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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ocean Room, Circular Quay West, The Rocks

 Located on the waterfront, directly in view of the Opera House, the Ocean Room (Ground Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay West, The Rocks, Sydney) is as a modern fine dining Japanese restaurant that specialises in its fresh produce and innovative design of its dishes. As the location suggests, the restaurant is directly under the Overseas Passenger Terminal, hence every once in a while, the restaurant offers discount rates for members when a large ship is docked in front of its doors blocking the harbourside view. The Ocean Room and its menu adds a refreshing taste to the realm of Sydney fine dining experiences.

Front Entrance

 It's hard not to go past the tasting menu at any restaurant and at Ocean Room you'll get value for money (if there is such thing as value in fine dining). Currently the 12 course degustation is set at $120 which is just as good, and if not better value than Waqu at Crows Nest. With matching wines it is only an extra $58 ($178 altogether) and it comes with 10 of the courses! But more on that later.

 Dad seems to be a mocktail enthusiast these days and its always the first thing he looks for on a menu. I managed to steal a sip of his 'Afternoon Tea' mocktail and it was quite refreshing.

Afternoon Tea
Earl Grey Tea, Orange Juice, Mint,
Sugar Syrup, House Made Marmalade

The family + Patty opted for the 12 courses, Andrew and I having matching wines each, with Mum and Patty also sharing one too. Raita's Tasting Menu begins with some fresh Sydney Rock Oysters finished off with a hint of myoga (ginger).
Freshly Shucked Sydney Rock Oyster, Guinness, Myoga, Yamazaki Silk

  It was hard to explain the flavours as we ate this dish, seared fish embedded amongst the salty/sour umeboshi sorbet and rice bubbles floating on a green tea broth finished with wasabi dust on the brim. The flavours were subtle but it still sent the tastebuds into overdrive. Presented in the top half of a cocktail glass placed onto an iced up bowl to keep the broth chilled, very unique. Looks like a Japanese styled martini on the rocks!

Cold-Drip Dashi & Premium Gyokuro Green Tea, Koshihikari Rice Crust,
Flame Seared Latchet, Umeboshi Sorbet, Wasabi Dust

 This dish was exceptionally good and really highlighted the freshness of the produce that the Ocean Room has become renown for using. The green olive and mozzarella drops oozed out with flavour when popped and tomato chips were a neat little touch. These elements were all placed onto a thick line of tuna tartare.

Yellow Fin Tuna, Sicilian Green Olive & Buffalo Mozzarella Drops,
Crystalised Yuzu, Soy Pearls, Tomato Chips


Fried croquette ball, consisting of prawns and calamari, nothing out of the ordinary however was still quite tasty. Thin strands of yuba (bean curd) was placed on top.

House-Made Croquette, Tiger Prawn & Calamari, Yuba Angel Hair

For me, this felt like an anchovy, garlic fondue with vegetables as the dipper. The sauce was flavourful and getting your hands involved made it that much more fun to eat veggies. Presented nicely on a candle lit pillar.

Autumn Vegetable Collection, Yaki-Onigiri, Black Shichimi
House Made Anchovy & Garlic Bath


A function is room located upstairs to the main dining area. Bookings can be made online. Great view from up there and perfect for work gatherings.

Function Room

Back to the food! From the powerful flavours of the last two dishes it was great to slice through the heaviness with some high quality, fresh sashimi.

Seasonal Sashimi Selection

Jackfish, Mackerel, Tuna, Kingfish, Trout
From left to right (I hope I've remembered them correctly)

 A great Autumn dish, a bowl packed with everything you would need to survive during the long, cold days; wagyu, tofu and vegetables. The dashi stock is very clear and a small amount of lime chilli soy is provided on the side which went really well when poured into the broth.

Wagyu Beef, Grilled Tofu, Seasonal Mixed Vegetables,
Dashi Consomme, Lime Chilli Soy

 I'm not going to lie ... but the matching wines are a lot! For anyone! Well at least for Andrew anyways. Here are the hot and cold sake for two of the courses.

Hot & Cold Sake (from the matching wines)

 And for good measure, afterwards some iced sochu.

Mannenboshi Barley Sochu, Miyazaki Japan

  Miso cod has been somewhat of a specialty at the Ocean Room. Since our previous time of trying it on the menu, Raito has infused a few different elements of ginger risotto and orange miso sauce into the dish. The fish is wonderfully flakey and has some really interesting flavours.

Miso Cod-
Signature Grilled Sweet Miso Cod Fillet, Ginger Risotto, Orange Miso

 Probably my favourite for the night, it made my mouth water just by looking at the pork belly sitting on a bed of mushrooms, tofu and some more tasty clear broth. In a test tube was the the ponzu sauce which added even more flavour!

