Sydney: Quay (Aug. 2013)
Exec Chef: Peter Gilmore
Date: August 16, 2013
I had a lunch reservation at Quay, arguably Australia’s best restaurant, the day after eating at sushi e. Dinner reservations for Quay are pretty hard to make, as the restaurant is booked out months in advance. However, lunch reservations are far easier. I booked about a week ago when I was in Wellington. (Then again, maybe I just got lucky.) The food at lunch and dinner are apparently very similar, so I didn’t mind that I was going for lunch and not dinner. Both lunch and dinner serve the same tasting menu option, which is great for those who can only make lunch but want to try out the best the restaurant has to offer. (Also, the lighting’s better at lunch!)
I ended up being seated at a table facing the Sydney Opera House, which was pretty awesome. The building is pretty majestic. It’s one of those things that looks awesome in pictures but ends up being even more amazing in person, even though you’ve seen it in pictures and on TV several dozen times already!
Shaved black truffle, potato, and hot oxtail soup.
This was a great start to the meal. It wasn’t heavy, and it jumpstarted my palate. It reminded me a little of Grant Achatz’s “Hot Potato Cold Potato” truffle dish when it came to the overall flavor profile of the dish. (That dish was amazing, and I liked it more than this one in many ways, but the two dishes are different.)
Salad of albino and Chioggia beetroots, preserved wild cherries, goat’s curd, scorched beet leaves, sourdough bread soaked in pomegranate molasses, and violets.
The sourdough bread added some welcome texture to this dish—while the beets, cherries, and curd were soft, the leaves and sourdough gave some crunch to the dish.
Brined raw and smoked Australian Wagyu from Blackmore (near Queensland), fresh John Dory roe, horseradish juice, soured cream, and milk skin.
This dish was pretty much rich, chewy Wagyu combined with light horseradish juice, flavorful but light sour cream, and crispy and light milk skin. The John Dory roe added a hint of seafood, but this dish was pretty much focused on earthiness. The Wagyu was tender and chewy (though it wasn’t as good as, say, Wagyu from Kobe or Matsusaka), and the other four ingredients pretty much served to both complement the Wagyu and help refresh the palate.
Red claw yabbies (crayfish in Eastern Australia), garlic-scented custard, yabby velvet, and yabby consommé.
The yabbies tasted delicious, and the custard and consommé provided creaminess and richness to the dish. The yabbies by themselves were great, but it was the addition of the custard that made me want more of this course.
Thinly-sliced green lipped abalone, ginger milk curd, rare greens, and “earth and sea” consommé (seaweed, anchovies, mushrooms, chestnuts, and other ingredients).
Honestly, I didn’t really quite appreciate this dish. The consommé had a lot of earthy flavor and complemented the abalone well, but I didn’t think the abalone itself was that good. I think I prefer the abalone that’s prepared in top sushi restaurants (really, really tender abalone that’s served without other ingredients). The dish had a good mix of flavors, and every ingredient tasted fresh, though. It just didn’t have that oomph that I’m used to when eating abalone at places like, say, Sushi Yoshitake (or at Ginza Kyubey, which was where I would eat a few weeks later).
Mixed-grain bread with black sesame seed.
Roasted goose, forbidden rice (black rice), black miso, and hatsuka radish.
Half of the forbidden rice is cooked and then dehydrated, while the other half is flash-fried. The two parts are then mixed.
This course was good, but it didn’t wow me or anything. The goose was delicious, and the forbidden rice provided a lot of textural variety to each bite. I have to admit that the goose skin was divine; it was flavored with black miso and packed with flavor. In a way, it made the goose meat itself seem very plain.
Smoked confit of pig cheek, shiitake mushroom, shaved scallops, dried Jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke) leaves, bay, and juniper.
AMAZING. The pig cheek was soft, tender, and fatty. The shiitake mushroom and scallops made the dish even more rich and decadent, and the dried sunchoke leaves added some welcome crispiness and texture.
Pasture-raised veal, bitter chocolate black pudding (chocolate brioche), slow-cooked wallaby tail, salsify, smoked bone marrow, and chestnut mushrooms.
Mmm, wallaby tail! This was another very, very rich course. They were really ramping up in the intensity of flavor and richness at this point. I didn’t mind, though—everything was delicious! The veal and wallaby tail were juicy, the chocolate brioche added a hint of sweetness that cut down on the richness somehow, and the smoked bone marrow added more welcome richness. The salsify and chestnut mushrooms rounded out the flavor profile of the overall dish, and they also served to provide some textural contrast to the meats and brioche. The combination of ingredients in this dish was pretty amazing.
The first dessert was a heavy-hitter, and it’s one of Peter Gilmore’s most famous dishes.
“Jackfruit Snow Egg”
Jackfruit “fool” (jackfruit puree mixed with vanilla cream) is at the very bottom, and jackfruit granite is on top of that.
The egg is composed of jackfruit ice cream (as the yolk), poached meringue (as the egg white), and blowtorch-melted maltose tuiles (as the snow).
Peter Gilmore is famous for this dessert; the two finalists on the 2010 season of MasterChef Australia had to recreate this dish in the finale. This dessert was everything people made it out to be. It was a wonderful combination of different intense flavors and textures that made each bite a wonder. Breaking into the egg and seeing how it was composed was a joy, and each part of the egg itself was delicious; taking all the different parts of the dessert in one bite must have unleashed a bunch of dopamine in my brain (and also spiked my blood sugar levels…).
I should probably add that it was a VERY, very sweet dessert. I actually think it might be too rich for some people to finish. However, I can’t imagine the dessert being as good if it were made less sweet. Hmm… All in all, though, the snow egg was definitely my favorite course of the meal. It was probably the single best thing that I’d eaten in Oceania… or in the month of August!
Jersey cream, Pedro Ximénez grape, salted caramel, prune, and confetti of different types of pulled toffee.
Incredibly sweet. The Jersey cream is extremely rich, and the salted caramel and confetti of pulled toffee make it even sweeter. The Pedro Ximénez grapes and prunes help cut down on the sweetness a bit, but it’s still overpoweringly sweet. I like it, but others might find it too sweet.
I requested a third dessert because I wanted to try another dessert that Chef Gilmore was famous for, his “eight-texture chocolate cake”.
Quay’s “Eight-Texture Chocolate Cake”:
1. Chocolate mousse
2. Caramel, vanilla, and chocolate ganache
3. Chocolate and hazelnut dacquoise
4. Cake base
5. Milk chocolate praline discs
6. Chocolate caramel cream
7. Dark chocolate top disc
8. Hot chocolate sauce
So, so decadent. So, so sweet. And soooo good. Eight different textures and eight different flavors that each varied slightly in the level of intensity. I can’t even imagine how difficult this must have been to make. It seemed really complex, but what struck me at the time was not its complexity but its decadence. SO MUCH CHOCOLATE. AND SUGAR. Honestly, at this point in the meal, I was a bit too worried about the massive spike in my blood sugar levels to eat the entire cake quickly. I was definitely tempted to, though.
Quay Petits Fours
This meal was pretty amazing. Some of the courses were average for what you’d expect from a restaurant of this caliber, but the courses that were amazing were truly spectacular. The smoked confit of pig cheek course was to die for, and each dessert was outstanding. I can see why the snow egg and eight-texture chocolate cake are the stuff of legend! I’m happy I was able to try this restaurant, and I highly suggest anybody visiting Sydney to make reservations. The restaurant’s pretty amazing.