Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sydney Restaurant Review: The Sydney Cove Oyster Bar: 17 November 2010

One evening before the theatre at the Opera House after weeks of cold and rainy weather, Sydney put on a magic day reminicent of the spring weather we were usually treated to in years gone by.  Arriving at Circular Quay nice and early we intended to go to the Opera Bar, but alas, it was already full to the brim with a large gaggle of Sydney-siders equally thrilled with the turn in the weather.  So a'wandering we went, and decided to give the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar a whirl (aka the Oyster Bar).  The last and only other time I had been there was around 1990 so it was time to give the old girl another go whilst not wearing shoulder pads and a bouffant fringe.

The signs were good, the stars were aligned.  We fronted up with no reservation but big smiles and a huge amount of optimism and bagged the last available table.  Score!  It had a beautiful view of Sydney Harbour.  Double score!  Now, to order, eat and get to the theatre within an hour, that was our challenge.

We started with 2 glasses of Veuve for no other reason than it was on the wine list and we wanted it.  Mmm.  Veuve. I believe that was score number 3.

We ordered all of our food to come at the same time.  I started with half a dozen Wakame oysters, topped with wakame seaweed & soy mirin.  My dining partner ordered half a dozen wakame, half a dozen natural with red wine eschallot vinegar.  I loved the combination of the saltiness of the oyster with the sweetness of the mirin and seaweed, whereas my partner preferred the natural oysters with the vinegar (which was slightly too acidic & not sweet enough for me).  The oysters were fresh, plump and as you'd expect in an establishment calling itself the Sydney Oyster Bar. All good.

Then came the Cured Hiramasa kingfish, pickled cucumber & mint salad.  It was fresh, light and everything I didn't realise I wanted until I crunched my first forkful.  I love it when a salad is perfectly balanced with sweetness, freshness, crunch and bite.  It was delicious and healthy, which makes me happy.

I had searched the menu for a salad-salad.  You know, the kind with lots of raw veggies, lettuce, herbs and a light dressing without anything meaty or proteiny in it.  Not the kind which is something else with a few leaves around it.  And definitely not the kind with a heavy dressing.  Sadly, my only criticism of the Oyster Bar was that there was a limited selection of fresh salad-salads available.  I didn't want a pretend caesar salad (Baby cos leaf salad, coddled egg & croutons) or anything with onion.  Perhaps it was the lack of food prep space, the lack of refrigeration behind the scenes, but I was a little disappointed as I am a salad-salad gal from way back. 

The waitress, who was helpful, suggested I order the baby coz leaf salad but with the dressing on the side, a la Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.  It sounded like a reasonable, yet slightly unsatisfying compromise considering I didn't want a pretend, dry caesar salad.  What was delivered however was the herb & radish coleslaw, with an acceptable light dressing but (unfortunately) harbouring quite a lot of shaved raw onion amongst the cabbage and carrot. 

A word on raw onion.  I am a hater of raw onion.  A strong word, I know, but it flavours everything within a 1 metre radius and MAKES YOUR BREATH SMELL, NOT TO MENTION OTHER AREAS!  I'm ok with non-raw onion haters, even those who love raw onion.  I can overcome my raw onion prejudices and share a table with such folk.  You just won't catch me kissing them or sharing a bed with them.  Or a salad.

After poking through the entire salad very OCD-style to retrieve EVERY SINGLE SLICE OF RAW ONION and put it on the side of my plate, what was left of the herb & radish coleslaw was actually very tasty.  Crunchy, light, fresh & herby.  It was actually exactly what I wanted.  It was just a pity this slightly obsessed raw onion hater had to spend my time on a search & destroy mission. 

So how would I rate the Sydney Oyster Bar now, in 2010, 20 years after my first visit?  Despite the onion incident (which actually, wasn't really that bad) I'd give it a good 7 out of 10.  The view is spectacular, the service was attentive (enough) on a busy night.  We got the wrong salad, and there was onion in it, but hey, I actually enjoyed the coleslaw post the raw onion removal.  And we got to the theatre on time.  Score!

Sydney Cove Oyster Bar
No.1 East Circular Quay, Sydney.
8am til late, 7 days.
Phone: +61 2 9247 2937

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