Some surveys say that the first year of marriage is the hardest.
One such survey came out late last year and it was the type of ‘news’ publishers and broadcasters love and made headlines. Apparently for many, the post wedding, house and honeymoon spending bonanza often leads to financial stress and even a diminished quality of life. We were immediately asked by curious friends and family whether we felt that was the case. We’re relieved that we haven’t added to those statistics and that we’re rather happy. Besides he has proven himself pretty useful. He’s tall so he can reach things on higher shelves, and has better eyesight than me so he can spot mushrooms hiding in the undergrowth so I’ll keep him around for a bit longer. The past year has whizzed by quickly with our wedding, followed by two honeymoons (no, not excessive at all) and capped off with the purchase of our lovely new home. We’re having great fun furnishing and doing up our new place – it’s a blessing of vast space we’re slowly coming to terms with having somehow made do with our tiny 80m² apartment for the previous 4 years. We’ve hosted a dinner party for the first time ever and we feel like we’ve finally graduated to join the ranks of sophisticated entertaining adults.
To celebrate our one year wedding anniversary, we felt it was only fitting to head to ARIA given they’d catered our wedding and was a symbolic full circle to our year.
Unfortunately our desired times were fully booked out but we squeezed into an early pre-theatre sitting, available daily before the 7pm dinner service rush. The pre theatre menu doesn’t offer the gastronomic overload that a tasting menu offers, but does provide the option to choose 1, 2 or the full 3 courses with six well varied dishes to choose from for each course. After some deliberation on what to order (always a good sign when you like the sound of many things on the menu), we sat back to enjoy the view of the harbour and Opera House over chilled glasses of complimentary NV Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition.
A small amuse bouche heralded the start of the meal – an intensely flavoured chilled shot of creamy corn veloute that was gone all too quickly.
My scallop entree was one of the more nicely presented dishes I’ve seen in a while. Three plump seared scallops sat in a shallow vinaigrette pool, topped with a delicate morsel of razor clams. The mention of razor clams in the dish had swayed me to this entree choice so I was disappointed that the meagre sliver of razor clams added indiscernible flavour, but the rest of the dish was an umami flavour bomb and more than compensated. The scallops were tender and the vinaigrette reminded me of a delicate, meatier version of dashi.
The Co-pilot chose the ‘safe’ pork belly entree (‘safe’ because let’s face it – you can’t really go wrong with pork belly). A thick slab of succulent belly meat was crowned with crispy crackling that I happily stole from the Co-pilot’s plate. What I initially thought were capers dotted around the plate were actually ‘muntries’, a native Australian bushfood also known as emu apples or native cranberries. They added a sweet fruitiness that complemented the pork nicely.
For my main I’d chosen the lamb, a piece of seared but still thoroughly rare and simply seasoned lamb that seemed to melt away in my mouth. There was a smear of olive paste here and a pool of fennel sauce there, but the lamb really needed no support acts.
The Co-pilot’s barramundi main was the real surprise for me, in that, I really liked it. Fish is always the last thing I’m likely to order on any menu. I’m a great lover of all crustaceans, molluscs and raw fish is fine but cooked fish, not so much. Especially large fish – the sort you’d be happy to have caught on a day out fishing. I invariably find it’s always a bit dry and overcooked. I recall the Co-pilot cooking a tuna steak for me for our first date and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I thought it was dry like a chicken breast (something else I steadfastly avoid). He likes to maintain that I picked at his tuna steak because I used to eat like a bird and now I eat like a ravenous crazed beast! Ahem.
But I digress, back to this barramundi – I’m not sure how it was cooked, whether it was confit or sous vide prepared – but I’d love to find out. It was silken smooth, as far from dry as I would want and I found myself wanting more than the Co-pilot would share with me. Hmm.. maybe there is some truth to that ravenous crazed beast title..
Accompanying our mains was a completely moreish truffled mash. I’ve no doubt more butter and cream than I want to envisage went into the making of that unctuous mash but we conveniently put the thought aside and couldn’t help shovelling one spoonful after another.
Absolutely full after our 2 courses (see, I’m not really a crazed ravenous beast), we skipped dessert but were treated to a few petit fours that provided just the right hit of sweetness we wanted.
For the quality, attentive service, setting, views and overall experience at a 2 hatted restaurant, the pre theatre meal is a steal in my books with our 2 courses coming to $72pp. In fact, we might just make it an annual treat.
1 Macquarie Street, East Circular Quay, Sydney
Tel: +612 9240 2255; email: m...@ariarestaurant.com
Lunch: Mon – Fri noon – 2:30pm
Pre Theatre: Mon – Fri 5:30 – 7pm; Sat 5 – 7pm; Sun 6 – 7pm
Dinner: Mon – Sun 7pm – 10pm
Supper: Mon – Sat 10 – 11pm