June 2, 2012

Epic lunch @ Quay (Sydney)

I wanted one very special meal on my trip, and as soon as I read about Quay, I knew that this had to be it.! Quay is one of the most acclaimed restaurants in Australia, currently ranked #29 on the coveted S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant’s list. For the third year in a row, it was named the best restaurant in Australasia. (On a side note, no Canadian restaurants made this list). I actually made my reservation two months in advance, and I had to send in my credit card information to secure the reservation. And then I proceeded to plan my whole trip around this meal to ensure that nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, would possibly interfere with my lunch plans. This was undoubtedly the most anticipated restaurant visit of my trip.

Quay is conveniently situated at the Sydney harbour, offering stunning views sweeping from the famous Harbour Bridge to the Opera House. I figured that I could justify this meal to my mom as a sightseeing opportunity, but I don't think she bought that idea. There are three options available for lunch: $125 AUD for 3 courses, $145 AUD for 4 courses, or $220 AUD for an 8-course tasting menu. Since I felt that a lunch tasting menu would be an over-indulgence, I opted for the 4 courses option, and my mom went with 3 courses.

Unfortunately, we didn't have the most desirable table. Our view of the opera house was mostly obstructed, but all in all, the ambiance was so lovely that I could overlook that flaw. I figured that we had plenty of opportunities to take pictures outside after lunch anyway.

I ordered myself a Virgin Colada (a Piña Colada without the rum) and it was amazing- incredibly creamy and refreshing at the same time. I also liked that it wasn't overly sweet. I ordered my mom a sunlight surprise- muddled lychees and lychee syrup seasoned with lime juice and gomme, topped with a dash of soda. We loved the combination of lychee and lime, but I thought it was a tad too sweet. Nevertheless, my mom enjoyed it very much.

After the drinks arrived, we were served two sizeable slices of sourdough bread. I preferred the black sesame-crusted variation, though truthfully both were super delicious- delightfully warm and spongy. I desperately wanted another slice, but wisely held back to leave room for what's about to come.  

The bread was accompanied by a few shards of sea salt and the most elegant butter presentation I've ever seen.

I apologize for not taking notes on the exact description of our amuse bouche, though honestly, I was too busy staring at it to listen properly. I did remember that it was a piece of freshwater marron sashimi with white walnuts, some sort of marmalade, and many other components that I can't recall.

Fragrant jasmine tea poached chicken, shaved hand dived sea scallops, smoked white eggplant cream, pea blossoms perfumed with Korean virgin black sesame oil


This was my first course of the meal, and I was already in heaven. The poached chicken is achingly tender and I loved the way that the shaved scallops were woven in to create an interesting tapestry of textures. The flavours were clean, delicious and perfectly refreshing for a first course. It reminded me of the Chinese-style cold dish hand pulled chicken (手撕雞), but executed in the most extraordinary way.

Roasted quail breast , steamed truffled brioche, confit egg yolk, new season white walnuts, fumet of Vin Jaune


The quail was quite delicate and moist, though notably not as tender as the chicken from the previous course. I wasn't the biggest fan of the white walnuts as it was missing that desired crunch.The steamed truffled bricohe was very cheesy and rich, but I found it overly salty. This was my least favourite course of the meal, albeit still an enjoyable dish.

Smoked and confit pig cheek, shiitake, shaved scallop, Jerusalem artichoke, juniper, bay
This dish was so awesome on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin. The pig cheek was marvelously tender and fell apart at the lightest touch. The crispy artichoke and shaved scallop added a lovely textural dimension to the tender meat. Above all, the pig cheek was insanely flavourful without any greasy mouthfeel. I thought that it was the single most delicious piece of pork I've ever eaten (until the next course arrived). This was my mom's first course but I think I devoured most of it.

Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel
After my 3rd course, I learned that all things pork are delicious, especially at Quay. I'm not quite sure what the difference between pig jowl and pig cheek is, but I now pronounce it my favourite cut of pork meat! We were instructed to take in the fragrance of the dish before consuming it. To be honest, I couldn't really smell anything special, but the dish truly delivered in taste! The maltose crackling was sticky, crunchy, and incredibly fun to break into, just like the top of a crème brûlée! The sweet prunes and savoury cauliflower cream worked remarkably well together and perfectly complemented the amazingly fork-tender meat (just as tender as the pig cheek from the previous course). Everything on the plate was phenomenal and I just wanted to lick it clean!

Poached Wagyu beef, oxtail, morel, black pudding, farro, buckwheat, hazelnut, ezekiel

My mom, a beef-lover, predictably chose this as her second course. The beef was definitely not as tender as my pork, but I was very much intrigued by the flavours. The black pudding was luxuriously rich and I found the textural mix of farro, buckwheat, and hazelnut to be very interesting. My only issue was the beef's sinewy texture.

Our meal was also included a side salad, which was pleasant but a complete waste of stomach space in my opinion. I still needed to save room for the most anticipated course- dessert!

Jersey cream, salted caramel, prunes, walnuts, and ethereal sheets
As if I wasn't already extremely impressed with the meal, the desserts completely blew my mind off to the moon! My dessert was stunningly beautiful and absolutely took my breath away. Ethereal sheets turned out to be paper-thin sheets of hard caramel, chocolate, and milk skin, all resting on a pool of milk cream and salted caramel. The combination was dreamily decadent and satisfying, and I loved the whimsical yet elegant presentation.

Guava snow egg
And last but certainly not least, the star of our meal was arguably Quay's famous snow egg dessert, which was featured on MasterChef Australia. I could hardly contain my excitement when my mom tapped open the maltose praline shell to unveil a core of guava ice cream as the yolk, enveloped by a fluffy marshmallow meringue which served as the egg white. The "egg" was dusted with icing sugar and rested on a bed of guava granita, guava purée and custard. This dessert was a complex construction that tasted wonderfully light at the same time. The meringue egg white was pillowy soft and melted in my mouth. The cool granita was a breath of fruity freshness, and then you hit the creamy custard and guava purée, which provided a richer balance. It really was an extraordinary experience. For me, the snow egg lived up to its hype and I thought it was truly incredible in every possible way.

Before my lunch, I prayed and prayed that the weather would cooperate that day, and for the most part, I had my wish. The skies were perfectly blue for the first half of the meal, only to be interrupted by a sudden downpour. I was freaking out since we haven't had a chance to take photos with the Opera House yet. Luckily, by the time we finished lunch, the skies magically cleared and we were greeted by the most magnificent view of the opera house, completed with a gorgeous rainbow (so the rain turned out to be a blessing after all!) All in all, the meal was a sensational experience, certainly one that I'll never forget.


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