Friday, March 5, 2010

Ocean Room - A Special Celebration!

Two close friends of mine got married on the weekend. They decided to go for a smaller intimate wedding and opted to not have a big elaborate reception after the ceremony. Although we completely understand and support their decision, it doesn't mean we can't celebrate in a big way for them! So whilst there was no reception for us to attend, a few of us who did go to the ceremony decided we should book somewhere nice to celebrate their special day anyway.

After scoping around, we settled on Ocean Room. When booking, they mentioned that there will be a cruise ship docked on the night, obstructing the view of the Opera House. Because of that, they will be offering their 11 Course Tasting menu for $65, down from the usual $90. Score! AND there will be champagne on arrival! Double Score!

The ship that scored us our great deal

We arrive and are seated in the same seats we were in last time. Basically under the sloping part of their swinging bamboo decoration. This isn't too much of an issue until you've had a few and the whole ceiling appears to be moving (which it is...)

The moving ceiling...

Cute cupid at the bottom of the glass

There are 5 of us, 2 of which won't eat raw food and 1 is a vegetarian (I'll get back to this later). We placed our order for the 11 Course Tasting Menu and ordered some cocktails as well. The cocktail list actually has a small picture on the left-hand side showing the glass the cocktail will be served in. Champagne flute, tumbler etc. I chose my Hi-Tea-Ni purely based on the fact that it is served in a crystal tea pot on a bed of ice. In fact, I HATE Martini's unless its lychee flavoured or any other sweet fruity flavour.


However, I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth this Martini went down. I guess it does make a difference when using high quality alcohol and keeping it chilled on ice the whole night.

Nippon Fizz

For some reason tasted like soya sauce....maybe its the whiskey in it. But it gave me a Japanese soya sauce salad dressing after taste. Not something I'd order that's for sure.

Ocean Room Punch

Ocean Room Punch was fruity and tangy. Definitely easy to go down.

Our complimentary Champagne was a mimosa with fresh pomegranate seeds floating on top. How pretty is that!? I love the burst of the pomegranate seed when you bite on it.

1st Raw course: Oyster Duo
Left: Rock oyster with fresh chilli & lemon vinaigrette Right: Pacific oyster with shiso basil sorbet and konbu

The Rock oyster wasn't that special. I found the dressing a bit bland and watery. The Pacific however, was creamy and briny, and the sorbet on top was fantastic!

1st Cooked Course: Sour Plum Scallop
Seared scallop with arrowroot noodles and sour plum vinaigrette

My friends were ooing and ahhing over this course. I didn't get to try it, but they're saying its one of the best courses of the night.

1st Vegetarian Course: Spicy Garlic Edamame
Poached green soy beans tossed with salt, fresh chilli and garlic

I could smell the wafts of caramelised garlic from across the table. I would've loved to have tasted this, but didn't want to steal from the vegetarian when I've got 11 courses coming!

2nd Raw Course - Tuna Cornet
Marinated blue fin tuna tartare in wrapped nori cornet

How cute is the presentation?! hehehe The nori cone was sweet, salty, crunchy and definitely moreish. I would've loved a plate of just the cone to eat in front of the TV. The cone contrasted beautifully with the soft fatty tuna. Just wished I had a bigger cone!

2nd Cooked Course - Kushikatsau
Crispy panko pork tenderloin skewer with Japanese bbq sauce and mustard aioli

Crumbed and deep fried meat on a stick. Need I say more?

Tomato Somen
Chilled Japanese somen noodles in clear tomato (Bonito?) broth

This was a complimentary dish from the chef to our vegetarian (Although the menu lists bonito in the dish, but I hope they know to make it without!). The clear cold tomato consomme was really refreshing. Too bad summer is coming to an end, because I reckon this would've been perfect on a hot summers day.

3rd Course: Soft shell crab Taco
Spiced soft shell crab, pickled vegetables in a taco shell

Oh yeahhhh baby! Fried stuff encased in more fried stuff! hehe The soft shell crabs were slightly spiced leaving a nice heat on the tongue afterwards. My only complaint, which isn't really a complaint, is that they should've made the taco shells bigger so I didn't have these giant crab legs practically poking my eyes out as I'm trying to shove it into my gob.

4th Course: Anchovy and Sorbet
Marinated anchovy with smoked tomato sorbet

This was an interesting course. I would classify this more as a canapé then a course. And I would definitely mark this as Italian rather than Japanese. Crostini with anchovies, capers and a lovely smoked tomato sorbet on top. I actually thought it was a tomato pesto type sauce when I first saw it. I didn't realise it was a sorbet until the intense cold hit the roof of my mouth!

5th Course:Wasabi Prawns
Crispy king prawn with wasabi aioli petit wasabi croquette

The prawns are lightly battered and topped with a creamy wasabi aioli and tobiko. The wasabi croquette was probably a bit too petit because we didn't actually know what it was. Kinda just tasted like fried batter. The prawns however, were fantastic! They burst in your mouth with every bite! I tried cutting each mouthful smaller so I could savour the taste. Didn't really work. Next time I should just order a whole plate of these little suckers.