Simmered Pork Belly, Melting Tofu, Yuzu Chilli Ponzu


 The final main of the night, with arguably one of the best tasting and well cooked pieces of meat I've had for a while. The wagyu was seared with a slight char and it was wonderfully pink and juicy in the middle, yum. It was new to see something like quinoa used as an ingredient however the crusted prawn wasn't really the best. The quinoa made it very hard as a crust and the prawn was a little dry.

Wagyu Flat Iron Steak, Tasmanian Pepper Jus, Quinoa Crusted King Prawn,
Americaine Cream, Agedashi Taro Potato

 Quite a sight to be greeted with when you first come in. The rest of the roof is littered with dangling wooden rods, seemingly waiting to fall onto you all at once.

Bar Area

 The penultimate course of sushi was very delectable and finished off the savoury dishes nicely.

Edo-Mae Sushi-
Three Authentic Tokyo Style Nigiri Sushi


I thought it was strange to only offer one dessert in an entire 12 course degustation as I do have a slight sweet tooth but nevertheless it all worked out pretty well. A not too overpowering dessert, with lines of chestnut puree encasing a layered smooth spiced ice cream and green tea cake. Cognac poached persimmon is served on the side. Very good.

Amaguri Chestnut, Mont Blanc, Green Tea Angel Cake,
Spiced Ice Cream, Chestnut Puree, Cognac Persimmon


All a little light headed, Andrew insists on the chocolate tasting plate and it was a perfect accompaniment to finish off dessert. Three well presented chocolate nibbles.

Chocolate Tasting Plate
White & Dark Chocolate Parcel, Chocolate & Espresso Layers, Pistachio Ganache

Was also lucky enough to bump into Youssouf Hersi who plays for the Western Sydney Wanderers. Great guy.

Me & Youssouf

In all, a wonderful night with the family along with some great food. The Ocean Room seems to be an underrated restaurant, however for its price and wonderful scenery both inside and out, it is well worth a try. It definitely caters for both couples and groups so there's no excuse! For me, it is hard to see how it doesn't at least deserve one hat!

Bunny Rating-
Category: Fine Dining

Ocean Room on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tastebuds @ Hills, Terrey Hills

 Sometimes the best places to eat are found where you least expect them to be. Tastebuds @ Hills (287 Mona Vale Road, Terrey Hills) can definitely be considered as one of those places. Off Mona Vale Road, where cyclists populate the left lane, especially on weekend mornings as vehicles speed along at 90km/hr, this cafe is attached to a complex also consisting of a large florist and miscellaneous specialty stores. The entry is easy to miss but once found, you're greeted with a mistakenly oversized shed and flowers. Unfortunately there isn't a website with more information, an urbanspoon profile and there doesn't seem to be many valid critiques on the cafe. 
Entrance (look for the horse!)
Oversized Shed
 The cafe itself is simple, with the seating bursting out onto what used to be a side carpark. Tables scattered around with some heading towards the florist, making it a beautiful site for the eyes and even more enjoyable on the nose.

 Where is everyone in the photos!?
These were taken at about 7am on a Sunday before it opens at 7:30am.

 What was I doing there so early?
As some of the small number of readers may be aware, our own Patty works here and I dropped her off at work (when I say drop off, I mean, stay there for an hour and enjoy coffee and breakfast)

In acknowledgement of Patty working here, I am remaining as unbiased as possible but if you don't believe me, you'll just have to try it for yourself and see how it is!

More photos ... then we'll get to the food. I promise!

Patty is there somewhere

Specials Board

Array of Trinkets for Sale

Choc Chip Cookies

Freshly Baked Carrot & Persian Orange Cake
Baked Carrot Cake
Persian Orange Cake

Lemon & Ricotta Muffins
and more

Boysenberry & White Chocolate Muffins

Pear & Walnut Friand

Blueberry & White Chocolate Friands

 Having a great tasting coffee is never a harmful way of beginning breakfast proceedings. Tastebuds @ Hills use the Rico Toby's Estate coffee blend which is one of their stronger (if not strongest) blends of coffee bean. Hot and smooth with a chocolaty and nut-like aftertaste.


  Double shot of coffee in a latte glass, served with ice and topped with milk. The best way to make an iced coffee. Shots of coffee left to diffuse into the milk. On the menu, it can come with hazelnut syrup as well but I opt to go without it. It's beautiful.

Coffee on the 'Rocks'
  I asked Olly for a special drink, quadruple ristretto shot topped with milk in a piccolo glass. Tasted amazing and literally kept me buzzing all day.

