I am quite a way behind with reporting on my dining adventures, so forgive me for returning to the beginning of the festive season for this event on the deck area outside Manta Restaurant. As you can see from my dining companion's shaded look under the Pantone 137C coloured respite of the Veuve Clicquot umbrellas, it's early for us on the weekend.
Thus you can imagine how much I appreciated the cleverly updated Manta Mary ($16) created by award winning bartender Jean Munos. With a head of egg white, a body of house-roasted Roma tomato juice, a well-disguised kick of alcohol and a platter of oysters in front of me, it was indeed the breakfast of champions.
After a good half glass of tomato juice, it was time to begin slurping oyster farmer Tim Dumbrell’s freshly shucked Moreton Bay QLD oysters. Three oysters at this event set you back $9. On this plate we also tried oysters from Hastings River NSW and Wallis Lake NSW. The Wallis Lake offerings ended up being the best. Remember the colours of my photos look a bit off because of the reflected shade of the yellow umbrellas.
Just when we were patting ourselves on the back for making it through this rather intense breakfast we were sent a another dozen, this time from the restaurant's normal oyster selection. My fear was quickly dispelled by my wonder at the Moonlight Flat Angasi which are apparentgly like their French cousins. They're beautiful to look at, as you can see above on the right, and combine a smoky edge with a taste as fresh as the ocean.
This long elegant platter also has some awesome Claire De Lune Bouton oysters, which I believe would appeal to you if you like Sydney Rock oysters. Now if all this fresh shucking gets you excited, you should mark down 15th March, 2009 in your diary as I hear that's when their next Oyster Festival will be. Of course, you could confirm this by contacting the restaurant on (02) 9332 3822 and getting on their mailing list for Oyster Day!
However if you’re not averse to oyster consumption outside of their prime season, you can of course eat oysters from their regular menu any time you like. We recently returned to Manta for the occasion of my dining companion's 45th birthday, and the chef sent us out the freshly shucked selection pictured above. You can safely add Manta to the list of restaurants headed by The Boathouse and Bayswater Brasserie that really care about their oysters and shuck them to order. Oysters would normally be priced at $25/half dozen or $49/dozen.
Here is my dining companion perusing the menu in the dazzling setting sun. We chose an early dinner to make the most of the glorious setting. Our cocktails arrived soon there-after, the best of which was the delicately gingery Asian Breeze ($16) pictured in the tall glass on the right.
A Raw Sharing Plate ($44) stood out for the Yamba Prawn Ceviche pictured second from the left in my photo. Far from ‘coming the raw prawn’, this dish brought out their complexity and creaminess with garlic, chilli, lime and baby basil. In fact, next time I would skip the rest of the raw selection and order a whole plate! This is partially because the other raw selections tended toward being a little bland and/or not showcasing off the seafood to the best effect.
Golden grilled Atlantic Scallops ($28) are snap frozen at sea (something I understand is necessary due to where they are caught, but I basically object to). Their size and being frozen seems to make them a bit hardier as they were cooked to the right level, but with a really nice golden top. They retained their shape and meaty structure in a summery presentation with cress, orange, fennel and excellent hazelnuts. That said, I prefer the smaller scallops collected closer to Sydney because I feel there is a textural and flavour loss from freezing.
Relaxed friendly service is further aided by a directive to spend time at your table as required. Our waitress suggested a Spanish 2007 Valminor Albarino ($71) that drank beautifully and travelled well across an excellent truffled pasta special and into her comforting Buttermilk Pudding ($16) recommendation for dessert.
I was quite surprised at the simplicity of this dessert which came with strawberry jelly, lime marscapone mousse and warm anglais. It belied what you expect from desserts at this sort of venue, and as a result was quite delightful. It was a perfect soothing counterpoint to the rich seafood meal.
Overall the menu is less focused on seafood than the last time I dined here, which was not long after they opened for the occasion of a friend's birthday. Carnivores will be pleased with their selection of fine beef (including grass-fed options) cooked on the charcoal grill. Vegetarian diners get a whole page of choices in the diverse menu. Everyone gets the pretty city view with lapping water, and a parade of expensive dresses and shoes passing by to ogle, mock and admire as you sit back and enjoy the good life.
6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo
Ph: (02) 9332 3822