So a few days ago I officially turned 21...and as we all know, birthdays are always a treat for my stomach :) Not only did I have a fun birthday lunch with my lovely colleagues at work, but for dinner I was lucky enough to try out Aria, the beautiful two hatted restaurant located next to the Opera House in Circular Quay. Owned by Celebrity Chef Matt Moran, Aria is the epitome of striking harbour views, an elegant dining atmosphere and delicious food. Perfect for any special occasion.
Ok here's the embarassing confession...M & I initially struggled to find the exact position of Aria and had wondered to the wrong side of Circular Quay. Eventually we needed Google Maps to help us out, which was really silly because the website had clearly indicated (we found out afterwards) that the restaurant was located at the Opera Quays side, with entry from Macquarie Street. It is literally right across from the Opera House. All good because I had somehow foresaw this and wore my comfy heels, prepared for the extra walking :P
How breathtaking is this view? I can only imagine how beautiful it would be also during the day time. At night though it is equally stunning as the Opera House is always a sight for sore eyes. Everytime we go to a fine dining restaurant with a view, I am always grateful for the fact that we live in Sydney. The dim lighting and intimate dining space inside of Aria makes for an ultra romantic ambience and relaxed atmosphere.
As it was a celebration, we kick started the evening with some bubbly! I am an avid champagne lover and so I ordered a glass of NV Jean Lallement (Verzenay France $29). Exclusive for Aria, this champagne was rich with a dry finish. M has always been a fan of white wine so he ordered a glass of the 2012 Ronco del Gelso Pinot Grigio (Italy, $19) which was also very aromatic and fresh.
Yes, my love for sourdough bread is no longer a secret and we all know how judgemental I get when it comes to trying each restaurant's bread. So I must say I was a little disappointed with Aria because the bread was way too hard to bite and because it was served cold, it didn't add any extra points. The butter however was divine in its creamy richness and how easily it spread onto the bread.
Both M & I loved the Amuse Bousche - I can't remember the full name but it was basically Sashimi Tuna with this tasty broth base underneath. Super fresh and zesty in flavour, it was the perfect entree of an entree.
The Peking Duck Consomme with Duck Dumplings, Shaved Abalone and Mushrooms ($36) just sounded way too good to bypass - and because I was the birthday girl, I called shotgun on this awesome entree. Upon being served, the scrumptious aromas of Peking Duck had already made its way through our senses.
It didn't disappoint at all. The silky soft dumplings were packed with a delicious and meaty filling, almost resembling that of a tortellini, however it was interestingly juxtaposed with a soup base that was rich with Asian flavours. I was telling M how I felt like it was both an Italian and Chinese dish at the same time. I also loved the pieces of shaved abalone and mushroom that came with every mouthful here and then. A must-order entree for sure!
M's entree of Roasted Scallops with Calamari, Razor Clams, Warm Vignaigrette of Celery, Dulse and Hazelnut Oil ($43) was an absolute beauty and tasted delicious. The scallops were gorgeously plump, tender and seared to perfection. It was the first time seeing Scallops lying in a pool of green, which was quite interesting as the colour contrast made the dish look stunning as a visual. As per usual, you can't go wrong with scallops for an entree, as they always serve to please.
For the past few occasions I had been ordering fish a lot and so on the night I decided it was time to go back to my old roots of ordering the good old steak. My Char Grilled O'Connor Sirloin with Confit Carrot, Potato Rosti, Star Anise and Onion Sprouts ($58) was well-cooked to a pink medium rare and each bite was a juicy and tender delight. I particularly enjoyed the carrot and onion sprouts, they were very flavoursome and injected extra bursts of tastiness to the dish. However I would've preferred more sauce with the steak because it did get a bit dry towards the end.
For the first time ever, M ordered a chicken dish and we were both excited to see how it would turn out. His Roasted Holmbrae Chicken Stuffed With Sage, Onion and Brioche, Tarragon Chipolatas, and Truffled Pearl Barley ($56) proved to be a success as the chicken meat was deliriously tender with an ultra crispy skin that was seasoned to perfection. The tarragon chipolatas were extra delicious and I think I ate all the truffled pearl barley.
The kind people at Aria had added a special touch to my dessert with a sweet birthday message and candle. My Valrhona Jivara Chocolate Tart With Caramelised Hazelnuts and Vanilla Choc Ice ($24) was an absolute dream for chocolate lovers like me. Decadent and rich with mousse-like textures, this is the dessert to indulge yourself with so that you can willingly enter a heavenly chocolate coma. The macarons were also divine and produced that perfected crunch that comes with good maracons. Killer dessert!
The Banana and Chocolate Chip Souffle with a Dulce De Leche Ice Cream ($25) takes 20 minutes to make as indicated by the menu and you can understand why when you break into the souffle. It was unbelievably airy, warm and fluffy - almost like a melted marshmallow but with strong banana flavours. I loved the ice cream and the choc chips because it was well-balanced with the soft souffle. If you like banana bread or anything banana related, you'd go nuts for this.
You know a restaurant is amazing when their Petit Fours make you salivate just as much as their desserts. For the first time in my life, I demolished all the Petit Fours and was equally impressed with each. The Mini Lemon Meringue Tarts were heavenly and the Truffle Balls had a burst of rich choc mint flavour upon each bite. The other circular crunch-like biscuit was also delicious. It was definitely a sweet ending to our night :)
I would recommend going with a la carte as opposed to the chef's tasting menu, only because you get to really choose what you like and it's nice to try each other's dishes. There's also the option of going for pre-theatre dining and do note that Sundays have a different menu to the other days.
Overall, we really enjoyed our dining experience at Aria - the view was stunning, service was attentive and the food was truly delicious - what more could you want? You can see why the reviews for this place are consistently positive. I would say that for a special occasion, Aria is absolutely fantastic!
I want to thank M for such a great birthday celebration and for this insanely delicious Chocolate Ferrero Rocher Gelato Cake that was delivered at midnight. 21 is definitely a new milestone and I look forward to more years of delicious cake and food! :)
Oh and this card could not have been more fitting after eating two consecutive slices of that cake above...thank you M, you have got my number 1 birthday wish covered. Now all that needs to be done is to ensure the wish comes true ;)
1 Macquarie Street
East Circular Quay
Sydney NSW 2000
02 9240 2255