- When: May 2017
- Male DINK Rating: 10/15
- Female DINK Rating: 10/15
- Total Cost: $664; Food Cost: $368
We are always excited to try top-rated restaurants, especially when they are in a country we haven’t been to yet. Quay Restaurant, ranked #95 in The World’s Best Restaurants (2017) and #79 Elite Traveler’s Top 100 Restaurants (2017), was our first dinner in Sydney (followed by Tetsuya’s Restaurant and Sepia the following nights).
We arrived at Quay about 20 minutes early and were somewhat abruptly told by the hostess that our table would not be ready until 9 (our reservation time). Understandable, but she could have been a bit more polite. The hostess led us to the bar to have a drink while we waited. While we were sitting in the bar area and perusing our drink menus, Male DINK commented that the decor of the restaurant was odd and felt out of place – the carpeted floors seemed a few decades out of date.
About five minutes later (not 20), our table was ready, and we relocated to the dining room. We sat in the circular, glass-enclosed part of the dining room, which offers great views of both the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. Our table was next to the window directly in front of the opera house, giving us a front-row seat to Vivid Sydney. Once seated, the hostess asked if we wanted to start with some cocktails (that we never got around to ordering at the bar because no one waited on us). Female DINK ordered the Bonsai, a drink from the special cocktail list for Vivid, and Male DINK ordered a Lord Nelson’s Dark Ale (from a local brewery).
The waiter arrived and asked if we were celebrating a special occasion to which we replied “no.” He seemed a bit surprised, but moved along to explain the menus. Quay offers either a 4-course or 8-course tasting menu. When choosing the 4-course menu, you make a selection of 4 courses listed under 4 categories. The 8-course menu was composed of 2 courses from each of the categories. We chose the 8-course tasting menu, and, having just visited the Hunter Valley, we ordered a 2006 bottle of Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon.
Our drinks arrived quickly, and both were quite good. The Bonsai was a gin-based drink with green apple, cinnamon, and other herbal flavors. It was very smooth and quite drinkable. Male DINK enjoyed his beer, and we vowed then and there to visit Lord Nelson’s during our time in Sydney (we did the following day).
The first (and only) amuse bouche was served shortly after we ordered – Potato, Roe, and Seaweed Dust. The potato was warm and smooth – very comforting and calm on the stomach. The roe provided a nice “pop” and texture change. We both really enjoyed this small bite; however, Male DINK thought this was perhaps a bit heavy to start off the meal. We would have enjoyed a few other small bites before diving into the menu.
Our bottle of wine arrived about the same time as the amuse bouche. Having just received our drinks, we asked to wait a few minutes before pouring the wine.
The first course arrived quickly after we finished the amuse bouche – salad of slow cooked carrots, sheep’s milk feta, smoked almonds, sherry caramel, pepitas, oca. Noticing the fast pace, we decided to start drinking our bottle of wine instead of finishing our drinks. This dish had both sweet and savory flavors that paired quite well. The smokiness of the almonds was just right, and the cheese provided a nice contrast. A great combination of flavors.
A brief aside: As the meal progressed, we noticed that almost every other table was celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or some other special occasion. In fact, one couple had just gotten engaged. Surely people dine here just to have a good meal and not only for celebrations, right?
The next course was chawanmushi of cauliflower, mud crab, and broth. Again, a nice warm, calming dish. Essentially a soup, this dish was smooth and delicate. The crab was tender and the broth was gentle. While perhaps not our favorite dish with respect to the flavors, we could tell it was well-executed.
The third course was smoked confit of pig jowl, fermented mushroom custard, milk skin threads, and young walnuts. The pig jowl was very good, and the walnuts were a nice addition. However, the fermented mushroom custard took on the consistency of fat, making this dish a bit difficult to finish. Given the foregoing, Male DINK thought this dish was too heavy.
Next up was uni, koshihikari rice, cured egg yolk, fish maw, ama ebi, and umami broth. First thought – where is the uni? We love uni (the uni ice cream at Gaggan was superb) and were therefore excited about this dish. However, it was challenging to find any hint of it in the dish. Perhaps a better course description by the waitstaff is warranted. The flavors of this course were good, but, yet again, the overall texture was very heavy and oily, and, thus, again, we had difficulty eating the entire portion.
The fifth course was roasted duck, XO stone pot rice, and pickled mountain turnip. The duck was well-prepared, and the XO stone pot rice provided a good spice. While having a vegetable accompany this dish was nice, the pickled mountain turnips were a little too sour for this course – overtaking the other flavors. We could see a pickled flavor going well with the dish; however, these turnips were just too strong for the other ingredients.
The sixth and last savory course was poached Blackmore Wagyu, braised roveja peas, roasted onion, and smoked oxtail consommé. The wagyu was thinly sliced and almost looked like thin slices of salami. The wagyu itself tasted very good; however, the meat was intensely oily (and chewy) to the point where Male DINK could not eat all of it. We were too distracted by the difficulty of eating the meat and the oily and fatty consistency to appreciate this course. Perhaps if the prior several courses had been lighter, we might have enjoyed this course more. Just too much oil and fat.
We were happy to move on to desserts, as the last few savory courses were a challenge to eat. The first dessert was Snow Egg. This was a pretty dish, reminiscent of winter and a snowball. The flavors were light and refreshing; however, the “snow” was abundant and extremely cold, causing brain freeze. It also didn’t have much flavor. Yet again, we struggled to get through a course.
The final course was Honey, honey (described as being “honey five ways”). The multiple flavors of honey were good – but quite overwhelming. The ingredients felt a bit chalky, and we felt like we were basically eating pollen (which might have been the point?). This course would have benefitted from an additional ingredient to calm down the intensity of the honey, as well as something to address the dry chalkiness. To our disappointment, another difficult course to finish.
No additional small bites or petits fours were given. The end.
As mentioned earlier, we were seated in a glass-enclosed circle of the dining room. This seemed to be a prime location, as the views were truly wonderful. However, toward the last few courses of our meal, it seemed that the heat had been turned off (it was winter in Sydney). Being in all glass, the room became quite cold and uncomfortable. The temperature, along with the difficulty of eating many courses, had us anxious to finish up and leave.
As you can guess, our experience at Quay was a bit disappointing. The flavors of the food were mostly quite good; however, the preparations were hard to eat and made the courses less enjoyable than they could have been. The service was also lacking for this caliber of restaurant. There was no adjustment in pace to give us a chance to enjoy our drinks at the beginning of the meal. The waitstaff presented each course verbatim from the menu with no special anecdotes or insights, and they did so in a very uninspired tone, almost as if they were bored. No one seemed excited or proud of the food they were presenting and serving. While Quay occupies a highly desirable location, the experience fell short of our expectations.
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