Sunday, April 10, 2011

Always (aka, Manta Woolloomooloo)...

This rare black angus eye fillet's bleedin...
But you can't see his blood
It's nothing but some rare meat
That this old chef cooked up
Chips soaked with parmesan-truffle
Man, I'm drowning in the flood
You see i've always been foodie
But you're so good, I could throw up
- You see, I can't sing a love song
Like the way it's meant to be
Well, I guess I'm not that good any more
Like your acorn fed black pig, that's been cured for years 3
Sorry to come all out of Jersey like you on that out of nowhere, but how else on God's green earth do you expect me to begin telling you about a little Sydney wharf-side Blaze-Of-Culinary-Glory that has none other than the man himself, Jon Bon Jovi getting his stonewashed knickers in a knot about? You heard it right, Manta at Woolloomooloo has the singular honour of coming with the blonde-tousled-hairsprayed, rocker-thrashed, clef-chinned and puppy dog-eyed thumbs up from from one of soft-rocks prettiest pretty boy thumbs. If Signor Bon Jovi thinks Manta is a kitchen that's Keepin' the faith, who are we to disagree?
Grab a beer, or, if you're living on a prayer you might want to go for a Sinatra smooth glass of Torbrek's 'The Struie' Shiraz from the Barossa that will wreak a beautiful blood-red hell on your liver while you taunt your belly and your mind with a menu that likes to keep things simple, but very, very exclusive...
The dirty delicious dozen tasting Oysters from different regions was honestly as unapologetically luxurious as it was wonderful. Glistening globs of sea-salty oysters, small and succulent and full of flavour are a good preview of the Manta style of cooking: produce driven dishes that emphasize quality over complication. I know oysters are supposed to make you exuberantly amorous (aka horny), but the real aphrodisiac was what happened next...
The Joselito Iberico Jamon del Bellota is not a long dead Saint or an obscure romantic maneuver from Latino parts of the world, no, it something much greater and far more sinful than that. This little piggy, which subsists on a diet of pure acorns and nothing less, is cured for three years before it makes its way to you under some breadsticks and on a big white Manta plate. Salty shavings of tender marbly meat wrapped around an excited fork just might lead you to make a bit of a pig of yourself. Cured for 3 years and gone in 3 minutes, such is life. But who could argue against life when it contains...
...the raw sharing plate: Hiramasa kingfish carpaccio having a sicilian caper with shaved fennel, radish and orange, ocean trout tartare w lemon oil, trout roe + horseradish creme fraiche, a king prawn ceviche and a yellow fin tuna swimming in some wasabi mousse and pickled ginger. This was a surprise. I generally steer away from raw fish that isn't being made by a Japanese restaurant I know and like. Very few places can actually bring out the simplicity and freshness of raw fish without the overkill, Manta does, though. Absolutely surprising slivers of pale pink and white  quirkily garnished and finished were stunning starters - the trout in particular saw the sharing plate become the scene of a little bout of intense fork hockey.
The lemon + pepper seared yellow fin tuna w lime, wasabi, avocadao mousse + gazpacho salsa was light and sharp...
The seared atlantic scallops w pancetta, chardonnay vinegar, green pea mint + eschallot salad was a beautifully colour-dappled and composed offering of fresh scallop with the warmth of mushy peas and the richness of the pancetta playing well with the seafood. 
The macadamia + herb crusted scampi w roasted shellfish aioli + salsa piccante finished the sharing plate beautifully. The scampi were perfectly oiled and salty and searing. When fresh, they are much subtler and more delicately flavoured than prawns or lobster. Dr Zoidberg would go nuts over this plate.
Some shimmering greens, some phenomenally epic hot, oiled angel chips w parmesan + truffle that tasted a little like the culinary equivalent of an imaginary love child between Snoop Dog and Queen Elizabeth: all noble and rich, but gloriously trashy with hot chipliness, and the steaks are about to be raised... 
Lord + ladies of Carnivordom, I give thee the 600 gram black angus eye fillet w roasted bone marrow, field mushroom, mixed greens + hand cut chips, from Northern NSW and made for two hungry, lucky non-vegans, this is gorgeously tender slice after slice of rare divinity that cuts incredibly close to the well roasted bone.
Gentle and melting meat, a richer-deeper red-brown that I have seen in so, so long. Cooked as though all of the kitchen had nothing else to do but watch and fawn and fuss over it. Splashed with some fierce mustard mouth-paint and you are on to a bloody fine thing.
Dip your spoon into the bony hollows to retrieve the roasted marrow and it's as close as fine dining comes to Man vs Wild. 
Dilated umbrellas of richly roasted mushroom fanning out on the plate are the perfect fork fodder for undulating away from the meat and then back into to it again. This dish is stunning, all gentle, gentle richness and so luscious and filling.
Not filling enough to deter us away from a dessert tasting plate. A huge white, heavenly sphere painted with the candied-sugar forms of an amedei chocolate fondant w blood orange ice cream, burnt orange glaze + sesame tuile, an opera slice of espresso cream, amedei 70% dark chocolate ganache w vanilla sponge and the caramelised banana fig + passionfruit pavlova w raspberry jelly + baby mint is a highly recommended and decadent way to poke your tongue out at the modern day fear of dessert
Manta happens at 6 Cowper Wharf Road, ph 9332 2822 and web here. For a celebration or a special meal where you want to spend a little more to get something special, Manta will serve you (like it did Jon Bon Jovi) very, very nicely. The service is pretty remarkable, all of the staff were very friendly and relaxed, and some even come with a highly charming Scottish accent! Especially for overseas visitors, Manta's menu, view and style is as Classic Sydney as you can get - but without the parking tickets. 

Thanks to everyone who made this such a fun night. To Dan for making sure we got the steak, big juicy thanks, and extra thanks to Jamie for busting me on the 3 years/3 mins line + to the lovely Janine - the creme de la creme of chocolate co-conspirators.
Thanks to you too, Mr Jon Bon Jovi.

I will love you, Maaaaan-taaaa, always
I'll be there forever and a day, always
I'll be there til the skyline doesn't shine
Til my skinny's burst
And i'm out of rhyme
And I know, when I die you'll be on my mind
And i'll love you, always... 

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