Bianca: As we have gotten older, celebrating birthdays with a family meal out at a nice restaurant has taken precedence over a gift. Which has really fit in nicely with our never-ending mission to eat all of Sydney.
Alex has had to endure quite a bit as the baby of the family, mainly from me because you always torment the ones you love and favour most of all, right? I am the only girl in a family of three male siblings, so I needed someone I could dress up, put make-up on and be my general plaything. Naturally that bullying fell onto Alex.
We chose to celebrate Alex’s 20th birthday at ‘O Bar & Dining’, just the kiddies as our parents were off having a fabulous Hawaiian holiday. This happened to be a special dinner as it was the first time all the kids were reunited since October (as our brother Nick now lives in Melbourne).
So the uncomfortable high-heels went on (just Alex’s obviously) and we sashayed our way into O Bar. Stepping out on the 47th floor of Australia Square into O Bar & Dining, the first thing that hits you is that jaw dropping view – literal floor to ceiling windows that allow you to see as far as humanly possible. We were shown to our table by a girl wearing what looked like a pyjama nightie, a fancy one I’ll give her that.
We were seated on the lower portion of the restaurant with my back facing the moving side of the restaurant, I do get some motion sickness in cars, planes and trains especially going backwards so it did take me some time to get used to the backwards motion. This was eased by Alex’s general confoundedness by the revolving aspect of the floor, I’d say between myself and my other two brothers it took us a good 30 minutes to explain how it was spinning. Kids these days….he’s a special one.
The interior is rather elegant and understated, white table clothes do elevate a restaurant to something of a special occasion but as we were seated in the lower floor portion we had the leather topped tables and the silver webbed back chairs. Not so great for twirling our red wine in our glasses like complete amateurs. Speaking of red wine, to mark the special occasion we shared a bottle of ‘Conde De Valdemar (not Voldermort) 2009 Tempranillo’ $68, which paired very nicely with the mains chosen, three Beef dishes and duck.
We were initially brought out two pieces of bread each, the menu states it is ‘Sonoma sourdough bread & 5 seed’ w/Pepe Saya Butter. $2p.p. Now I don’t remember consulting the bill to see if we got charged for this but I know we were not asked if we wanted bread, it was just sort of offered to us. Either way, you can’t go wrong with Sonoma and Pepe Saya, I would have liked the bread to be served a little bit warm and perhaps a bigger portion of butter as it was on the small side for four people.
It is a minimum of two courses for dinner at O Bar – with the option to choose from an entrée, main and dessert. We all decided on a main and a dessert because life is better with sugar pulsing through your veins. Alex decided to take advantage of a free meal and went for three courses, an entrée of which we all shared.
The entrée in question was the ‘Fine cut Wagyu rump’ – w/crushed chillies, citrus, avocado and shaved radish. $35. Perhaps we are all incredibly naïve but nowhere within this description does it suggest that this was a raw dish – their version of a beef tartare. Whilst it wouldn’t be something we would ordinarily order we thoroughly enjoyed this dish, especially Alex. There was quite the kick from the chillies but it balanced nicely with the acidity, it was in fact a very light and refreshing dish to kick off our meal. We particularly enjoyed the varying textures within the dish, the velvety and creamy thinly sliced wagyu, the cos lettuce ‘vessel’ and the small pieces of crackling crowning the beef.
On to the mains: Alex went with the ‘Angus Beef Tenderloin’ – w/short rib, roasted mushrooms and sweet peppercorns. $44. On the whole this dish was very underwhelming, we’ll start with the positives first, the mushrooms were gorgeous, they were cooked until they were plump and juicy, the sauce was rich and toothsome which is great and all but herein lied the issue, there was no meat to mop the sauce up. I’ve had steak out at many restaurants but this was the first time I had seen such a meagre portion for the $44 asking price. Alex and I disagreed on the short rib component, I felt it was bland but he enjoyed it. He also found the tenderloin chewy and cold.
My other two brothers Nick and John had the ‘Prime Scotch Fillet’ – 300g, Rye Fed, dry aged, w/house made mustard and onions. $47. No complaints from John, they nailed his medium cooked steak so he was a happy camper. Nick on the other hand was disappointed with his, he is one of those freaky people who enjoys his steak RARE. His was also cooked to medium in over ¾ of the steak, with a small teeny portion the desired rare. He acknowledged that a scotch can be difficult to get right (his own bbq’ing experiences) but in a commercial kitchen and for $47 you’d like to get what you pay for. There was also an issue with seasoning but there was salt on the table so it was easily rectified.
And for myself, the thought of cooking duck at home scares the bejeezus out of me so I usually save this one for eating out, I had the ‘Glazed Spiced Duck’ – pink breast, confit leg, pepper sausage, black figs and almond tahina. $41. This again had its shortcomings but they were slightly fewer than Alex’s tenderloin dish. Flavour wise I can’t really fault anything, it was somewhat of a treasure trove of goodies, with the figs and almond tahini sauce complementing the duck gorgeously. Where this dish failed was in its execution, namely the duck. It was pink but it was chewy to all high hell with a large piece of sinew running through a good 2-3cm of the finger sized portion.
We also added two sides as I was aware that the foliage on the mains was generally just that, a bit of decoration. We opted for a bit of carb action as it’s virtually the only vegetable our fussy eater brother, Nick eats. We had the ‘Nicola Potato Fries’ $12 and the ‘Garlic Charisma Potatoes’ $12.
Now onto the whole point of cake, I mean birthdays….CAKE!!! Alex is somewhat the Marjorie Dawes (Little Britain fame) of our family, closely followed by mum. With sweet tooths that rear their ugly heads at the end of every meal these days. “Ohhh man I loooooooooove the cake”. There will be a t-shirt printed one day. I’ve gotten side-tracked haven’t I? It was clearly time for dessert.
John ever the Italian traditionalist had the ‘Not So Naughty Tiramisu’ – almond milk, amaranth, macca sponge & agave espresso. $18. Hands down the best dessert we tried on the night, furthering owner Michael Moore’s quest to have us eating a little healthier, it was interesting to see just how well he substituted the usual tiramisu staples such as sugar, sponge, cream and mascarpone with healthier and lighter alternatives. This is a must order.
Both Nick and I had the ‘Organic Chocolate Brownie’ – Macadamia, lucuma, coconut and mango sorbet. $18. I’m not going to lie, I sort of cringed when I saw ‘organic’ in front of ‘chocolate brownie’. Nick zeroed in on the brownie pieces leaving the majority of the dish untouched, his usual fussiness shining in full force. Despite my misgivings this was another winning dessert – the brownie was fudgy and dense, I loved the added crunch from the macadamias. It was my first time trying lucuma, I initially had it confused with mango but the taste is obviously quite different.
And lastly the birthday boy’s dessert, ‘4 Ripe Cheeses’ – sour apple paste, kamut toast and seeded lavosh’. $30. We’re now going to be completely unhelpful bloggers at this point and let you know that we have no idea what these cheeses are: the waiter sort of leaned in to Alex’s ear and gave him the spiel, with Alex nodding saying “yep, yep, yep”, to which I then asked Alex “What are they? ”. He replied with an “I have no idea!”. Useless. The three on the right hand side of the photo were happily gobbled up, I was the only one game enough to try the musty blue on the far left. Every time we revolved under an air conditioning vent we all had a whinge because of the fumes.
So that wraps up Alex’s 20th birthday extravaganza dinner, a gorgeous location with slightly disappointing food. I can’t say I’d be rushing back anytime soon, not for the $500+ bill shock at the end of the night.
You’re becoming an old lady Alex.