The celebrity surrounding Matt Moran and the recent expansion of his brand into the Brisbane market make Aria a difficult proposition to assess, as clearly standards at the flagship are harder to maintain given the inevitable distractions and demands that arise from such a high industry and media profile. In a perfect world, our experience should be unaffected regardless, but unfortunately tonight we experience some obvious inconsistency of focus on this occasion. An exacting level of attention is required at this level, but perhaps the dual absence of both Matt Moran and Peter Sullivan slightly diminished the delivery of their usual exceptionally high standards.
Our early arrival for the post theatre sitting is handled professionally, allowing us to leisurely indulge in our well executed cocktails at the bar. The table we had requested with an unobstructed view on booking was duly accommodated for, however our stated preference for the tasting menu to be paced a touch slower was immediately brought undone when our unfinished amuse were pushed aside for the arrival of the first tasting dish. How such a fundamental procedural error occurred, especially since the Yellow Fin tuna was not a warm dish and could have remained on the pass until it was confirmed that the amuse had been cleared, is extremely disappointing. Fortunately, the tuna with carpaccio of octopus is a textural pleasure, even if the basil puree was fractionally over seasoned. In fairness to Aria service is flawless from that point on with the courses announced clearly by knowledgeable wait staff whom are obviously well briefed on the more intricate aspects of each dish.
Conversely, the Buffalo ricotta with baby salad leaves and tomatoes that follows is a somewhat pointless exercise. A nondescript bland oblong of focaccia, positioned purely for aesthetic balance, makes absolutely no cohesive sense to a dish primarily existing I presume to showcase the latest premium jamon. I am an advocate that less is often more, but a certain harmony and sense of purpose is essential amongst the component parts of any dish. This is demonstrated redemptively by the next course of Peking duck consommé with dumplings, shaved abalone and mushrooms which is a balanced triumph of flavour only surpassed by the perfectly seared scallop with sweet corn, cauliflower beignet, caper and sultana dressing which is clearly of a three hat standard.
Matt Moran’s signature Kurobuta sweet pork belly dish which follows is delightfully succulent and complimented by rich textbook black pudding with a texturally superb apple and elderflower puree. It is a heady testament to years of subtle refinement. The final savoury dish is a superbly poached Angus beef fillet accompanied by braised silverside with a deeply flavoured bone marrow and beef consommé. A palette cleanser of mandarin and earl grey tea punctuates the transition to the dessert of vanilla ice cream with strawberry wafers and strawberry salad. Whilst solid, I had expected something more sophisticated and inspired, especially given the lofty reputation pastry chef Andrew Honeyset has justifiably earned for both his innovation and execution.
Tonight’s Sommelier was particularly impressive handling our wines superbly by the glass, flexibly substituting the listed choices where appropriate with varietals chosen to match not only the food but the preference of our palettes. With some thoughtful menu tweaking, and more focus on the overall consistency of delivery, Aria could conceivably aspire to three hat status, but I think Matt Moran definitely has to be watchful how he spreads his time elsewhere. I suspect in a worse case scenario, Aria may not be viable as a one hat restaurant in its spectacular harbour side dress circle location and he deserves far better given his significant and undeniable contribution to the standard of Sydney dining.
1 Macquarie Street, East Circular Quay, Sydney
Monday to Friday 12pm to 2.30pm
Monday to Friday 5.30pm to 11pm, Saturday 5pm to 11pm, Sunday 6pm to 10pm