There are quite a few premium restaurants housed within the Overseas Passengers Terminal which sits right on Sydney Harbour and tonight we are dining at Ocean Room which serves up elegant fusion Japanese cuisine. The restaurant is glamorously decorated with classy wooden touches and makes the most of the location with a stunning view of the Opera House visible through the clear glass windows at the back. We are lucky to have a window table and marvel at the view before perusing the menu.
Ocean Room has a variety of Japanese tapas which are called “chotto” (Japanese for “little bits”) and it’s an easy choice for me – I go straight for the Soft Shell Crab Taco while my dining companion decides on the Curry-Pan which are crispy croquettes with a bread crumb coating on the outside and a moreish wagyu cheek curry on the inside. They remind me of a more gourmet version of the homely potato croquettes you can get around town and while they’re tasty enough, I’m not sure the price justifies it. I am much more impressed by the Soft Shell Crab Tacos which have a spicy powder sprinkled on the crab legs and come with pickled vegetables and some mayonnaise all encased in a crunchy mini taco. It’s quite hard to eat daintily, so I first scoop out a bit of the crab to eat with a fork before I attacked the rest of the bite-sized taco by hand.
Curry-Pan, $6 each
Soft Shell Crab Taco, $6 each
The signature dish at Ocean Room is the Tuna Creation starter which features delicate cubes of tuna prepared 5 ways and paired with 5 different condiments to create a variety of gastronomic combinations in your mouth. The chef recommends that you sample the tuna from left to right, so we obediently follow the instructions and start with the Oil Blanched tuna with fresh ginger and coriander which comes with a sprinkle of chilli salt. It is not particularly mind blowing as the condiments aren’t my favourite although the tuna itself is done well with a moist, chewy interior and lightly blanched exterior. Luckily the flavours do get stronger as you progress down the wooden boat which the tuna cubes are resting on and my favourite by far was the Soy Marinated with truffle salt, fried garlic and fresh chilli for a wonderful blend of savoury flavours and melt in your mouth tuna goodness.
Tuna Creation, $28
My friend and I never seem to be able to resist the Saikyo Miso Cod when its on the menu and Ocean Room’s rendition comes with a lovely ginger-scented risotto which wasn’t overpowering at all, instead helping balance out the sweet miso flavour infused into the cod fillet. The fish has been lightly grilled to perfection, with the flesh falling away to provide morsels of intense miso flavour hits.
Saikyo Miso Cod, $39
And…about a month after my first visit we were lucky enough to be invited back to Ocean Room to try out Executive Chef Raita Noda’s 12 course Tasting Menu. It is incredible value for $120 per person, which seems like a lot of money at first but the quality of each of the 12 courses was superb. The tasting menu was quite a gastronomic journey and required a lot of stamina to get through all the delicious fusion Japanese dishes, but our tastebuds and stomachs were both very satisfied with the menu.
The tasting menu gently progresses temperature wise from cold to hot dishes. We started with a first course called Kaki, featuring two succulent freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters which had been given a twist by pairing it with a sliver of Yamazaki silk that had a jelly like consistency and some Japanese ginger (myoga) for a hint of spiciness.
Next up we were treated to the Ochazuke, an interesting dish served in a cocktail glass which had wasabi dust sprinkled on the rim and some Koshihikari rice crust bubbling in a chilled premium gyokuro green tea and cold-drip dashi “soup”. The puffed rice being submerged in cold tea reminded us a bit of Rice Bubbles and the cold theme continued with a pickled plum (umeboshi) sorbet being paired with a thin slice of flame seared latchet fish.
We had spied some interesting looking jelly balls which came with the Ocean Room Martini which Tina from Food, Booze and Shoes had ordered and we were delighted to see that these jelly balls were incorporated into the third course. The dish was artfully presented with the delicious crunchy tomato chips catching our eye first, but the delicate jelly ball drops were the true star of the dish. They were so fun to eat – bursting on contact in your mouth and releasing liquid buffalo mozzarella and Sicilian green olive flavours. The drops were paired with fresh diced yellow fin tuna and other condiments like soy pearls which looked like fish roe and crystallised yuzu.
