Aria was our Sydney treat and one that we were going to share with J-Cray and Kat. After a drink at the Opera Bar we headed over and were shown to a quiet dining room with a roomy table for the 5 of us. It was a shame only 2 of us could enjoy the waterside view and being the guests, our friends kindly gave us these seats.
We decided to go with the 7 course degustation and choose our own wines which was fun and meant that the quantity was also there! Our amuse bouches arrived very quickly and quite stealthily! In John's words, you can amuse my bouche any day! Beautiful parsnip soup with a lime foam not too different to Heinz chicken soup; oh that John has a way with words! Soup in a glass - fairly mainstream and although it tasted great isn't all that exciting.
Proceedings opened with sashimi - Hamachi yellow tail and Carid prawn sashimi with ponzu sauce, salmon roe and sushi rice. Initially a little bland until the ponzu sauce was spread around, this fish was stonkingly fresh and the flavours delicate and beautiful.
Next came rabbit - ballotine with capocollo and foie gras, ginger bread and pomegranate. I was slightly surprised that this was a cold dish but loved the deep earthy flavours. The foie gras was intense, the rabbit ballotine deliciously savury and then a touch of sweetness form the pomegranante. So tasty.
The Blue eye trevalla was our fish course - roasted fillet with Jerusalem artichoke, Jamon and witlof. My fillet was beautifully cooked. Steve says his was slightly over so it was a bit drier. I loved the saltiness of the jamon that seasoned the delicate flavours of the fish. I also loved the meatiness of the fish combined with a bitter tone from the witlo and then some crunchy artichoke chips.
I was really looking forward to the Peking duck consomme with dumplings, shaved abalone and mushroom. My expectations were of an intensely strong and flavoursome broth and good robust dumplings. It was pleasant enough but didn't strike my heart with the umami hit I was after.
Kurobuta pork belly with chestnut puree and poached persimmons brought together beautiful classic flavours and was faultless.
Roasted loin of lamb with crushed borlotti beans, lamb croquette and nettle pesto was our main course. Blushing pink medallions of perfect lamb with a slice of jammy lemon to lift the richness of the meat. Amazingly delicious and to top it all off a bowlful of sinfully folded creamy buttery mash oozing with luxurious decadence. Roast lamb and mash is always a winner but elevate these versions to their 6 star levels. The table fell silent as we ate our lamb and mash and licked the spoon clean. It kind of reminded me of a family brought together by Sunday lunch.
There was a zingy pre dessert of something citrussy in a shot glass...again nothing groundbreaking and then the dessert of sweetened goat curd with poached rhubarb, rosewater and strawberries arrived. Fresh and sweet it was a safe and nice way to finish of the degustation...well not quite finish off as we had petit fours but almost finish off.
Overall Aria is faultless in terms of flavours and quality but it's just all quite safe and conservative. No pizzazz or showtime. No personality or conversation starters or stoppers. Service was similar; efficient but stealthy so almost unnoticeable leaving no trace of bitterness or astounding brilliance. It was a great place for five friends to catch up and enjoy brilliant food and it was a truly lovely evening but I can't help but feel the restaurant was a mere backdrop to our reunion rather than the star of the show.