Quadruple Ristretto Shot, Filled with Milk in Piccolo Cup
aka. The Olly Special
  Quick run down of the smoothies because the photo doesn't show it very well;

Mixed Berry Smoothie: Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Strawberry Gelato & Milk

Pina Colada Smoothie: Coconut Gelato, Mango Sorbet, Pineapple Juice

Coconut & Cherry Smoothie: Coconut Gelato, Cherry Gelato, Frozen Cherries & Milk

Montana Smoothie: Orange Juice, Banana & Strawberries

Bowen Smoothie: Mango, Banana & Apple Juice

Woombye Smoothie: Pineapple Juice, Raspberries, Mango Sorbet & Fresh Mint

Smoothie Selection

  Woombye and Pina Colada Smoothie are definitely my favourites from the selection. They're all made from Nudie Juice and the gelato is Pure Gelato. They also have a selection of T2 teas, milkshakes and thickshakes!

 Ricotta Pancakes is a perfect way to start the morning. Bananas and strawberries scattered over the top of two decent sized pancakes with ricotta bits inside the batter and then finally lightly doused with syrup and a sprinkle of icing sugar. It's pretty much as good as it looks.

Ricotta Pancakes
with Banana & Palm Sugar Syrup 

 Found on the specials board, Pesto Mushrooms may look like a small serving, but for what it lacks in size it definitely makes up for in flavour. Button mushrooms cut into quarters, coated in a mouth-watering pesto mixture served with 2 poached eggs and toasted sourdough. Great combination.

Pesto Mushrooms
served with Poached Eggs on Sourdough

 My favourite thing on the menu that I enjoy time and time again is the Baked Eggs. It's hearty, warming and just a complete breakfast option. It is served with 3 different options;
  • Chorizo Sausage, Spanish Onions, Baby Spinach & Roasted Tomatoes
  • Sautéed Mushrooms & Roasted Baby Tomatoes
  • Ricotta, Baby Spinach & Sundried Tomatoes
 Being myself, it's near impossible to look past the first option so I've always chosen that one, however it is never complete without an additional side of ricotta on the side (extra). The combination of flavours just works, delicious. Also served with 2 eggs and slices of sourdough.

Baked Eggs
Chorizo Sausage, Spanish Onions, Baby Spinach
& Roasted Tomatoes, Side of Ricotta

  For additional information I'll just mention a few more things on the menu;
  • Bacon & Egg Roll
  • French Toast with Berry Compote or Maple Syrup
  • Sonoma Honey Spiced Muesli with Greek Yoghurt & Seasonal Fruit
  • Zucchini & Sweet Corn Fritter with a Selection of Créme Fraiche, Bacon, Avocado, Tomato Salsa, Smoked Salmon & Capers
  • Garlic Prawns (served in skillet with roasted hazelnuts, wilted spinach and sourdough)
  • Tastebuds Burger and 'BLAT'/Lentil Burger
  • A selection of daily made wraps and salads
If you're ever there for lunch, order an extra side of chips with your meal. They're cooked to crisp perfection and beautiful with dipping sour cream.

Just to finish off, the fridge next to the counter is filled with all sorts of little goodies like muffins, friands, tarts etc. Their chocolate brownie and chocolate flourless cake deserves special mentions.



 I've just added a few photos here and there, including more of the cakes and muffins. Below are some more savoury foods and main meals available at Tastebuds!

Harry's Pies

 A dish that is definitely worth the travel is the Garlic Prawns. Doesn't fill me up to be honest, but the contents inside the skillet are 100% full of flavour. Ensure that all the juices and oils on the bottom of the skillet are soaked up with the sourdough at the end!

Garlic Prawns
with Roasted Hazelnuts, Wilted Spinach
& Sourdough served in sizzling skillet

  An easy going meal with all the lunch essentials, chips, salad and a sandwich.

Steak Sandwich
on Ciabatta Bread with Aioli, Beetroot Relish,
Fresh Tomato, Caramelised Onions & Chips
 The Italian Styled Meatballs was only out onto the menu for 2 weeks before being taken off it and for reasons I still cannot fathom. Maybe the idea of meatballs at a café didn't go down too well the customers but at least I was fortunate enough to have tried one of Tim's best creations. Juicy, succulent meatballs drowned in Napoli tomato sauce, with a slab of ricotta cheese and finished with some fresh basil. I miss it. I only hope that Tim brings it back soon enough!

Italian Styled Meatballs
in Napoli Sauce with Sourdough & Ricotta served in skillet

 A great way to finish off a meal or quite simply just for a snack and a mug of coffee, the French toast will do the trick. French toasted sourdough with maple syrup and dusted lightly with icing sugar.

French Toast
with Maple Syrup
 In all, this cafe is very solid. Food and service is great, along with their well made coffees which use Riverina Milk and Bonsoy for the soy milk option. It's definitely worth the travel and it is a great spot to meet up with friends for a casual weekend brunch. But do be warned, they do get quite busy during the peak hours on weekends, so get in early! 

Bunny Rating-
Category: Café

Tastebuds@Hills on Urbanspoon