6th Course: Sake Jelly Bar Cod
Seared bar cod with sake & plum jelly, sheer konbu

I've never been a huge fan of cod, I find the flesh to firm. Even when raw, I found the fish very tough to cut through. However, the jelly and konbu was FANTASTIC! I actually sat there scraping the last of the jelly with my fork, wishing that I had a spoon! hehe

Cooked version

7th Raw Course: Tuna Creation
Tuna five ways, with five different condiment

Tasting Note

A little tasting note is given to eat person so they know what they're eating. In general, I found this dish a bit average. Yes the tuna was good quality (Although there was a few pieces I just could not cut up, ended up hacking it apart), but the flavours paired with each piece didn't really stand out. I didn't even realise I was eating truffle salt. The only thing I really did like was the soy salt. And that's because its like soya sauce.....but in powder form!

7th Cooked Course:Sous-Vide Ocean Trout Slow cooked ocean trout, served with spicy avocado salsa and Treviso salad

I had a taste of this and the spicy avocado salsa was to die for! Really made me crave spicy guacamole and chips! hehe

Vegetarian Course: Goma Tofu Steak Pan seared, house made soft sesame tofu with toasty butter soy sauce

Oh man.....if vegetarian food tasted as good as this, I'm pretty sure I can be a part time vegetarian. Oh, I'll never give up meat completely, but this is certainly a very, VERY good substitute! The tofu was incredibly silky soft, but was lightly coated in a glutinous flour so it didn't fall apart and to also give it more bit. Chewy and silk soft? Genius!

8th Course: Saikyo Miso Cod and Prawn Sizzle Sweet miso marinated cod fillet with ginger scented risotto and pan seared green king prawn with coriander citrus sauce

The outstanding part of the dish had to be the pan seared king prawn. It had a lovely sweet and charred flavour. The head was also crispy, so good in fact, that I couldn't help myself but suck the goodies out of the heads! Of course I did it in the most polite and ladylike manner. And my friends seeing the delight in my face, palmed their prawn heads off onto me! haha I'm not complaining!

My dish!

The Miso Cod however, was a bit dry and firm for my liking. Probably not the fault of the Chef, more that I don't really like Cod in general. The citrus sauce however, was wonderfully tangy. I ended up scraping at it with my knife and licking the knife. Like I said.....ladylike.

The moving ceiling

The Hi-Tea-Ni was really starting to hit around this point, and it made it worse that I decided to stare up at the moving ceiling. Made me slightly loopy.....

Warm Summer Vegetable Collection Assorted seasonal vegetable assiette served with chilli, garlic and soy coulis

Essentially a half grilled half tempura'd vegetable dish. Our vegetarian was getting mighty full by the time this came out, so we ended up eating half of his dish! haha Like I said to my friend, I love eating with vegetarians. We always get to eat their food, but they can never eat ours! hehe Mind you, I'm so glad I tried this as it had a surprisingly garlicky taste. It's almost like they added garlic to the tempura batter. I wish I had a whole plate of this when it was still hot and crispy!

9th Course: Sansho Pepper Beef Steak Grain fed rib eye steak with sansho peppercorn jus

OMG......this is a course in a degustation menu? The steak was almost a full sized steak. Certainly big enough to be a standard entree or a light main meal for someone. I would've preferred the steak to be more rare. Generally I like my steak Medium Rare or even Rare. I even said to the Waitress I don't mind if the steak is still moving when its served to me. But it looks like they had cooked all the steaks as medium. Medium being the most "raw" our non-raw eaters could take. And seeing that they took a steak and cut it in half to serve 2 people, looks like for convenience sake they just made them all medium. With that said, the steak was delicious! Incredibly intense beef flavour! The little ball on the side was a fried mashed potato thing. My one was quite nice, still creamy on the inside. But the ones my friends got was all puffed up and hollow in the middle.

10th Raw Course: Tuna, King Fish and Ocean Trout Nigiri Sushi

Good sushi, nothing else to be said really..... except..... could the Tuna be any thinner!?

10th Cooked Course: Soft Shell Crab sushi roll

The lovely spicy soft shell crab taco crab made another appearance in the form of a sushi roll! My friends were completely stuffed by this stage so I scored 2 pieces! Woohoo! Including the piece with the giant crab legs sticking out! hehe

11th Course: Assorted Dessert
Left to Right: Chocolate and Espresso Layers, Apple Cake, Cranberry Sorbet, Creme Brulee

One thing we found about Ocean Room is that their desserts are their weak points. Even when we were there for their sugar hits during the SIFF last year, we weren't impressed. (I actually couldn't even be bothered to blog about it). But we wanted to come back to try their food anyway, hoping for something better. But again, we were disappointed, especially with the same chocolate and espresso layer cake/mousse/butter thing that was served for the sugar hit. However, I must say that their creme brulee was quite good. But not good enough to save their dessert course.

