Ocean Room is a restaurant that I had wanted to visit for a long time. I’d heard about the massive chandelier in the dining room made out of wooden cylinders, the gorgeous views of the harbour from the glass walls of the restaurant, the range of sakes on offer and of course, the deliciously fresh seafood they serve. Sir D must have known that it was on my hit list because he took me here for our anniversary for Raita’s tasting menu ($95pp) so we got to sample a little bit of everything.
We start off with a chilled sake while we decide what to have. I can’t remember what the sake was but I loved the little teapot-shaped carafe that it came in and how it was placed in a bowl of ice to chill. We didn’t get to choose our sake cups as you do in other restaurants but we were given delicate little glass cups to drink from which matched the carafe.
To kick off our degustation we start with the oyster duo which comes in a glass bowl filled with ice. On top of the ice are two Pacific oysters and two Sydney Rock oysters, each with a different dressing. We decide to start with the Pacific oyster which is plump and juicy and dressed with a light chilli and lemon vinaigrette. I was worried that the chilli would be too overpowering for the delicate flavour of the Pacific oyster but there was only a small dab of the dressing on the oyster, which gave it a pleasant chilli tingle without dominating the oyster itself. The Sydney Rock oysters are topped with shiso basil sorbet and konbu which enhances the oyster’s briny flavour and the sorbet adds a smooth, cool texture to the slippery oyster.
I’d been looking forward to tasting all the “chotto” (Japanese tapas) on the tasting menu tonight and the first of these is the tuna cornet. A nori speckled rice cracker is wrapped into a mini cone shape and filled with marinated blue fin tuna tartare. The soft, sesame flavoured tuna contrasts with the crispy nori wafer beautifully and I’m left wanting more!
Sir D is a bit apprehensive about this next dish since he isn’t a big fan of anchovies, but he is pleasantly surprised to find that the anchovy flavour is quite muted and tempered by the cool, smoked tomato sorbet. The mouthful of salty anchovy and acidic sorbet is a wonderful combination and definitely whets the palate for what is to come.
The next dish is one that is highly anticipated since I knew that both are considered signature dishes of Ocean Room. We get two king prawns each which are fried to a crisp and coated in a wasabi aioli. The wasabi is quite mild which is good news for me and I love the creamy mayonnaise with the fresh, crunchy prawn. A little wasabi croquette, which is more like a crouton, provides a crispy texture and is a cute addition to the prawns.
The soft shell crab taco is on the other side of the plate and it’s a crisp tortilla encasing a crunchy deep fried soft shell crab dusted in a spicy chilli powder and served with pickled vegetables, grated daikon and a dollop of mayonnaise on the top. We’re both sad that we only get one of these each because they’re absolutely addictive! Give me a whole plate of these and I would be a happy girl.
We move onto the more substantial dishes now with the sake jelly bar cod – a dish containing lightly seared bar cod sitting in a bed of sake and plum jelly which tastes quite strongly alcoholic. There are salty jubes of salmon roe amongst the jelly, and on top of the bar cod is a sheer thin layer of konbu.
I’d heard much about Ocean Room’s signature Tuna Creation dish, which gives the diner a chance to sample different cuts of tuna cooked in different ways and with varying condiments. From background to foreground, we have:
1. Oil blanched with chilli salt, fresh ginger and coriander
2. Fresh raw with light soy salt, wasabi and lemon zest
3. Seared with aged (3 years) soy salt, five peppers and salmon roe
4. Fresh raw with black salt, jalapeno and yuzu zest
5. Marinated with truffle salt, fried garlic and fresh chilli
We start with the oil blanched one which has cleaner and fresher flavours and work our way towards the marinated tuna paired with truffle salt, fried garlic and fresh chilli which has more depth and complexity. My favourite out of all of them would have to be the fresh raw with black salt, jalapeno and yuzu zest – the combination of salty, spicy and sour at the same time was a fantastic play on flavours.
The saikyo miso cod is a grilled, sweet miso marinated cod fillet served with a lightly scented ginger risotto and an orange-infused miso sauce. I’m not a big fan of ginger so luckily for me the risotto had a very subtle ginger flavour which complimented the sweetness of the fish well. The fish was perfectly flaky and infused with a nutty miso flavour which was almost smoky from the grilling.
The prawn sizzle dish features pan seared king prawns with a citrus and coriander sauce. We each get two prawns each that have been peeled of their shells between the head and the tail, making for much cleaner eating. The tangy sauce is a fresh accompaniment to the prawns and prevents the dish from being too heavy – a good thing at this point of the meal as I’m starting to get full!
As we’re nearing the end of the tasting menu, the heavier dishes start to come out and the next course is hearty serving of grain fed rib eye steak with a sansho peppercorn jus. There are two thick-cut slices of tender beef which is cooked so that it is still juicy and pink in the centre. The steak is served with greens and a baked potato manjyu which is like a potato dumpling.
For the final savoury course we have a few pieces of nigiri to finish. There is one each of tuna, kingfish, and salmon, and the kingfish and salmon are topped with tiny pieces of pickled ginger whereas the tuna has a dab of wasabi lying underneath. It’s a simple yet delicious way of segueing into the sweets.
As a final course we have a tasting plate of miniature desserts to share between us. We’re not told exactly what they are so we’re left guessing which adds an element of surprise to our dining experience. One of the cakes has quite a strong coffee flavour and is layered like an opera cake with a shiny chocolate glaze on top, with a slim chocolate curl leaning against the cake. In the centre is a moist apple and almond cake with a pastry-like bottom and a sugar-coated twig of pastry on the side. And in the two soup spoons are melon ball sized scoops of green apple sorbet – tart and icy and my favourite of the three.
With a total of 12 courses, we stepped out into the night full and satisfied from the meal. I loved the fresh seafood that was used and the creative twist on traditional Japanese cuisine throughout the degustation which kept our palates entertained with their interesting play on flavours. Definitely somewhere I’d want to go back another day to order some other menus from their a la carte menu – I already have my eye on the Alaskan crab and the tuna wing!
Ground Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal
Circular Quay West, The Rocks
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: +61 2 9252 9585
Open for lunch: Tuesday to Friday, noon – 2pm
Open for dinner: Monday to Saturday, from 6pm