Sunday, September 6, 2009

Its all about the Aria.


I decided my first real post needed to be about somewhere whose reputation preceeded itself. Australia has just been in the grips of MasterChef fever and Brisbane has been crying out for new 'fine dining' restaurants. Brisbane is a city that is growing and expanding and this extends to it's palate. Even 5 years ago there was no where near the choice of restaurants or cuisines as there is today. There was no better time for the arrival of Matt Moran's restaurant Aria in Brisbane- So Aria it would have to be. Be advised that this is going to be a LOOONNG review!!

Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos, as I felt a little self conscious - so if you visit the Aria website www.ariarestaurant.com.au , you can see a pew piccys of the new layout and of some of the star dishes.

Getting a booking turned out to be easier than I had expected. It just shows that trying your luck is always worth it. Although we did not get in on opening night, I managed to score a booking in the opening week, so was pretty happy with that.

Aria is located at the Eagle Street Wharf in the city and has taken the place of Pier 9, which was a Brisbane favourite. The restaurant has been fully re-fitted and is quite a simple but gorgeous design, based around a 180 degree semi circle layout with two different levels. This is complimented by the view of the river. I'm no architect, but to me the atmosphere was modern, yet somehow homely.

We arrived at the restaurant to see some 'wannabe' diners turned away at the door. I'm not sure whether they too thought they might just try their luck! At 7.p.m. the restaurant was still quiet-ish and you could tell there was a certain air of opening week jitters. There seemed to be endless staff eager to please. On reflection, it seemed a little try-hardish but in the moment, it was all too appropriate and added to the whole experience.

Now, as I was really excited about coming to Aria, and so had previously spent a little bit (ok a lot- I know, I know- Food Geek) perusing the online menu before we arrived. We were confronted with the absolutely massive wine list, and then the specials. I just need to let it be known that I am far from a wine connoisseur so was happy to rely on advice from the wait staff so long as they didn't try to sell me the 1995 Krug Champagne at $1640 bucks a pop!

I ordered a glass of pinot gris by the glass and my PIE (Pie stands for Partner in eating) ordered a beer. Anyway I need to cut to the chase. We received an appetiser of pumpkin soup with a gelationous bottom which was served cool. My PIE loved it, whilst I didn't really take to it because it had a dallop of cream and I did not want to wreck my upcoming meal.

Entrée
As an entree, I ordered the scallops pan fried with sweet corn puree, cauliflower beignet and a caper and sultana dressing my PIE ordered the Peking duck consommé with duck dumplings and mushrooms.

The scallops were done well. They were fat and juicy just like scallops should be. The sweet corn puree and the caper and sultana dressing were a different combo, like nothing I had seen before, but in true Matt Moran style, they perfectly complimented the scallops. Surprisingly to me, the standout on this plate was the cauliflower beignet!!They were small but simply divine with a crunchy golden texture-I almost asked for more. My PIE's consomme was quite delicious but he was not parting ways with one of the duck dumplings for me to sample!!

Main
Next I ordered slow cooked beef daube with beetroot puree, horseradish, pistachio and orange crumble and my PIE took on a special - an angus porterhouse steak. There is an extensive grill menu and you have to order sides to compliment the steak so my PIE ordered steamed broccolini with chilli and garlic and the hand cut chips. Our meals arrived and were presented nicely whilst the highlight of my PIE's night was when a waitress came to offer any sauce/condiment he liked. He took on the bernaise and some seeded mustard.

The beef daube was falling apart with tenderness and was obviously well cooked- but to be honest- the cut of meat was a little too fatty for me. It sat wrongly in my stomach but the beetroot puree and accompanying crumple were delicious. I think it could have been a case of a wrong menu choice because obviously a beef daube is not a lean cut of meat. Sadly- I did not finish my dish and was very disappointed feeling that I had wasted an optimal dining opportunity.

My PIE on the other hand, was smug in his choice of steak (he is a cattle farmer afterall!) and reported that it was possible that the angus porterhouse was THE single best steak of his life. He also has a new found love for Bernaise.

After the main I popped into the bathroom for one second, and when I returned, Matt Moran was chatting with the next table. I was impressed that he came to talk with the diners and happy that Matt was actually in the kitchen when my meal was served up!

Dessert
Onto dessert- I had the donghnuts with strawberry jam and my PIE had the Valrhona Chocolate- that's right - THE masterchef chocolate dessert with the half pipe. My doughnuts were tasty, but nothing to write home about. Admittedly, I did not have the accompanying cinnamon ice cream (i'm allergic) but I still couldn't help feel a little disappointed. I had menu envy when my PIE received his dessert and he had obviously made the premium choice. In his words the Valrhona Chocolate was "rich and beautiful."

Now let's not beat around the bush- this is not a cheap and cheerful or even middle of the range restaurant. Our bill came in at a little over $300. Given Matt Moran's reputation and the fact that it is one of the most expensive restaurants in Brisbane, my the expectations of the place were understandably high. My PIE rated the place very highly- probably a 9/10, whilst I am not so sure. My mind was not blown by my main and dessert, but my entree was superb and the service, atmosphere and wine list were all excellent. Am I being too picky? Probably!

Have you dined at Brisbane Aria? What were your experiences? Let me know!!
What is the restaurant you have been most excited about going to??

Aria - Brisbane
www.ariarestaurant.com.au
1 Eagle Street, Eagle Street Pier,
Brisbane QLD 4000
Ph: +61 7 3233 2555





Aria Brisbane on Urbanspoon

3 fabulous comments:

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

I'm visiting Brisbane next week and am looking for places to eat. Having not been to Aria in Sydney, even though I live here, would you recommend I give it a try whilst in Brisbane?

Gastronomy Gal said...

Hi Mademoiselle Delicieuse, I can recommend Aria but if you are looking for something uniquely QLD- why not try Ecco Bistro, Jellyfish or even my favourite (although not fine dining) restaurant Simpatico in Paddington?

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

Thanks for the suggestions! I'll probably give Aria a miss in favour of at least one of the others =)

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