On the fourth course we move into the warm dishes with a house-made croquette with Tiger Prawn and Calamari. The contrasting textures of the dish juxtaposes a smooth, chewy fish ball like consistency with oodles of fried crunchy strings of yuba angel hair.
Then out comes the prettiest vegetable dish I have ever seen – the appropriately named Onsen dish features a tea light candle in a gorgeous latticed tower, warming up a dish of house made anchovy and garlic bath on top. The set up of this ‘bath’ does remind me of Japanese hot springs and the sauce has a wonderful saltiness to it thanks to the anchovy, while the fragrant garlic in the oil hits all the right notes for me. It is a lovely condiment to dip a carefully arranged selection of Autumn vegetables such as asparagus, radish and broccolini. There’s also an adorable little rice ball which has been lightly fried and placed on a toothpick for you to dip as well, in case the veggies weren’t enough.
We take a break from the hot food with a refreshing platter of sashimi showcasing their premium seasonal seafood. Today they have selected hairtail from Newcastle, bar cod from Nelson Bay, chutoro (medium fatty tuna), kingfish and Tasmanian ocean trout for us and served it up with simple, natural decorations in a bamboo theme. We are told by the waiter to eat the raw fish from left to right and we oblige, tasting a variety of very fresh seafood – my favourites were the buttery chutoro and the ocean trout.
Following on from the sashimi we have the quirkily named Shabu2 which features super soft slivers of wagyu beef and silky grilled tofu in a dashi consomme broth to warm you right up. A lime chilli soy sauce accompanies the dish for you to dip the wagyu beef into, it’s nice to add some extra flavour with but this hearty dish doesn’t really need the help.
The next course was their signature Miso Cod which I had during my previous visit. The serving this time was much smaller as expected since it’s part of a tasting menu but it was also more charred than the a la carte version I had last time!
We were getting quite full by this stage, but were looking forward to the simmered pork belly and melting tofu which came in the Butabara course of the menu. We were intrigued by the presentation of the dish since it came served in a plastic bag which the waiter then cut off at the top and it was also accompanied by a vial of ponzu sauce seasoned with yuzu and chilli. The pork belly was quite lean, with a higher meat to fat ratio than other pork belly dishes, but was still very soft and tender thanks to the broth (similar to how pork slices on top of ramen are very soft). The milky broth was similar to a ramen miso stock but not as strong, with some silken tofu and soft vegetables accompanying it as well.
The tenth course of the night was a fancy surf and turf which I could not resist – a wagyu beef flat iron steak which was cooked to perfection with a Tasmanian pepper jus and the biggest king prawn I’ve ever eaten (practically scampi sized!). The king prawn had been crusted in quinoa and lightly fried, and was absolutely delicious due to the texture of it from the little bubbles of quinoa. The fluffy agedashi taro potato was a playful Japanese twist on the usual fries which accompany a surf and turf, turning into a relatively healthy side to have on the plate.
I really could not fit down much more as we finally hit the last of the savoury dishes, but thankfully it was a light selection of 3 authentic Tokyo style nigiri sushi which today featured tuna and aburi salmon. It was a nice, fresh way to cleanse our palates somewhat before getting stuck into the dessert.
Apart from the phenomenal food at Ocean Room, they also have a fabulous selection of cocktails – for the girls who like sweet drinks I’d recommend the floral shochu Barley & Violet, the fruity sparkling strawberry Rouge Royale and the creamy dulce de leche Mai Tai. If this wasn’t enough, every Monday to Friday from 6-7pm there is 2 for 1 cocktails – a great place to enjoy a delicious drink by the harbour.
Left: Mai Tai, Right: Rouge Royale
All in all, from my 2 visits to Ocean Room I found that the ambience and service places it firmly in the fine dining category, especially with such a sensational tasting menu. It’s a lovely spot for a date or a special occasion if you’re looking to splurge and impress with some classy seafood and a priceless view.
Excuse Me Waiter dined as guests of Ocean Room and Wasamedia PR for the 12 course tasting menu.
Ground Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal
Circular Quay West, The Rocks NSW 2000
Phone:(02) 9252 9585