One thing that always strikes me when I enter Ocean Room is the stunning view of the Opera House from the glass windows of the restaurant. But it’s not all about the view – Ocean Room also serves up some fantastic Japanese food, and we’re here tonight to try out their new 12-course tasting menu.
We start off with some of Ocean Room’s new and tasty cocktails, since there’s 2 for 1 cocktails between 6-7pm every night. The Spicy Fifty is a drink with a brown sugar shochu base, elderflower, vanilla and a slight heat from the chilli. The Rouge Royale is a sweet combination of peach, strawberry, cognac, bitters and sparkling wine, with a spring of rosemary stuck in the drink for good measure.
We kick start our dinner with two freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters, with Guinness (yes, the beer), Japanese myoga ginger and a Yamazaki ‘silk’ made from whiskey. The alcoholic additions are surprisingly subtle which lets the natural flavour of the oysters shine through.The next dish is pretty as a picture, and involves a little bit of table theatre. Ochazuke is typically a dish where water, dashi or tea is poured over cooked rice and other savoury additions. The Ocean Room rendition of this dish is a modernised one, where a cone of puffed Koshihikari rice crust, seared latchet, umeboshi sorbet and wasabi dust is placed in a bowl of ice. A waiter comes around and pours a cold-drip dashi and gyokuro green tea into the cone, which makes the puffed rice and sorbet float to the top. It’s a delicate and delicious dish with a variety of textures to please the palate.
The Executive Chef, Raita Noda, sends out his Japanese take on a Caprese salad. Don’t be fooled by the size of the dish, because there are so many elements in it that pack a punch of flavour. Cubes of Yellow fin tuna are accompanied by dehydrated tomato chips, and bubbles of buffalo mozzarella and Sicilian olive that just pop in the mouth. The little condiments on the side include avocado, onion, crystallised yuzu and soy pearls (which I initially though was salmon roe!). Definitely one of the most creative dishes on the menu!
The next course just looks like a mountain of fried shards. Hiding under this mountain are some bite-sized croquettes, which are bouncy and made with tiger prawns and calamari. The crispy topping is deep fried shavings of yuba, that are turned into “angel hair”.
The Onsen course is probably the prettiest dish in the tasting menu, and there’s almost an audible gasp as it arrives at the table. There are an assortment of fresh vegetables on the side and a yaki-onigiri (fried rice ball) on a stick. These are to be dipped in the garlic and anchovy bath – which resembles an onsen (Japanese hot spring). The garlic and anchovy bath is delicious and there’s also some black shichimi pepper on the side for those who like it hot.
To keep the dipping sauce warm, it is placed above a tea light which creates the most beautiful lights through the patterns on the ceramic holder.
It’s not a Japanese meal without some sashimi, especially since Ocean Room does such fresh sashimi plates. As part of the tasting menu, there is a selection of seasonal fish. Today, it includes hairtail, bar cod, chutoro big eye tuna, black kingfish and Tasmanian ocean trout.
Each has its own accompaniment, like ikura or a dab of grated ginger, and as always, I want more because I don’t think I could ever get enough sashimi!
The next dish is called “shabu squared” and refers to the Japanese dish shabu shabu, where thin slices of beef are cooked in a hotpot of boiling broth or water. Our individual mini shabu shabu dishes feature wagyu beef, grilled tofu and mixed vegetables in a dash broth. The hot broth slowly cooks the beef which can then be dipped in a lime, soy and chilli dipping sauce.
Miso cod is a popular dish at Japanese restaurants, but I never grow tire of it. The cod is grilled with a sweet miso paste, and served with a ginger risotto and orange miso. I had this dish last time at Ocean Room and didn’t particularly like the ginger risotto, but this time the ginger flavour was much less sharp and wasn’t as overpowering.
The Butabara is another fun dish where the whole package that the food is cooked in is brought out and opened at the table. Waitstaff cut off the tie on the plastic to reveal simmered pork belly and tofu pieces. We are given a test tube with a yuzu chilli ponzu which we are instructed to shake and pour onto the pork. The pork belly is incredibly tender, and the dish as a whole is flavoursome.
Sansui consists of three parts – a wagyu flatiron steak, a quinoa crusted king prawn, and an agedashi taro potato. The steak is wonderfully juice and flavoursome, and served with a pepper jus. The prawn is probably one of the biggest prawns I’ve ever seen, and the quinoa crust is quite interesting.
The final savoury course is three Tokyo-style nigiri sushi, with the chef’s daily recommendations. We all struggle to fit it in, but it would be a shame to waste such good food so… we somehow manage to stuff in an extra three pieces of sushi.
Thankfully, dessert is a light course with a chestnut mont blanc, green tea angel cake, chestnut puree, a spiced ice cream and a cognac persimmon. The cake and airy and light, and while I’m not a huge fan of the spiced ice cream, the cognac persimmon is actually quite nice and not as boozy as I expected. The tasting menu ends on a sweet (but not too heavy note) which is perfect for me as I’m about to explode from so much food. It was a wonderful and extremely satisfying meal, and with 12 courses priced at only $120pp, I think it may just be one of the best valued tasting menus around!
Penguin says Feed Me dined at Ocean Room courtesy of Wasamedia
Ground Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal
The Rocks NSW 2000
Ph: +61 2 92529585
Open for lunch, Tuesday to Friday, noon to 2pm
Open for dinner, Monday to Saturday, 6pm-10pm