After my last post in late 2015, we thought we’d give the ‘Takeover’ series at Fisherman’s Wharf in Woy Woy another go. This month, current head chef of Aria & fellow Brit, Ben Turner, takes centre stage in the restaurant kitchens.
Judging by the full house, these monthly sessions have been something of a hit. And what’s not to love; the rustic charm of bare floorboards, windows swung wide to the water views on a warm autumn evening, the quiet lapping of the water and the ducks and pelicans drifting hopefully past your table.
Quiet before the storm
The seafood based menu was short and sweet; 4 courses starting with yellowtail scad; our waiter informing us that this is normally used as a bait fish, but here sustainably re-purposed as sashimi with a Japanese inspired dressing. It seemed a pleasant enough fish; I’ve never understood the public resistance to trying new types of seafood, taking pressure away from the Big Four. Pretty as a picture, accompanied by beetroot stained pickled onions and salty cucumber slices:
This vanished pretty quickly, leaving us to tuck into chunks of crisp, white baguette. Slathering the wonderfully rich butter on my bread was something of a highlight – I suspect properly cultured butter courtesy of Pepe Saya, though I wasn’t moved sufficiently to double check this. It was delicious, anyway. The pat of ‘seaweed butter’ alongside it was also delicious but not because of a particularly iodine, sea-veg flavour – to me it was more of a pleasantly cheesey overtone.
Second from the menu was ocean trout, one of my favourite types of fish. The Petuna trout has featured in previous takeovers here, and comes with an impressive list of Australian famous chef fans.
Initially this looked to be another raw fish dish, but transpired to be sous-vide cooked (sous-vided? Someone help me with my French please??) and then served chilled; I have to confess I was hard pressed to tell the difference between that and sashimi in texture but we enjoyed it a lot anyway. Turns out apple goes terribly well with dill – who knew?
The powdery white stuff there (above) was allegedly horseradish, treated in some exciting modern way to become entirely tasteless. Pretty though, no?
I guess in a foreign kitchen with a full house to serve, it’s easier to have a batch of dishes you can make up in advance, hence the two cold courses perhaps. And indeed, the dishes did come out without that irritating wait between courses, as you often get in these set dinners.
The main, seared sea mullet, had a deliciously crunchy skin, just the right side of too browned, with a hint of gelatinous that I quite like. Adorned with blobs of spritzzy citrus, it brightened up the dish no end. My fairly dull photo, below (the light was going and by gosh if I still haven’t gotten round to reading the instruction manual for the camera) doesn’t bring out the vibrancy of the green powdered wasabi – again, modernity rendering it tasteless – but the fish was perfectly correctly cooked even if lacking a teeny bit in presentation. ‘Mussel butter’ leant it a nice saltiness – and by the way, joy of joys, a whole meal that wasn’t oversalted! – though possibly made the mussels a little less tender than they could have been.
I loathe reading reviews of meals where the main complaint runs along the lines of “the dishes were so tiny we had to eat somewhere else afterwards”, where value for money is determined by how easy it is for the diner to do up their buttons post repast. Having said that: whilst they were being generous with the protein, there was a distinct lack of carbohydrates. Though a paleo diet pleaser, if it weren’t for the second round of bread we ordered, we would genuinely have been a bit peckish. Not to mention a bit more tiddly, seeing as the matched wines were a terribly reasonable $30 extra per head…
Finally, with apologies for more shocking photography, the dessert was an awesome rich, blob of dulce de leche, with a scattering of crunchy candied pecans and a smear (what modern meal would be complete without a smear, after all) of sweetened pumpkin that even Mr C, a notorious shier awayer from squash of all sorts, enjoyed.
Personally, I wasn’t convinced that the coconut sorbet went that well with the rest of the dish, but it did go ever so well with the accompanying dessert wine, a Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise from La Pigeade.
Another successful Takeover, and who wouldn’t love top city chefs rocking up on your doorstep, after all?
Contact the restaurant for details of upcoming Takeovers: