Quay Restaurant, The Rocks, Sydney
Quay is award winning food and flawless service that’s matched with stunning views of Sydney Harbour. It’s a mecca for food writers, bloggers and after Chef Peter Gilmore’s 2010 appearance on the second series of MasterChef Australia, millions of Australians.
To celebrate a special personal occasion with Walter, Noodlies, Sydney food blog booked dinner at Quay. Quay offers a four course menu with five choices per course or the tasting menu consisting of eight courses. The February menu is just, well, so Sydney including western dishes like wagyu beef, risotto, rhubarb and endive salad but has strong Asian influence like mud crab congee, braise abalone and mackerel sashimi. I like that Quay’s menu are very descriptive, especially in listing the main ingredients. We had the four course menu.
Sashimi of blue mackerel, smoked eel flowers, sea scallops, pickled apple, nasturtiums. Easily the prettiest dish on the menu and for me, the cheekiest; sashimi that retains the blue silvery skin, delicately arranged but has a dagger like shape. The mackerel is marinated in a mixture of white soy, konbu seaweed and dashi flakes to highlight its seafood flavours which harmonises with the heat from horseradish crème fraiche and crisp textures of pickled apple and daikon. Don’t underestimate this dish, it will do your head in!
Mud crab congee – hand shelled mud crab, palm hearts Chinese inspired split rice porridge. Reminds me so much of classic Cantonese fare, subtle yet tasty with the single purpose of enhancing and bringing the flavour of the main ingredient to the fore. Here, the clear but tasty soup works together with the egg yolk emulsion to clarify and emphasise the fragrant crab meat. The mud crab is delivered live from far North Queensland and are cooked and hand shelled. The palm hearts continue the far North Queensland theme; they’re grown in small quantities in Innisfail, North Queensland by Yan Diczbalic and are only available to a couple of restaurants in Australia
Smoked and confit pig cheek, shiitake, shaved scallop, Jerusalem artichoke, juniper, bay. Below the stunning surface lies tender pork pieces; the Berkshire pig jowl is slowly confit in its own juices for 12 hrs and then lightly smoked over maple chips. It is then poached in an infused butter that contains sliced Jamon, juniper berries and fresh bay. The crisp Jerusalem artichoke skins adds a stunning rustic look that’s in stark contrast to delicate white flowers. Pig jowl never looked so good.
Slow cooked Coturnix quail breast, stone ground semolina enriched with Alba truffle butter, buckwheat, farro, walnuts, pumpernickel, malt. The quail is first poached on the bone in a salted quail stock, then taken off the bone to finish poaching in clarified butter. This process seems to infuse the meat with extra flavour but doens’t over cook it. The quail is served on a bed of Alba truffle stone ground semolina and puree made from pumpernickel bread, giving the dish an earthy component.
Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil. The jowl has been cooked for around 12 hours becoming so succulent yet so tender you could cut it with a spoon. The jowl meat is surrounded with a thin layer of fat that is rich and tasty. The crackling is derived from a maltose caramel; it shatters like toffee but doesn’t stick to your teeth. It’s served on a bed of cauliflower cream and prunes that have been macerated in Pedro Ximenez noble sour sherry vinegar. The prune kernel oil comes from France and adds an wonderful marzipan aroma that marries perfectly with the pork. Take in the aroma before you get stuck into the dish, you won’t regret it.
Poached Wagyu beef, oxtail, morel, black pudding, farro, buckwheat, hazelnut, ezekiel. A dish with stunning contrasting tastes and texture; tender beef with bread crumb outer. The marble score 7 Wagyu black angus is poached in an oxtail and morel stock reduction delivering an amazingly tender experience. It’s then encrusted in roasted farro, buckwheat, hazelnut and Ezekiel bread crumbs; Ezekiel bread comes from an old testament recipe based on 6 different sprouted grains, wheat, spelt, lentils,millet, soy and barley. Further contrast comes from the puree base made from morel and black pudding.
White nectarine snow. A classic Quay dessert exposed to millions of Australians on MasterChef by Peter Gilmore, the egg is filled with nectarine ice cream, coated in a malt biscuit and covered in icing sugar. It’s served in a glass on a base of nectarine fool and nectarine granita. Seasonal fruit is used, so expect changes over time. It’s an amazingly delicate dish that delivers strong, refreshing yet simple flavours.
Eight texture chocolate cake – Featuring Amedei Chocolate (see featured video). This is probalby my favourite dish of the night and like most things on the menu, it’s just not as simple as you think. Layers of chocolate plus chocolate sauce, how can it not be heavy and rich? Yet it manages to be both rich and light at the same time. It’s so hard to explain, I think I’ll let Peter Gilmore’s words do the talking:
“I have been making my Five Texture Chocolate Cake for eight years now and to coincide with this anniversary I’ve decided to make it an Eight Texture Chocolate Cake. The overall result is that it is lighter and more complex in flavour and texture. The eight textures are a fine layer of fudgey chocolate cake base, chocolate mousse layer made with Amedei chuao chocolate, a crisp chocolate and hazelnut meringue layer, a caramel, chocolate and vanilla scented ganache layer, a crunchy milk chocolate layer which contains hazelnut praline and finely chopped caramelised puff pastry, milk chocolate whipped cream, an Amedei chuao disc tops the dessert and the final texture is a hot chocolate sauce. The chocolate sauce [eight texture] is poured at the table…” Peter Gilmore.
Walter and I were left breathless, so many flavours and textures, contrasts and harmonies, western and eastern, rich and subtle. I left Quay loving it for pulling it off in such spectacular style, but most of all, for reflecting modern Sydney in an uncannily accurate way.
It was a lovely surprise too, to be able to meet and chat with Quay’s owner, the affable John Fink – many thanks for the bottle of Bolly, mate. Since my partner is an author, it’s nice to know John still finds time in his busy schedule to read. (Hey John: Walter’s Destination Saigon is coming your way, hope you’ll enjoy!)
About Quay Restaurant: Quay has long been one of Australia’s most awarded restaurants, and has held the coveted 3 hat & 3 star rating in The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide & Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide for 10 consecutive years. In 2011 Quay was voted Number 26 on the coveted S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, to become the highest ranked Australian restaurant and named The Best Restaurant in Australasia. In 2012 Peter Gilmore was awarded Chef of the Year in The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide.
Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks, Sydney