Guest post from Damo about Guillaume

View from Guillame
View from Guillame

A couple of weeks late, but here’s a post from Damo about our dinner at Guillaume at Sydney Opera House.

Another post-marathon celebratory degustation dinner, this time at the two-hat-rated Guillaume at Bennelong restaurant in the Sydney Opera House. I’ll try keep these notes to the point, as I’ve been told I can waffle on a bit (“wanker” was I think the term James used…)

Basil-infused yellowfin tuna with soy and mustard seed vinaigrette: A solid chunk of essentially raw tuna, with a marvellous creamy texture and pure flavour. Served with a high quality Japanese Sake. Quite a large and forceful combination for the first course, but very good.

Mojama with olives, pimento, fennel and quail egg: Otherwise known as a ham and egg salad. Nice, but rather forgettable. Served with a small glass of dry Lustau Manzanilla sherry.

Duck fois gras parfait with truffle brioche: Now that’s better – a rich creamy fois gras spread, and a petite bun flecked with truffle to wipe it on. A little on the heavy side overall, but the wine match was surprisingly delicious: a sweet botrytis-affected white from France (2005 Montbazillac).

Seared scallops on cauliflower puree with shiitake mushrooms and veal jus: I don’t know how they do it. Good chefs can produce barely-cooked scallops with a gently sealed surface and a marvellously smooth and evenly textured flesh that conveys flavour perfectly. Not too tough, not too raw, no variation in texture from the centre to just below the skin. This place does them as well as anywhere. Served with 2005 Curly Flat chardonnay from Victoria.

Blue Eye Trevalla on ink pasta with clams, Jamon Iberico and baby carrots: And a good hit of chilli, which for some reason didn’t make it into the description above but did spike the heat considerably. Almost too much for the wine match, you would think, but they pulled it off (2006 Portsea pinot noir, Mornington Peninsula).

Wagyu beer striploin (marble 9+) with a tombe of field mushrooms, baby spinach, confit of shallot, merlot sauce: This was the dish that both James and I raved about for days afterwards. Everything I’ve read about cooking wagyu says it should be served medium, so the marbled fat can melt to moisten and flavour the flesh. Guillaume must read different books. In this dish the meat was raw apart from a quickly seared outer edge, and sliced into large strips a quarter-inch thick. It was so raw the thick veins of transparent fat were clearly visible, and god it was good. The super-rich merlot sauce certainly helped, as did the glass of powerful Barossa grenache shiraz (2005 Torbreck The Steading). One of the best meat dishes I’ve had in a long while…. (the only thing better was the steak tartare I ate here last Christmas).

Slice of Opera with coffee ice cream: “What is Opera?”, we wondered. A multi-layered chocolate sponge cake, it turns out. Good not great. Served with a glass of 2003 sweet white from Bordeaux. Two glasses actually – we think the somellier took a shine to us.

Tea, coffee and petit fours: Normally you wouldn’t bother to mention petit fours after such a meal, but here they were a highlight of the whole experience. Four different intricately made sweets – macaroons, caramels, chocolate ganache buttons and meringues – that were much better in taste, quality and inventiveness than the “proper” dessert above.

Overall: The setting is simply spectacular. Widely spaced and very comfortable tables all have good to sublime views of the city and/or Harbour Bridge. Lighting is low but you can still see your food, and the noise is quietly buzzy without ever becoming a din.

Service was deferential but a little too attentive – more than once we had a waiter inquire about something when we’d actually told a different waiter the answer a minute earlier. I counted five different waiters through the night (over three and a half hours, admittedly…)

The price is way too much for ordinary mortals, and if half the meal wasn’t paid for by my boss (birthday present) we wouldn’t have eaten here at all. And there are better and/or more interesting places to eat in Sydney regardless of the money (Bentley Bar or Becasse spring immediately to mind), plus of course places like Quay, Est, Marque and Tetsuyas have great reputations and more hats for simlar prices.

However my comment on price only applies to the degustation, and to a lesser extent the full a la carte. What is superb value and highly recommended, however, is the pre-theatre menu. Available only between 6pm and 8.30pm, this offers a more limited but still highly appealing range of choices at a very competitive price: two courses for $63 or three courses for $75. The quality is as good as you will find anywhere (the steak tartare mentioned above was part of the pre-theatre menu), servings are decent and the very large wine list has a number of gems at all price points. Do it.

Overall: great food, great setting and great conversation – another top night!

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