25 October 2009

Aria Restaurant: SIFF 2009 Let's Do Lunch, Sydney (7 Oct 2009)

1 Macquarie Street, East Circular Quay, Sydney NSW 2000

Good service and food

This will be my only chance to enjoy a SIFF Let's Do Lunch this year due to running out of available time so I'm glad I managed to book a table of 12 early in the month before work got too hectic to escape for a special lunch. My first choice was actually Quay Restaurant but it had already booked out for the whole month just after the SMH had released their program — well done to anyone that made it there, hope it was good. I was actually quite hesitant in booking Aria because I've had 2 unimpressive Let's Do Lunch experiences a few years ago. One time our table of 8 waited for nearly an hour before our mains arrived, it was ridiculous, and because of it some people actually had to head back to work because they run out of time. They brought us complimentary truffled mash to try and keep us from starvation — not sure what was happening in the kitchen that day. On both occasions I felt uneasy with the service which I found a bit snobbish which unfortunately seems to happen in many fine dining establishments — why do some waiters treat you like a second class citizen and make you feel so unwelcome and an inconvenience?

Today was a different story, our service when arriving and being seated was welcoming and friendly enough and also during the dining service. I even remember when booking the 12 noon reservation via phone that the woman taking the booking had a pleasant phone manner — perhaps going from 2 hats to 1 hat in the 2004 SMH Good Food Awards did make a difference and made them a better restaurant. The amuse-bouche was a delightful start to the taste buds. Everyone was pretty happy with their main of Roasted Fillet of Barramundi which was cooked the way you'd expect with crispy skin and moist flesh. The table shared a few side dishes which were popular and in the end was quite a filling meal.

Some of us were tempted by the petit fours to have with our coffee which they enjoyed but I was more keen for a dessert and thankfully my work colleague I was sharing it with picked the famed chocolate tart that was the final dessert challenge on Masterchef and one that I've noticed a few bloggers like Eat Show and Tell, Leave Room for Dessert and The Informal Foodie have tried to make. The Valrhona Chocolate was a very yummy and satisfying dessert which for $20 I think is great value compared to trying to attempt to make it. I would probably consider dining again for a special occasion and trying other dishes but I'm still not a fan of the limited view you get depending on where you are seated compared to the open plan of Quay Restaurant.

Amuse-bouche of potato and leek

Complimentary bread

Roasted fillet of barramundi with fennel and calamari risotto $35 (including wine and coffee)

Truffled potato mash $15

Salad of pumpkin, asparagus, golden beetroot and feta $16

Golden beetroot close up

Steamed broccollini with toasted almonds $15

2008 Brown Brothers' Vermentino wine

Petit fours $5 (3 types)

Valrhona Chocolate: Rich chocolate délice with chocolate sorbet $20

Happy Simon

Dessert leftovers = nil

Cappuccino – was good and not too bitter

Sugar cubes

Let's Do Lunch menu and side dishes

Dessert menu

Table for 12

The dining room view of Sydney Opera House

Money collecting time

The bill

The toilet hand towels – noice!

Street entry to Aria Restaurant


geoff said...

Wish I had more time to stick around for the chocolate dessert!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

LOL at the bill photo and the toilet hand towels. Very comprehensive post there Simon! :)

YaYa said...

Yep, I'd have a huge grin on my face as well too if I had that much chocolate heaven in front of me! Well done!

Brenda said...

Everything looked perfect! I wanted to jump into my screen!

Anonymous said...

Love that you take photos of the bill! Gives the rest of us a better idea of what to expect at the end of a meal. Please continue doing it =)
- K

Catherine said...

Somehow I was expecting the chocolate dessert to be more expensive - I think it would make a great main meal (not sure I'd be able to fit dinner, let alone and entree, on top it).

billy@ATFT said...

is Let's do lunch simply a trick to get you into the door and then you start ordering sides and desserts and ended up a hefty bill of $550? Hmmm.. I think so :)

Simon Leong said...

hi geoff, hopefully next time mate but it'll always be on the menu i guess.

hi lorraine, you never can be too thorough can you ;-) hehe

hi yaya, was really worth trying, and now I don't have to try and make it anymore to know what it's supposed to taste like.

hi brenda, they sure know how to present dishes well don't they :-)

hi anonymous K, I usually do it for the fine dining place these days. can't wait to visit tetsuya again and rack up a bill for a few thousand :-)

hi catherine, i thought it would be more expensive too, actually normally on the al a carte menu it's listed as $24 so $20 was a special price for let's do lunch :-)

hi billy, it can be for some but for many they just go for the $35 meal and that's it. for me i want to try the extras, especially the desserts. some places actually don't have extras and some have different options for the meals, so it varies depending on where you end up dining i guess. i think 'let's do lunch' it's more an opportunity for people to feel more comfortable in trying new restaurants which can usually seem more expensive and reserved for the wealthy rather than a trick to get people in the door :-)

Anita said...

Nice!! Glad to hear the chocolate dessert was great. I would love to try it as it does look gorgeous (I think it would have been better than the one I made). Glad to hear the experience was better than other years, I would love to go there.

Simon Leong said...

hi anita, i'm sure your chocolate dessert was just as good. i think it's their signature dessert so you'll have to try it one day :-)

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