There are some restaurants that I book months in advance and then eagerly count down the days until GG and I get to dine there. One such restaurant was Aria, which is owned and run by celebrity chef Matt Moran. Given our planned trip to the East, we thought we’d head out for one flashy meal and see how they do degustation – Sydney style.
We decided we’d walk from our hotel down to Darling Harbour, which probably took a little over 15 minutes so not too bad and it was a nice evening. We pondered as we walked there whether I had seriously built up this establishment way too much in my head, placing impossible expectations on its shoulders……… time would tell if it deserved its place on the pedestal.
As soon as we arrived we were greeted by friendly staff who confirmed our booking and took us straight through to our table. Unfortunately we weren’t seated right by the window, but the view from our table was still very impressive. We were on the side of the restaurant that overlooked the Bridge. I suspect if we’d booked for when they first opened, at 6pm, we might have had more luck with the window position. It’s all ok though and didn’t take away anything from the night. I actually really enjoyed the layout of the place. Table far enough apart that you weren’t knocking into people’s chairs and you weren’t bothered by others conversations.
Service was brilliant, I couldn’t fault it. Friendly and the right amount of attentive without being disruptive.
And the food…… we knew before we got arrived that we were going to try their Summer Tasting Menu, but before we ordered that, we each enjoyed a glass of champagne, because let’s face it if you are out at a place this lovely you may as well really enjoy it. So while we sipped that and enjoyed watching the sun slowly sink in the sky our first course arrived. It was a pre-dinner started. A small glass of tomato soup, that came with chive oil drizzled on top. Amazing – so much flavour in such a small glass. Definitely got the taste spuds going for the meal ahead.
The first course arrived presently. It was cured New Zealand salmon with kombu and Earl Grey tea, yuzu tapioca and avocado purée, and this came with a glass of Mukai Ine Mankai ‘Junmai Genshu’ (Red Rice Sake), Kyoto Japan. I’m not a huge eater of fish so this was never going to be my favourite dish but it was well flavoured and I could to try Sake for the first time so it was an interesting start.
Next up it was a slightly more adventurous combination. A ballontine of smoked ham, foie gras, mushroom and chicken with a mustard salad and a pickled cucumber, caper and tarragon dressing, with a 2009 Pegasus Bay Gewürztraminer, Waipara New Zealand. It was a really interesting flavour sensation, particularly the mustard which seemed to pop in your mouth. Really enjoyed this!
Next up was some of my favourites – scallops spiced and roasted with a salad of heirloom carrots, young coconut and a coriander and yoghurt dressing, with 2010 Robert Stein ‘Reserve’ Riesling, Mudgee New South Wales. An entirely delightful course. Scallops were sweet, while the salad was refreshing. Lovely!
Now this course I think was my favourite, which is a hard call given they are all brilliant. It was a Peking Duck Consume with dumplings, shaved abalone and mushrooms, with a 2007 Grace Vineyard ‘Kayagatake’ Rouge, Yamanashi Japan. Honestly there was just so much depth to the flavour, it was a joy to eat and completely left you wanting more.
I find it hard to go past pork but I was starting to get slightly full at this point, but with the help of GG I forged ahead. Next up was Pork Belly, Kurobuta sweet pork belly with pickled watermelon and crackling, with 2009 Caillard Mataro, Barossa Valley South Australia. Perfectly cooked pork! And the most amazing way I’ve ever eaten watermelon – went together hand in hand.
And the next course was essentially the mains. It was roasted lamb fillet with confit belly, eggplant purée, tomato and basil fondue and a black olive sauce, with a 2005 Gibson ‘Old Vine Collection’ Grenache, McLaren Vale South Australia. Ahh lamb….. Sam Kekovich is onto a good thing. It’s a wonderful meat. Loved it!
So the previous course ended the savoury side and we then turned to our sweet tooth. They gave us a wonderful pre-dessert blend of rockmelon puree with a tasty foam on top. Ideal!!
And finally – my element – dessert! Pavlova with black cherries, tonka bean cream and a pistachio sorbet, with 2009 Braida ‘Giacomo Bologna’ Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG, Piedmont Italy. I loved it! The pavlova had a wonderfully flavoured pink centre and the chewy pistaccios with the cherries – sublime!
This was merely taking pause for a photo, not that I had any thought of not finishing what was on my plate.
And finally a Coffee and Petit Fours
In all I was totally impressed with Aria – the view, the service, the food – they have the experience down to a fine art. Would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a fancy night of dining in the Sydney. Well done Matt Moran, your restaurant was one of the best I’ve been to – loved it!