“A Northern Territory steamed mud crab is vibrant orange
head shell perched over dangly legs, beady eyes staring at us”
“It’s a seafood restaurant?” Mysaucepan asks. “Well, there are a few decent chunks of meat on the menu too” I reply.
“A steakhouse?” she probes further.
“I doubt it. Kingsleys is next to this restaurant” I say.
“Then what kind of food?” she quips impatiently.
“The menu says something about a man from Atlantis. Remember that TV show … the guy with webbed hands and feet that swims funny?” I laugh.
With the kind invitation of The Atticism, we are at one of Sydney’s idyllic locations to sample the creations of head chef Daniel Hughes.
Manta Restaurant & Bar, Woolloomooloo
Located at Finger Wharf with panoramic water views of Woolloomooloo Bay, Manta Restaurant & Bar is one among four others ~ a steakhouse in Kingsleys Steak & Crabhouse, modern Chinese in China Doll, Otto Ristorante‘s contemporary Italian and the modern Indian food of AKI’s.
Sydney is putting on its bright and sunny show and on a day like this, diners are basking in the al fresco area to soak up some sun and water views.
The bar area is sleek and a row of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut hogs the horizontal limelight.
A Bar Food Menu includes sashimi, jamon, chilled Alaskan king crab, crisp calamari, burgers and fish & chips with some of Manta’s signature cocktails to match.
Let alone a refreshing taste on a warm spring day, the vibrant red of this cocktail is truly hot passion.
Handcrafted in Port Stephens, a Murray’s Whale Ale has a high percentage of malted wheat that gives a unique take on an ale. It is light gold with the traditional cloudy appearance of wheat beers. Refreshingly medium bodied, it has a dry finish in the tradition of Japanese beers that I enjoy.
This beer is so named in honour of the majestic creatures of the seas which encompass nature at its finest. Have a you-know-what of a time as this brewing company tells us!
With the likes of so many good bakeries in Sydney these days, I give bonus points to restaurants that don’t take bread for granted. And Manta is one of them.
Raw seafood tasting plate is a trio of hiramasa kingfish carpaccio, atlantic scallop ceviche and yellow fin tuna tartare.
The kingfish is cured with white balsamic, pomegranate, bits of crunchy hazelnut and baby herbs.
Atlantic scallops are a little ‘cooked’ by lime juice though given an Asian flavour with deep-fried eschallots.
Small cubes of yellow fin tuna is tangy with a pickled radish and citrus dressing.
Is there a common taste pattern in white balsamic, finger lime and citrus dressing? Though the seafood is fresh with some textural variation in pomegranate, crispy eschallots and hazelnut, we find a tangy palate across all three tastings.
The menu says gazing out onto Woolloomooloo Bay, one could be mistaken for being somewhere on the Mediterranean, like the Italian riviera or the Amalfi coast.
On this sunny Friday afternoon, sailboats are gently rocking while diners lunch away in the sun.
A 2012 Petit Roubie Picpoul de Pinet is matt gold with floral bouquet.
Lemony notes on the palate with a tight and gently bitter finish, it would be a beautiful match with charred flavours of grilled seafood.
A 2o09 Chain of Ponds ‘The Amadeus’ Cabernet Sauvignon tastes nothing like Mozart’s most iconic Symphony in G minor KV 550.
Rather it has ripened berries on the nose with hints of dark chocolate and well-structured oak and tannins.
Manta’s dining room is elegant though on a beautiful day, it is deserted as everyone opts for the al fresco area with water views.
Northern Territory steamed mud crab, bottarga, parsley & lemon butter
A Northern Territory steamed mud crab is vibrant orange head shell perched over dangly legs, beady eyes staring at us.
The all important equipment to tackle this psychedelic monster are nicely laid out ~ freshly rolled bib, shell cracker, crabmeat pick and a finger bowl with inflatable towels and lemon slices for the aftermath.
I cannot possibly agree more with Matthew Evans, ex-chief reviewer of the SMH Good Food Guide, who once said the best way of cooking mud crabs is either steamed or cooked Singapore chilli style. The savoury sweet taste of mud crabs means you either enjoy its natural flavours or go the other extreme with a spicy and gooey egg sauce.
Then again, this middle ground of parsley and lemon butter sauce is beautifully pungent with bottarga. Just like black truffle shavings, this intense dried mullet roe works so well with the subtle flavours of seafood. More importantly, the Man from Atlantis would have approved of this crab.
A fresh finger bowl is handy at the end as Mysaucepan is all fingers diving into this mud crab.
450gm Cape Grim dry-aged rib eye
These days, dry-aged is almost standard fare in restaurants serving good beef steaks. My 450gm rib eye is seared on the bone with garlic, parsley and EVOO. Presented with a slice of lemon, there is a side platter of three sauces ~ béarnaise, salsa verde and roasted chilli.
As I anticipated, roasted chilli sauce is sweetish capsicum after a little taste off my fork.
“This bright red sauce is never going to look politically correct next to a good piece of meat, don’t you reckon?” I ask Mysaucepan. “Wouldn’t you cringe a little if you’re a wagyu beef lover?” I add.
“Well, I’m not a ‘wag you’ lover but I agree” she says. “But you have a choice among three anyway.”
“Well, I’m no politician. I say what I like and more so what I dislike” I tell her.
I like béarnaise sauce for its creamy richness but in my books, it has no place other than on poached eggs and definitely not with steak, especially a good one. The choice of condiments continues as a waiter arrives with a selection of mustards ~ hot English, seeded and French dijon.
The salsa verde and dijon is my choice for this medium rare beauty with a nice blush of pink. Though it is not the most tender of rib eyes, the charred flavours are intense.
With profit margins so tight for restaurants these days, I applaud the generosity of three sauces though it feels a little wasteful. Roasted chilli let alone béarnaise with steak is like Batman with the Joker while the salsa verde is a little short. I would have been even happier with just three serves of the herb and garlicky salsa verde instead.
Callebaut white velvet chocolate mousse, avocado, coffee and puffed rice
The white chocolate mousse is creamy against crunchy grains of puffed rice but there’s a rude awakening to my teeth with bits of rock frozen avocado. Even if avocado is mashed and folded into the mousse as it should be, there would be little difference taste wise.
Our mains are good though prices can be significantly more competitive when compared to neighbouring restaurants that offer similar quality cuts of red meat from the charcoal grill and fresh seafood.
A justification for Manta’s pricier menu might be a glimpse of the Man from Atlantis but even on a beautiful day like this one, he was nowhere to be seen.
ChopinandMysaucepan dined courtesy of The Atticism and Manta Restaurant & Bar.
All food and drink items on this blog post were complimentary except for the Murray’s Whale Ale, Summer breeze cocktail and Cellebaut white chocolate mousse dessert which were independently paid for. All views and opinions on this blog post are ours.