Saturday, November 8, 2008

Waqu - Crows Nest, Sydney.

When you’re after a degustation meal in the North of Sydney, not many places immediately come to mind if you were to ask me. However, one of the places that I would be able to proffer as an answer is Waqu, which has been elected as a restaurant to try many times, but never eventuated. Until now.

Every season Waqu refreshes their five course meal for patrons, which is set at a reasonable price of $49 per person. The only choice that you need to make is for an entrée, main and dessert – leave the rest to the them. Waqu has recently moved further up Pacific Highway into the more lively and restaurant-populated intersection of Falcon St and Pacific Highway. Taking the place of its predecessor, a wood-fire pizzeria, it’s a great location that makes it easy to find.

This lighting is dimmed as you enter and spotlights in the ceiling are the only source of light on your table, apart from the glow of lights from the bar. As a result, a judgment call is made: Waqu’s intimate atmosphere caters more towards the ‘couple’ diners as opposed to larger groups. When seated, we were presented with the spring menu which runs between 25th of September to 30th of November (there’s still 3 weeks left to try it!).

Here Comes The Food

Course 1 ‘Assorted Small Eats’: In a clockwise direction from the bottom – Braised Pork Belly with Teriyaki Mustard Sauce, Spicy Soft Shell Crab Taco, Carrot Gazpacho, Salted and Crispy Fried School Prawns. The pork is at room temperature which has a light touch of teriyaki that doesn’t overpower it. Though I’m not sure where the taste of mustard is, I’m not fussed as the small pieces fall apart on your tongue, leaving you with a saddened regret for swallowing too soon. The soft shell crab taco is a bit quirky but it works for me. The waiter explains to us to simply ‘pick it up with your hands and eat it!’ So that’s what we do. Fine dining at its best. The soft layer of the taco complements the crunch of the crab; the mayonnaise dressing is simply icing on the cake. The carrot gazpacho doesn’t stand out after comparison to its accompaniments, however the portion given is just the right amount to appreciate aftertaste of tobasco that has been mixed in. The deep fried prawns are great when dipped in the gazpacho too!

Course 2 ‘Entrée’ (choice between 3):

Beef Tataki Carpaccio: Described as “Lightly seared, sliced beef with black pepper and apple vinaigrette”, the slices of beef are a tad larger and thicker that what you’d expect in a beef tataki. The vinaigrette is a standard complement, however when accompanied by apple it’s either win or lose situation depending on your palette. For me, I’d probably be happier with a plainer dish as an entrée that doesn’t try to over-complicate and confuse my senses when enjoyable the taste of lightly seared beef.

Scallop and Tofu Galett with anchovy, enoki and oyster mushroom risotto: Picture the base circumference of your standard mug/cup; this is the size of the scallop as you can see from the photo. But don’t assume anything yet!

It’s more like a fish cake packed with diced scallop with the bouncy texture of tofu when fried. Basically to prepare it, they’ve diced it all, compacted it and fried it on a pan. But it works great – enough scallop to make you feel like you haven’t been given the short end of the stick. The risotto is a bonus. The absence of anchovy is another bonus (not entirely a fan of them). Overall, a great entrée appears lack fault on my part.

Course 3 ‘Sushi + Sashimi’ of ocean trout: Wasn’t entirely a fan on this dish as I was lead to believe that we were getting “ocean trout”, however it appears that perhaps this might have been a case of ‘engrish’ as we were given salmon served in three assortments: roll, sushi and sashimi. Maybe they ran out of trout? I’m not sure. The lime that came with the grilled salmon belly didn’t really work – sticking to lemon would be better. The sashimi lacked any sweetness that you get from salmon. The wasabi had been premixed into the soy (I prefer to leave it out). The roll was plain apart from the sharp contrast of taste from the cheese.

Course 4 ‘Main’ (choice between 3):

Braised herb marinated Lamb Shank with Tomato Stew: The tomato stew resembled more like a tomato jam, however the lamb had been cooked well such that the meat easily fell off the bone.

Baked Blue Eye Cod with Soba Pasta, Crab meat Cream Sauce: In the oven for a little overdone as the flakes of fish were dry and had lost texture. The accompanying fried lotus tasted like a potato chip, which was an interesting complement when crunched together with the long velvety smoothness of the soba.

Course 5 ‘Dessert’ (choice of 2):

Sweet ‘sake’ crème caramel: There’s nothing out of the ordinary about this.

House made blueberry and raspberry ice cream: A general consensus was reached that this was the best dish out of the bunch that is offered on the spring menu. The homemade ice cream tasted more like a sorbet with the sweet, rich and depth of flavour that embodies ice cream. Both the blueberry and raspberry were wildly refreshing, true to their flavour and makes me crave for it whilst typing up this review. One small fault in this dish is in the way that it is served: a cocktail glass, which makes it frustrating trying to reach under the ice cream and into the long stem to get the cornflakes! I wonder if the sell this by the carton … would love to get some of this at home.

WAQU modern japanese dining
308 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest NSW 2065
PH. 02 9906 7736
Dinner: Tuesday-Sunday, 6.00pm-10.30pm
Close Monday
Lunch: Available from November
Fully Licensed
BYO. wine only. Corkage:$4.00/p



flapflap said...

Oooh, I've had my eye on that place for a while because it has a special deal on at eatability (or another food blogger has reviewed it lately? Unfortunately I can't remember who!) The soft shell crab tacos remind me of Ocean Room and Rise - do you think it's the same chef (Raita Noda)?

Came across your site from grabyourfork/ Not Quite Nigella - keep up the good work :)

Anonymous said...

What a nicely detailed and lengthy review by someone who should NOT be procrastinating :P hahah awesome post anyway makes me want to try! Loving their presentation and atmosphere :)

I thought that was a real single scallop at first 0.o that would have been quite the GM!

Miss Honey said...

I do enjoy Waqu:) Mostly because I have a work colleague who raves about it frequently (partially because of it's close proximity to her house lol).

I tend to find the dishes either fabulous or not too hot...

D said...

hi flapflap - not sure if there are any recent reviews for the Spring 08' menu, but I know GYF has reviewed it before. I doubt that it's the same chef, though it would be hard to distinguish almost them hehe...thanks for the words of encouragement!

hey FFichiban - I'm almost finished! yeh ... I thought it was one whole scallop at first ... then upon cross-sectioning it .. it revealed otherwise

hi miss honey - I agree, the dish is either great or it's pretty ordinary. But I guess that all ties in with the pricing right? :)