The Overseas Passenger Terminal at West Circular Quay houses a number of top-end restaurants. Ocean Room is not the first of them I have dined at, but each time I dine at one, the view still gets me. This restaurant sits nearly opposite the Sydney Opera House, so ferries and river catamarans passing by have got up a bit of speed, so there's a sense of motion and the world passing by as you sit and soak it all up.
Ocean Room is one of those restaurants where my dining companion's nicotine addiction didn't bother me one iota - who could complain as they looked at the view I was absorbing, with a glass of lovely wine in hand?
For that matter, my smoking companion wasn't complaining either - while many restaurants relegate the smoker to propping up a telegraph pole on the street, at Ocean Room they give smokers pride of place with a million dollar view. I was even compelled to take a wander out there myself.
But I have got ahead of myself. Let's go back to the very beginning... as you walk in, the restaurant announces that they have a seafood focus (in case the name didn't give it away) with live tanks (or aquariums as one waiter called them). I'll just say, to me, if I am to eat it, it's a live tank, if I am to admire it, it's an aquarium. It's not a criticism, it's just a way of not finding 'cute' that which I am about to consume. It works for me to keep things in their place.
My photo does it no justice, but the restaurant itself is a beautiful space. Think contemporary, with lots of empty space - which makes their well-chosen music sound great! After all, space is luxury, and this empty void is used to great effect with lights that look like crocuses hanging down in cream, and drooping tulips in red... there was an element of spring having sprung, and my is that something I am looking forward to!
Executive Chef Raita Noda is somewhat of a style king in the kitchen, and ‘styling’ is just the right word for the dishes that come out. The cuisine is contemporary Japanese fusion – it’s colourfully plated, fresh and imaginative. At the chef's request, we were there to dine on his Tasting Menu ($90/head).
The first dish was a duo Fresh Oysters ($4/each) - a rock oyster from Merimbula, and a pacific oyster from Coffin bay, both served with an add-your-own Champagne Vinaigrette. They were excellent.
They also came with an optional rather tasty Brazilian hot sauce. Our straight backed and easygoing waiter/ballerina Tobias Munday (who is an asset to this sexy space) said he's now addicted to it. I can see why!
Next up was a touch of molecular - Anchovies and Tomato Sorbet ($16) - which in my opinion was the weakest dish I tried. Take into account I am not keen on anchovies when I say that. However I do like molecular cooking, so a vine ripened tomato sorbet made me happy - even if it did get teamed with a crouton.
The wine list is solid, but it’s in the hands of a new sommelier, Nigel Gladstone who is finding it a bit hostile. I left my drinking in his hands, and really enjoyed the glass of Perrier Jouet Brut ($22/glass) from Epernay, France with my oyster, and the 2006 Nevis Bluff Pinot Gris ($85/bottle) from Central Otago, New Zealand he chose for the following few courses. So I will reserve my overall judgement (that I suppose would include it being a tad pricy) until he has a chance to make it his own.
The Wasabi Prawns ($18) with bright green flying fish roe, are not to be missed - they were beautifully cooked, and the roe added a delicate, yet lovely flavour. The wasabi was present but not overly dominant, its effect eased by mayonnaise.
Raita's take on Mexican bar food, Soft Shell Crab Tacos ($18) is also a winner. Look at how delicate the batter is! It was a salty snack, that worked perfectly with the ocean trout roe, and contrasted with the bean sprout and eschalot mix stuffed within. All of the courses up to this point worked quite effectively to stimulate your appetite even more. They left us wanting more... a good place to be at this point in a degustation menu.
Jamon Iberico Bellotta ($26) was left unadulterated, as it should be. The price reflects that it is 'gran reserva' and of course, this is the degustation serve, rather than the entree serve, but I am giving you the entree prices so you see where it sits. The green Sicilian olives were a nice contrast.
If you like molecular gastronomy, order the Cured Ocean Trout ($18) topped with Parmigiano ice-cream, more ocean trout roe and preserved lemon salsa. It's a bit chilly on the tongue, but a good combination. In fact, I liked it a lot.
If you’re more traditionally inclined, the Sushi and Sashimi Indulgence ($38) comes with the best Yellowfin Tuna I’ve ever tasted. (Again, this is a degustation portion, the real deal has 10 pieces, and all of their other sushi and sashimi selections have 5 pieces except where otherwise indicated on the menu).
The Marron ($17/100g with average weights 200-270g) are divine - served in a Thai style with fried onions and coriander. We got the whole set of instruments too, despite it not having claws worth much effort - but I tried anyway.
Cod is not a fish I have revisited as an adult often, blessed as I am with horrifying memories of a cod dish my Mother boiled in milk. This dish, Saikyo Miso Cod ($36), has redeemed cod for me. The cod fillet was marinated and then baked in sweet miso, and it was delicious.
At this point we saw the neighbouring table had a great side delivered - Autumn Truffle French Fries ($12) with large visible slices of truffle. If I wasn't so full, I would have been envious. And we must leave something to try when I return (which by now I have already decided I am going to).
The mint-crusted Roasted Rack of Spring Lamb ($39) impressed – but frankly, I’d stay with the seafood here, it’s the specialty. The lamb has an excellent bed of chilli haricot beans, that I enjoy a lot too.
A brief sojourn to the bathroom also proves stylish. I muse that this is definitely a date restaurant, and one where you can seal the deal (or unseal it, as the case may be). However if you're in need of a bit of reinforcement, end with the Ocean Room Assiette ($34 for two). This is the best dessert tasting plate I have tried for a long time, and it suited my dining companion as well (a rare thing with this dining companion, a tad anti-dessert would you believe?) I was also impressed that this restaurant doesn't 'throw away' dessert as so many that excel in the rest of the meal seem to.
Starting at the front right - a seriously amazing vivid green apple sorbet on crisp slices of apple. At the front left, a roasted apple brulee with cream anglais (stewed apple under a more traditional brulee), also excellent. At the back a piece of the best chocolate honeycomb ever, a bitter chocolate brownie, a gorgeous crisp fried mint leaf in a beautiful butterscotchy mousse, surrounded by a caramel crackly edge. We fought spoons over that one... where's the dining companion who doesn't like dessert, I wondered?
This was an excellent meal.
Bay 4, Ground Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay West, The Rocks
Ph: (02) 9252 9585