Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sydney Weekend in May 6 - Lunch at Catalina

Catalina Restaurant

After our oyster pitstop (I wish that was something I could say every week), we boarded a ferry to Rose Bay. I had never been to that part of Sydney before but had heard many nice things. Mostly, I was just excited about the restaurant we were about to try. I booked Catalina months in advance and spent the weeks leading up to Sydney checking out their website and rethinking what I wanted to order.

The day of our booking was like something out of an ultimate lunch date fantasy. The weather was perfectly clear but not too hot. We entered the restaurant and were seated out on their expansive deck with full views of the water. The setting was dreamy and I couldn't wait to put down my (heavily rehearsed) order.

We pretty much had nothing on between lunch and boarding the plane back to Brisbane (which wasn't until early evening) so we settled down to an enjoyable long meal. That involves wine, of course. We ended up trialing a bottle of red and a bottle white because when it comes to wine, why discriminate?

The menu at Catalina is focused around seafood. There are some land proteins but I was immediately drawn to the seafood options. In our first round of ordering, we each chose some entrees and mains, plus chips and green beans to share.

Complimentary bread and butter

Our entrees arrived all at once with clockwork regularity. Everything looked so artistically plated that with the natural day lighting, it was a food blogger's camera field day. All the photos I took looked like they were straight out of a Donna Hay magazine. Each plate was complex in its components so the thought of detailing each one terrifies me. I'm just going to upload photos of everyone's meal but only review my own dishes.

Bouillabaisse of king crab, tempura scampi, red spot whiting, saffron aioli and sourdough croutons

My entree was the seafood bouillabaisse. I'm sure I'm not the only (non-pregnant) person to get strange cravings and I don't mean 'chocolate' or 'cake'. My cravings tend to be very specific like, I REALLY need to have middle eastern cheese pastries or in this case, I had been craving bouillabaisse for weeks. When I first saw it on Catalina's entree menu, I knew without doubt that's what I was going to order. This was a refined version of the classic stew, with a fillet of whiting, tempura scampi and king crab arranged on a plate and the aromatic broth poured over it at the table. The first spoonful gave me that rich seafood kick I was craving, along with a lustful saffron undertone. I was in heaven. There's nothing quite like the feeling of a persistent craving finally being dealt with.

Other entrees:

Fremantle octopus terrine, barbecued tentacles, fennel puree, marinated olives, piquillo crumbs and chili dressing

Pan roasted quail, celeriac puree, toasted grains, dried apricot and pedro ximenez jus

Pan seared scallops, smoked ham hock rillettes, onion puree, longaniza oscura

The mains were no less elegant than their predecessors. Serving sizes were scaled up to suit the progression in courses. There was no way we were going to leave hungry.

Moreton Bay bug, fettucine nero, sofrito, semi dried tomato and tarragon butter

For my next course I chose the Moreton Bay bug with squid ink fettuccine. This was more of a pasta dish than a bug dish but my was the pasta delicious. It goes without saying that it was perfectly cooked on a slight al dente but it was the sauce that really won the day. It was rich but light and slurpingly good.

Other mains:

Crispy skin Mount Cook salmon, daikon, shiitake, asparagus, sea succulents and kombu dashi

Crispy skin Cone Bay barramundi with spanner crab ravioli, enoki mushroom, avruga, sage and eschalot cream

Smoked duck breast, confit duck leg, fuet anis with black and white bean cassoulet

Fat chips

Green beans

At the start of the meal, I didn't think we would have room for dessert (a morning of oysters, wine and multi-course lunch tends to be quite filling) but everything we tasted was so good that we were very keen to try their sweet menu. Adorably, Catalina remembered it was Jenny's birthday and added a little detail to her dessert.

Mango panna cotta, mango lime salad and coconut sorbet

My dessert was the mango panna cotta. I'm not usually that keen for panna cotta or fruit-based desserts but for some reason this item just sang out to me on the menu. This was a panna cotta to die for. I always hear them raving on Masterchef about the 'seductive wobble' and 'silky texture' of panna cotta and internally rolled my eyes thinking "meh, so what" but on this day, it all made sense to me. A perfect panna cotta is light and delicate, not stodgy and creamy and this one had a sweet, fragrant mango flavour.

Other desserts:

Birthday chocolate fondant

Caramelised fig with bitter caramel mousse, brik pastry and sugared pistachio

Valrhona dark chocolate and caramelia mousse with caramel ice cream

It's probably obvious from my tone of gushing throughout this blog post that we loved our meal at Catalina. Every aspect from the setting, service and food was phenomenal. I did a lot of eating over a short 3 day trip in Sydney but this has to be the gastronomic highlight. Even now, weeks after the meal, I can close my eyes and remember every delicious mouthful. I've read with sadness about a couple of big name Sydney restaurants closing in recent times (including one I JUST blogged about) and I pray Catalina doesn't fall under the same curse.
Catalina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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