Thursday, 6 December 2007

Two fishy restaurant reviews

I recently ate at two flash seafood restaurants in a short time span.

The first was Doyles down at the international terminal. I am normally somewhat sceptical of Doyles, having seen the enormous queues for a table down at Watsons Bay, and the rush to turn patrons over and boot them out the door. But I was willing to give this place a go - after all, it has a smashing view over towards the Opera House. The trick is to get a table upstairs where the view is even better.

I started with scallops, and had fish and chips for my main. I figure that if a restaurant can't cook fish and chips properly, then it doesn't have much hope of cooking anything very well.

My scallops were just passable. They were absolutely swimming in some kind of sauce that I did not particularly enjoy. I am fond of grilling them quickly with just a bit of butter and lemon and perhaps some dill and that's it. These tasted like they had been boiled for quite some time in the sauce. Not having them again.

Then there was the fish and chips. Doyles had the same problem as the Establishment - they sliced the fillets into thin strips that dried out internally when fried. All the moisture was long gone by the time I got to them. I watched Food Safari last night on SBS and they showed what a lump of dried bonito looks like, and it reminded me somewhat of my fish. It was edible, but could have been so much better.

I was offered some tartare sauce after I started eating, and I get the feeling the sauce came out of a jar rather than being prepared by the chef. When you are paying over $30 for fish and chips, you expect chef to make the sauce.

The chips were average and completely devoid of salt. I tried sprinkling salt over them and it all bounced off. They must be using magic salt repelling potatoes.

With dessert and wine, that meal cost over $70 a head. I would not hurry back, unless I had some out of town tourists who really wanted to see the view. It's like dining at Centrepoint - you go for the view rather than the food.

The second place was Flying Fish, which is situated at the end of a Wharf just around the corner from the casino. It's a smashing location, and the interior looks great (if you like lots of old wood and that revamped warehouse look).

The only way I can describe the food and service is "over the top pretentious". Everything cost a bomb, and the portions should have been served with a magnifying glass. Most mains were around the $41 or more mark.

One good thing was that they had oysters as a starter, and six different varieties. I had half a dozen, including one of each variety. At $4 an oyster, you expect them to be quite magnificent. They were, but I would have liked a selection of dipping sauces. I ate somewhere, way back, where they gave you a row of little thimbles that each contained a different dipping sauce. My oysters sorely needed that. They certainly ranged widely in taste and texture. One of them was so salty, it was like licking the salt dish. I wouldn't have enjoyed eating 6 of them.

For my main, I had a selection of vegetarian curries. Normally, that would be the last thing I'd have, but my reasoning was that if you are paying over $40 for a main, you should expect to get some pretty flash curries. Every vegetable curry that I've ever had has consisted of mushy or pureed vegetables - you get either yellow mush, light brown mush or dark brown mush - and ocasionally green mush.

They didn't disappoint on that front, presenting me with three individual bowls of crispy vegetable curries. One was curried beetroot, one was curried zucchini (I think) and the last was curried beans. Two of them were excellent, the third a bit flat.

What shat me though was the presentation. They came with "condiments", which consisted of the smallest possible spoonfulls of condiments that it's possible to put in a bowl. And I am talking about really small spoons and really small bowls. There was a yoghurt sauce, which was about one level teaspoon. There was some finely chopped mango with an artfully placed sliver of curled chilli on top. You know when you chop a mango in a hedgehog fashion? Well, think of one of the cubes of mango that results. Now cut that cube in half and throw away half of it. Now finely dice what remains - that's what I got.

The third condiment was finely grated coconut. Consider the amount of coconut required to cover your big toenail in a layer one shaving thick. That's about it.

The meal was fiddly to eat, sort of interesting, reasonably tasty - but not something that I would ever order again, or recommend to anyone else. The main problem is that I could not figure out how to eat it! The curry was in three bowls, the rice was on a platter, and I was not sure if I was supposed to put rice in the curry or curry in the rice or just eat them separately.

Parking was also a pain in the bum. For my money, it was trying way too hard. Waa-aay too hard.

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