Quay

I love my boyfriend.  I love him more than I would like to display publicly on a free blogging site.

This post requires a bit of background, ultimately taking you through the culinary mind trip I had went on last night.

I love food.  It’s actually better described as a passion rather than a love.  I have continued to educate myself on everything surrounding food and see it as the only true way to get to know a culture, people, and world.  It consumes me in a way that it’s almost turned into an obsession.  If you’ve ever formally dined out with me, I’m that annoying encyclopedia of knowledge with facts about everything placed on the table or anything we are about to consume.

When we had originally planned to escape to Australia, I did a bit of research around restaurants I wanted to eat at.  While working at Best Buy, all of my Australian customers would be asked, “Where’s the best place to eat in Sydney?”  One of my favorite customers had brought in his Australian business partner in to help him look for TVs.  He appeared affluent and I immediately wanted his feedback on the best places to dine while in his country.  He made one strong recommendation; the best restaurant in Sydney was Quay.  He even spelled it out for me and assisted me in pronouncing it correctly (It’s pronounced “key”).

I went home and did some research on the famous Quay.  Holy crap.  I was secretly hoping it was some hole in the wall, moderately inexpensive restaurant that was an Aussie secret.  That, it was not.

Quay was actually titled the Best Restaurant in Australasia (not a typo, look it up) and named #26 on S. Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants.  To give you an idea on how prestigious this list is, only 6 restaurants from the United States made it on this list for 2011; one located in Chicago, the other 5 in New York.

Thanks for the suggestion, Mr. Customer, but I work retail.  Maybe in another lifetime.

As July approached, I started reading a lot of books about Sydney and Australia.  The damn restaurant kept coming up!  That’s cool, I’m sure it’s a really nice place.  Another life, another time.

While eating at Thai Foon, Travis turned to me and said, “I know we’ve been eating at a lot of nice restaurants, but I wonder what nice restaurants are around here.”  I start reciting all that I knew about Quay, the food style, chef, awards it had received, thinking we were just having a playful back and forth conversation about restaurants.

“Do you want to go there?”

At this point in our relationship, he knew the answer to that question before he asked, but do I want to pull the responsible card and pretend like I really didn’t?  I realized that one dinner here could amount the same cost as all of our Sydney dinners combined.  Not thinking through my next word, I responded, “Yes.”

Forward to last night.  Our concierge nabbed us a dinner reservation at 7 pm.  We “smart casual’d” it up, hopped into a cab and arrived at the most incredible location.

Directly in between the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House nestled my hopes and dreams; Quay.

The hostess took us to our table and asked us if we would like a beverage to begin our meals.  Tap water for both, as the shock of being in one of the world’s 26th best restaurant was still settling in.  We were greeted by our waitress who guided us through our menus.  After she had left, I started crying.  I felt ridiculously selfish for wanting to come here.  We make good livings, but any way you slice it, this dinner was going to be fucking expensive.

“We have one opportunity to do this in our lifetime.  It’s only money.”

Wanting to cry a little longer because now I was sentimental over those words, I put my big girl shoes on and realized he was right.  Neither one of us had even been in any city that housed a restaurant on the World’s 50 best.  I stopped feeling bad and started to enjoy the evening the way that I should have from the beginning.

The part I’m most excited to share with all of you is the experience.  It was incredible.

I had the pleasure of staring into the Opera House during our meal.  Don’t I just keep getting luckier?

I had wanted to do the eight course tasting menu and for pacing purposes, my dining partner was obligated to do the same.  When our waitress came back, we told her that we would be doing the tasting menu and wine pairings for each course.  I could hardly contain my excitement.  Yay!  (Yay x 8, really.)

Before I explain each course, the wine pairings were absolutely perfect with each course.  Holy crap, they were perfect.  For the first time in my life, I saw wine pairing as an art form and have a deeper respect for well-trained sommeliers.

Also, sorry for the less-than-great pictures.  I remembered my camera but had forgotten to put the memory card back into the bad boy, so all of these photographs were taken using the iPhone.  They don’t really do the meal justice, but I’m writing about this for my own personal record keeping purposes anyway.

Southern tuna toro with pink turnips, jamon de bellota, juniper and wasabi flowers.

Although an intimidating first course, this was the best tuna I had ever had in my life.  It was so buttery that it really just melted in your mouth.  This was paired with a Riesling, so as a duo, it remained light, but pungent in flavor.

Salad of pickled rhubarb, endive, beetroot, purple carrot, rosa radish, kohlrabi, sheeps milk curd, pomegranate molasses, violet.

My mouth is watering heavily after typing that description.  This salad was mind boggling.  There were so many textures involved and so many layers of flavor.  Paired with a Rose, you were able to get the sweet notes that were presented really subtly.  After finishing this salad, I questioned how tacky it would have been to clean the rest of the plate using my finger (since it was to the point where the fork had cleaned off what it could have).

Gently poached southern rock lobster, golden tapioca, squid noodles, lobster velvet, pea flowers.

This was probably the course I least remember.  Based on the description, I thought it was going to be my favorite, but after the layers of depth involved in the previous course, this felt more monotone.  The seafood was cooked to perfection and the wine was a perfect match (a very dry Viognier to match with the saltiness of the seafood), but at this point, I had already expected different levels of flavor.

Slow cooked coturnix quail breast, pumpernickel, walnuts, quinoa, truffle, chestnuts, milk skin.

This was the turning point of the meal.  The quail… oh the quail.  Cooked so well that it took on the texture of a good fish.  The pumpernickel sprinkled with nuts.  I don’t know how they got everything that was on the plate to be a perfect family, but it was.  Everything was so in harmony.  They paired a Pinot Noir with this and this was when I realized that pairing food with wine was an art form like I mentioned earlier.  The smell of the wine alone was enough to enhance the course.  I was in heaven.

Slow braised Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil.

My favorite course.  As she was describing the dish, I couldn’t help but take a strong whiff of little piggy.  It smelled strongly of marzipan and the waitress confirmed my suspicion.  This was easily one of the best things I had ever eaten.  Every layer in this dish supported the pig jowl.  I still don’t know what pig jowl is, but I would rather remain ignorant than google it.  The proteins in this dinner were all cooked so well that it really required little chewing; this course was no exception.

Poached Wagyu beef, oxtail, morel, black pudding, farro, buckwheat, hazelnut, ezekiel.

My least favorite of the latter courses, the hazelnuts overwhelmed the beef.  I understand why this was the last of the savories since the flavor was so strong.  The texture of the beef, though, absolutely perfect.

“Jewels”

I don’t really remember what was in this, but it was waaaay too good.  I remember crystalized cranberries, a granita of some sort and a sorbet.  This was paired with a Demi-Sec so perfectly.  This course was so light but so perfect.  Not too sweet and airy like angels, it was the best second-to-last course I could have asked for.

Warm vanilla and palm blossom brioche, caramelised white chocolate, amaretto cream, walnuts, prune sorbet.

I took a bite of this and then realized that I didn’t take a picture of it.  I blame the wine.  Even though this was paired with a dessert wine (Campbells Liquid Gold), I enjoyed this with a long black.  Enjoy it, I did.

Overall, this was an unforgettable experience.  I learned so much about myself and food during the dinner.  I will never forget this night and am forever grateful that I have a boyfriend that cultivates my passions and desires.  See, babe?  I told you I think you’re awesome.

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