The food writer really liked Pier, which is in Sydney's Rose Bay. It seemed like a good idea. But I got turned around en route, and wandered into Catalina instead. I only found Pier while I was waiting for the boat home.
It's sometimes good to be flexible about travel mistakes. Catalina has a terrific view of Rose Bay -- which used to be the old seaplane terminus which linked Sydney to Southampton, direct service with 30-odd stops over nine days. The view is beautiful. It doesn't need to have good food.
It's a great space, clean and crisp. The Sidneysiders at Catalina were clean and crisp as well. Some were lunching in little black dresses and heals. Some were wearing t shirts and shorts — and still managing to exude a certain elegance. How do they do that? There were two parties that must have been baby showers, and they were having a hell of a good time. In Sidney, you can be an expectant mother with a champagne flute in one hand.
- They had about nine hosts and waiters working Labor Day lunch, and I think I had some sort of natural interaction with every single one; whenever I could possibly need something, a different waiter would appear with it. This is an interesting way to do things. On one hand, it's efficient: whatever needs doing gets done by the person who happens to be free and nearby. On the other hand, this must entail greater coordination costs; you don't want two people doing the same thing, and you want the servers serving, not spending the day in meetings. Management is interesting, occasionally. (I loved Ruhlman's chapter on learning table service. Is there anything else that's good to read about life in the front of the house? How about fiction? Email me. )
- People were drinking a cocktail that looked a lot like a margarita, but each one was served in a glass with about an entire lime cut into 8ths or 16ths. What is it? Should've asked.
- In Denmark for the last paper, waiters seemed to regard wine questions as incomprehensible. "Why ask me what wine would be best? Choose whatever wine you fee like!" Here, wine questions are friendly opportunities for discussion and instruction: "I'm glad you asked that!"
- An Australian sparking wine went beautifully with three fresh oysters (lemon, vinegar, shallot) and three grilled oysters (pancetta, cress). Superb oysters, probably the best I've ever had, though some of those grand plateuax I had in Paris with Elli and crew were awfully good. I'd have thought oysters would be out of season in this hemisphere, since the rule about months with 'r' was meant for the North, but I figure they know their oysters and their habits.
- This followed an amuse of a frothy white gazpacho. It was terrific, and it even tasted of gazpacho despite being white. How do you get the flavor? Can there be blonde heirloom tomatoes in Australia? Pale cilantro? (Memo: "Pale Cilantro" could be a good title for a novel. Be my guest)
- Murray Cod braised in vanilla was a quiet and pleasant. It wasn't that far from the braised fish I've been doing at home, except for the vanilla. Make a note; those long slivers of vanilla do interesting things to the poach, and aren't that costly.
- The classic lemon tart was a classic, served with a big, beautiful dollop of marscapone. How do they make the marscapone dollop so perfectly egg-shaped?