Autumn Tasting Menu
Hello gang and welcome to Sydney, today we are experiencing ARIA. The missus and I took a little trip to Sydney over the Easter break for my Auntie’s 70th birthday. Since we had some “spare time”, we decided to also dine out and catch up with our good friend Eugene who recently moved to Sydney. Originally I was going to revisit Quay and introduce the wife to le snow egg but everything was closed! Luckily, for a slightly dearer price, ARIA was open to cater for our fine dining needs.
I have always thought of ARIA as the old school dude on the block and in my mind, almost always a fixture and apart of the furniture next of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. Opened in 1999 and co-owned by Matt Moran and Peter Sullivan, ARIA currently holds 2 Chef hats as well as one of the best Australian wine lists.
Our evening started off wandering around the Rocks, meandering around the small streets before heading to the Opera House and round the corner to ARIA. The room was dimly lit, very clean and had great views of the bay. We were greeted with still and bubble water and experienced (at first) very brash service…one could say “overly professional” or what have you, but happy to say, they soon warmed up after they succumbed to the Euge/Kenny charm and I think our very knowledgeable sommelier ended up being very generous with our portions :)
I didn’t take any in-depth notes this evening so this post will just be the fantastic pictures you have come to love on this blog with some short highlights. Let me know if you like it this way! 7 course wine matching degustation at the ready… GO!
Alaskan king crab, potato and leek Vichyssoise
Slightly chilled creamy soup with a lovely bouquet BUT we got a shell! Lucky for them, we ain’t Masterchef judges! Otherwise, quite delicious.
yellow fin tuna and Carid prawn sashimi with smoked butter milk and black garlic
2012 Between Five Bells Rose, Geelong, Victoria
First dish was the tuna sashimi. The three little flowers you see hide three dollops of buttermilk and black garlic puree which seriously kicked ass. The sashimi and prawn were a bit meh but the rose was exceptional. Usually Australian roses are single varietal roses but this took a leaf out of the Frenchy’s book and used 6 different varieties, very gentle of the palate, soft and silky and seriously enjoyable to drink. If you liked my write up on the 2001 YY Underhill Shiraz, you will enjoy this.
house cured venison carpaccio with salt baked celeriac, pickled mushrooms, apples and hazelnuts
2011 Jasnieres ‘Premices’ Domain de Belliviere, Loire Valley, France
Can’t say I liked this dish, kinda like eating pickled jerky. The venison was quite tough and the accompaniments were overly sour even for my tastes (I like sour). The saving grace was the wine, hazelnuts on the nose with lovely green apples and wet stones on the palate. High minerality, well structured and an excellent wine on its own as well as paired with this dish.
seared fillets with parsley root, mussels, bakes White carrots and lime
2006 Tyrrell’s ‘Vat 1’ Semillon, Hunter Valley, New South Wales
One of the top three meals of the evening. Perfectly cooked Dory, flaked off just right with a lime puree to die for. Vat 1 Semillon is always a pleasure but didn’t come to the pairing party today and liked to be a meal on its own. Eat and drink separately and happily do it again. God I love a well cooked fish.
PEKING DUCK CONSUMME
with dumplings, shaved abalone and mushrooms
2001 Eldridge Estate Gamay, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
ARIA’s signature dish and my personal favorite of the night. This dish came in a large covered white bowl and when the cover was lifted, I was too distracted with the aromas of the dish, I lost concentration on what our sommelier was saying! Beautiful aromas wafted up filling the table of drizzled truffle oil and Asian herbs. The consumme was clean but needed something extra and all of us wanted something different; length in flavor, chilly kick or something to cut through the richness. The wine was quite nice, very pinot like (as it should be) and a bit inky.
Kurobuta pork belly with a pork croquette, muntries and star anise
NV Bress ‘Bon Bon’ Pear & Apple Cider, Harcourt Valley, Victoria
This meal was….not good. There were three elements to the pork; the belly, the croquette and a piece of crispy pork fat all on top of muntries and a swirl of star anise sauce. The pork belly was nice and fatty but no crispy skin makes me sad :(. Croquette was terrible; too salty and gamey, muntries was awkward and unneeded and both made it back to the kitchen. To make things worse the cider was a tad flat! The crispy pork fat was the saving grace here, sooo yummy you know its bad for you but seriously a disappointing dish.
roasted fillet of Riverina lamb with fennel and black olive
2008 Chateau Caronne-St-Gemme Cabernet Blend, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France
There are two cuts to the lamb; the Lamb fillet with fennel puree, shoulder with fennel salad all accompanied with a distinct line of black olive puree. This was defiantly better than the last dish, the fillet was cooked well, nice and juicy. The shoulder was my favorite just like the best bits of a roast dinner rolled into one. The fennel worked well with the dish with the olive puree bringing along quite a strong in flavor. The Bordeaux was tight to start with but got better and very enjoyable over the course of the dish; sour cherries on a bed of dusty tannins with an icy castle-brick finish.
Yogurt foam, basil lemon granita, compressed strawberry and poppy seed meringue
With the end of the hot dishes comes the palate cleanser and this is a busy one with varying flavors of sweet and sour. This is not like your usual refreshing palate cleanser, this was a little thicker and denser whist still having that lift from the granita.
Café au lait pannacotta with figs, crème frache and cinnamon crumble
2011 Hentley Farm ‘The Exception’ Botytis Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia
The desert rounds out my top three meals of the night. If you like coffee, you will like this pannacotta; soft smooth and creamy with a zippy sauce. My hat goes off to the cinnamon crumble, adding both a crunchy texture and matching extremely well with the coffee flavor. The wine was also a a star. Not overly sweet with a clean and crisp flavor and non-viscous mouth feel. Almost like golden delicious apples and again matching well with the cinnamon. Lovely.
COFFEE AND PETIT FOURS
Orange chocolate truffle, sesame crisp, lemon curd Madeline
Espresso & Cappuccino
Coffee and petit fours rounded out the night highlighted by the seasme crisp (as you can see, two were already eaten!)
Overall, I enjoyed my experience at ARIA but not in the league of the best. Service ended up being very good, wine was also very good but the food really wasn’t up to the standard. The quality was fine but it was missing the wow factor you would expected from a 2 hatted restaurant; only the duck consumme, john dory and dessert bringing t it to the table.
Some final thoughts and tips for your adventure at ARIA:
- The degustation was good if you want a nice meal but missing that wow factor. Note that if you’re going for the degustation, everyone will have to go for the degustation.
- Very accomodating to dietry requirements
- Prices for food/wine paring: $176.00 / $286.00 for Sundays and public holidays
- Sommeiler was very knowledgeable, accommodating and loved to share their passion
- Dress code is smart casual, I was in jeans and a T-shirt
- Enjoy yourself
- Any other questions just throw me a comment and I’ll get back to you
Sydney, I shall catch you later