consistently outstanding.
To be continued…