Ocean Room is one of a handful of beautifully situated, fancy pants restaurants at The Overseas Passenger Terminal near Circular Quay. I've been here once before but only for a few nibbles at the bar. The bar snacks here were exceptional and I knew I wanted to come back...someday.
The restaurant overlooks our glorious harbour with a prime position opposite The Opera House. Throughout dinner I keep take peaks out the window and feel slightly jealous of people who get to stare at this view all day (or for the lucky ones who live around here who get to stare at the Opera House whenever they please). Ah well, I get to stare into Everybody Loves Ramen's laundry window so I guess living in Parramatta has it's own perks too.
I'm catching up with my friend Miss M and we're here to sample the Ocean Room's new autumn 12 course tasting menu. TWELVE COURSES! I was worried that I'd be over-full by the end of the meal but as with the way with Japanese food everything was light, fresh and well-balanced. I left Ocean Room feeling satisfied...and good.
I'd had a bit of a rough day so we eager to start our night off with a cocktail. Miss M is more of a wine drinker but I twisted her rubber arm to join me in some cocktail fun. My tipple is the Blood Orange and Plum Sour described as a "juicy whiskey sour with succulent blood orange and plum scotch whiskey, plum wine and blood orange juice, cinnamon orange syrup and bitters". It's just what the doctor ordered and I enjoyed the woody notes of the whiskey. Miss M goes for a good old classic - the Mojito - and I'm told it's good stuff.
Our tasting menu begins with "Kaki" - freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters with Guinness, myoga (ginger) and a Yamazaki (whiskey) silk. The oysters were juicy, plump and still a little briny, fresh with a hint of sea water. I really enjoyed the silky, slightly sour "whiskey silk" that felt like jelly on the tongue.
Our second course, Ochazuke, brings a bit of theater to the table. I can tell we're in for an interesting + entertaining meal as our waiter pours cold-drip dashi and premium gyokuro green tea into a small bowl of Koshihikari rice crust, flame seared latchet (fish), umeboshi (salt plums) sorbet, wasabi dust. The flavours in this dish were really interesting - so many temperatures, tastes and textures in every mouthful. The dashi + green tea "broth" was slightly salty, tasting of fish in a powerful, earthy (or ocean) way. I loved the crunchy "rice crust" that reminded me of puffed rice and the sorbet was savoury and refreshing.
Moving on to course #3 and #4 we have Maguro - yellow fin tuna with Sicilian green olive + buffalo mozzarella drops, crystalised yuzu, soy pearls, tomato chips following by Shinjo - housemade croquette of tiger prawn & calamari, yuba angel hair.
The Maguro is basically a tuna tartare which requires us to mix all the elements on the plate together in order to get the best flavour out of the tender, soft tuna. Amazingly this simple looking dish seems to contain nearly every flavour all in one mouthful; sweet, sour, salty and umani. I loved the Shinjo which reminded a lot of a Thai fish cake in terms of flavour and texture, and who doesn't love a salty, crunchy lotus root chip (rhetorical question I think as EVERYONE loves them).
The theater arrives back at the table with the arrival of the pretty-as-a-picture Onsen or "autumn vegetable collection". The centre of the plate houses what is basically an oil-burner containing a rich, unctuous, salty anchovy and garlic bath that I can't get enough of. Along the rim of the plate sits fresh, seasonal vegetables for dipping. So simple but one of my favourite dishes of the night.
The sashimi platter is so fresh and it feels like an incredible healthy dish of food to be eating. I can't quite remember all the different fish appearing on the platter but I know we had some tuna and some salmon. There were quite a few varieties of fish that I'd not heard of before - some were very 'seafoody' in flavour and others fairly mild.
Interestingly I found the strips of wagyu beef in the Shabu to be quite "meaty" - almost in direct contrast to how delicate the thin slivers of beef actually were. The beef was served in a dashi consommé with grilled tofu and seasonal mixed vegetables. I added the lime, chilli and soy dipping sauce directly into my broth which I thought helped counterbalance this meaty tasting dish.
I absolutely loved the Miso Cod - one of the Ocean Rooms signature dishes. The fish is fall-apart tender and lusciously sweet thanks to the orange miso it is cooked in. I enjoy the savoury element the little piece of grilled shallot adds to the mix - a nice counterbalance to the sweetness of the miso. The pile of ginger risotto offers a petite little carb-fix.
It also appears that my cocktail has run out so I decide to try the Rouge Royale - a fizzy strawberry drink with Martell VS, creme de peche, strawberry, orange, lemon juice, Angostura bitters and Clover Hill sparkling. I loved that my cocktail came with a rosemary swizzle-stick as it gives me another idea of what to do with all that rosemary I have growing.
I was a little confused when our waiter places the Butabara down in front of us - how exact do I open this little parcel without spilling pork broth all over myself? Ah, in a flourish a pair of scissors is brandished by our waiter and the top of our cellophane packet is snipped off to reveal a parcel of steaming simmered pork belly, melting tofu, yuzu chilli and ponzu. Loved this - the broth reminded me a lot of a tonkatsu pork ramen and that's never a bad thing. The silky, soft tofu didn't "melt" however so we think that might be some creative menu writing?
I was really looking forward to the Sansui as I've been craving steak lately (the side affect of cooking mostly vegetarian food at home these days I think). Whilst I prefer to eat grass-fed meat there's no denying that the wagyu flat iron steak was flavoursome and tender, and incredibly well cooked. It was served with a Tasmanian pepper jus, an ENORMOUS and meaty quinoa crusted king prawn and an Americaine cream and agedashi taro potato "tower".
I like that the meal proper ends with a plate of edo-mae sushi. It's a nice light note to end on -- and rather it's unconventional I think to go back to something light, rather than end on a heavier meat dish. We're told that this sushi is an "authentic Tokyo style nigiri".
The Ocean Room is at the Ground Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal - Circular Quay West. Phone them on 9252 9586.