Complimentary Cranberry sorbet and pear sorbet for the Vegetarian

Now, whilst the food was good, let me talk a bit about the Service. When we first talked about finding a restaurant to celebrate our friend's birthday, I made a list of restaurants we could try. Ocean Room was our first choice as we've been discussing about going back since the Sugar Hit night. The only problem was I had people who didn't want to eat raw, and one vegetarian. So I called up Ocean Room to ask if their tasting menu can cater for people who can't eat raw food and vegetarians. The answer was yes to both my questions. Excellent!

I confirmed with my friends that Ocean Room can cater to their needs and got final numbers before I made a booking. Again, I reiterated that we had a vegetarian in the party and that he was hoping to try the tasting menu. Again, "not a problem".

Come the day, I get a call from Ocean Room to confirm the booking. I confirm the time and numbers and again, reminded them that we had a vegetarian with us. "Yes, we have that in the computer already". When we finally rock up and place our orders for the tasting menu, the Waitress asks us who is the person with the "dietary requirements". When my friend mentioned that he's a vegetarian, this is the conversation:

Him: I'm a vegetarian, so nothing with meat please.
Her: Is fish ok?
Him: No, no fish. No fish, no meat.
Her: What about other seafood?
Him: No seafood. No fish, no meat, no beef, no chicken, no pork, no meat.
Her: Is it ok if we use chicken or fish broth in your dishes?

And this goes on for awhile. What part of Vegetarian didn't they understand??? Eventually she assured us that she'll tell the Chef and placed our orders for the Tasting menu. 5mins later, she comes back to tell us that the Chef wants to use fish broth in the cooking. And if he can't have fish or meat broth, then he'll need to order A La Carte and will be served at different times to the rest of us.

Whilst my friend wasn't too bothered about this, I was quite upset that all of this was happening despite me telling them again and again that we'll have a vegetarian in our party that wants a tasting menu. If it couldn't be done, I would've let my friend know from the beginning or picked another place. I don't have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is that everyone I talked to, assured me that his requests could be catered for.

However, with that said, I think they did realise that they screwed up and served him the complimentary courses to try and make up for it. I was happy that they tried to make it up, I just wish they were more honest up front!

The service was also on and off, depending on the person serving us. Whilst one of the Waitress was attentive and really knew the products, another Waitress was basically on another planet. When the first Oyster course came out, she dumped the bowl in front of me without telling me this was to be shared with another person. It made it extra confusing because the cooked course was served individually. I had to call her back to ask her if I was meant to share the food. Apparently other courses were also going to be shared, so we ended up shuffling our seats so that the people eating the cooked food sat together and the people eating the raw sat together.

Despite all that, I would still want to come back to Ocean Room. I thought the food was fantastic, even though they really need to work on their desserts. Their service is ok depending on who is serving you. And I am grateful they tried to make it up to my friend because I felt so bad the whole night!

Oh, as for the special, it wasn't actually available to everyone. When our "champagne on arrival" didn't arrive on arrival, and there was no mention of the $65 special when we placed our order, I enquired with the waitress. She asked if that's what was offered over the phone and I said yes. There was no drama after that and our champagne was served to us. Looks like the special was only available if you had made a reservation over the phone. If you had shown up without a reservation, saw the huge ship and still wanted to eat in, then you'll just have to pay full price.

Ocean Room
Bay 4 - Ground Level
Overseas Passenger Terminal
Circular Quay West, The Rocks
Ph: (02) 9252 9585

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joey@forkingaroundsydney said...

Looks like a great degustation. Have always wanted to go to Ocean Room and I wouldn't mind a $25 discount for the lack of view either! Now when's the next mega-ship docking ....

SoRMuiJAi said...

hahaha my thoughts exactly. I should get a schedule and try out all the restaurants along that strip when the ships are docking!

Simon Leong said...

what a frustrating story about the vegetarian saga. i can't believe they even asked such things for so long. i guess some people call themselves vegetarian but actually still eat fish and even chicken. pity about the oysters. i love oysters but often find myself disappointed when ordering in restaurants. i tend to now only eat them when i go and buy them myself from the fish markets so i know exactly what i'm getting. in terms of your champagne they actually should have had that on their computer reservation as well. i reckon they were just trying to get away with not giving it to you perhaps.

SoRMuiJAi said...

It was very frustrating, especially since we were served 11 courses and all oohing and ahhing over the food, and he's just sitting there with nothing infront of him as he's inbetween courses.

And yes, I think they were hoping we wouldn't ask about the discount. But what they didn't realise is that I have no shame! Gimme my discount! hehe It was still pretty good food even if we had to pay $90. The only course I didn't really like was the oysters. Would gladly swap that for the scallops course my friends were raving about!

hotel Treviso Italy said...

I am a big fan of this cuisine and I would definitely enjoy myself at such an event.