Tonight, our Capital is nothing but gaining, dare I say a delicious one too.
It is raining outside as The Pom and I skipping puddles, trying to locate this new-ish restaurant in Circular Quay. The GPS on my iphone is leading us towards the Custom House down by the wharf, but my gut feeling tells me that we have gone too far. It will be unwise for us to keep walking in the rain without a clear direction. We quickly take shelter under a black shiny office building obscured by the roadworks, it’s sheer dumb luck and realised that we are actually standing right outside the restaurant that we are looking for.
Grill and steakhouses are booming in this area of the city. They called it the Manhattan style restaurant and bar, Capital Grill is another restaurant designed for the corporate with a meaty appetite. We arrive at the restaurant on a very quiet, miserable rainy Tuesday night. A few white-collars are gathered around the 6-meter Onyx island bar outside having a quiet after-work drinks, basting under the outdoor heaters. We prefer to stay out of the rain and walk inside.
We walk into a spacious ground floor with only a few tables set up next to a luminescent register counter and a slick marbled-top cocktail bar on the left. The kitchen is tucked right behind a glass panel staircase that leads to the mezzanine dining area above overlooking an impressive halo chandelier resembling a glowing crown of thorns. The abstract paintings by artist Tilo Kaiser on the feature wall no doubt will be a conversation starter while waiting for the food to arrive.
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We are welcomed with a warm thick slice of Brasserie Bread’s sourdough with its unmistakeably ‘rabbit ear’ cut on the top, and a complimentary cup of french onion soup which is simply the perfect winter warmer to commence our dinner.
Zac Sykes previously of Pier (over 4 years) and 1 hatted Fishface helms the stoves at Capital Grill with his extensive knowledge about fish is a promising sign of the seafood courses here, but we simply can’t take our eyes off the hunk of juicy meat on the menu. Red meat with red wine, I settle with 2007 Henschke Keyneton Estate ‘Euphonium’ from Barossa Valley’s, whereas The Pom goes for the 2006 Terrazas Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendoza, Argentina.
We order two freshly shucked Sydney Rock Oysters each as starters. The briney rock oysters are creamy and juicy, accompanied by refreshing acidic red wine vinegar granita which really brings out the natural flavour of the sea. “I don’t particularly like oysters, but I love these (oysters) with the granita,” The Pom declares that he is a converted man.
The Pom has the blue cheese zucchini souffle for entree. Neither airy or fluffy like a souffle, the baked zucchini stack is nonetheless soft and delicious, rocket salad provides the crunch with a hint of tartness from the balsamic vinegar. I can’t help but dipping my sourdough into the blue cheese sauce and mopping up the pungent molten lava.
My grilled cuttlefish with chorizo sausage on harissa is a plate of striking beauty. Zac indeed knows his seafood well, the scored cuttlefish pieces curled up like the crushing waves, they are tender but still have a bite to it, slices of chorizo sausage add a new layer of flavour and texture to the dish but it is the streak of harissa sauce that steals the show. It can be a struggle for those who can’t handle hot food too well. A few sweat dews are forming on my forehead and a tingling numbness in my mouth after finishing the dish but it is well worth it.
“Brussels sprouts!” I am not sure why I am more excited than The Pom when I noticed there is Brussels sprouts on the side dishes menu. The decision is unanimous and we must order it to accompany our mains. The fried brussels sprouts are well cooked but deliciously crunchy, tossed with chunks of chorizo sausage that adds flavour, just how I like it. The Pom says it’s okay because I know he likes his blanched, mushy brussels sprouts with a dash of vinegar, but deep down I know he has been converted.
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Great minds think alike and we are both eyeing the wagyu on the menu, but that will make a boring post if we order the same dish. Hence I decided to settle on the 250gram beef fillet. The thick cut of pasture fed beef fillets from Riverine, South Australia are perfectly cooked to order (I asked for medium rare), pink and juicy on the inside and the meat is incredibly tender. The potato gratin on the other hand is a let down. The block of potato stacks is rather under-seasoning and still a little firm, but it can be easily fixed and happily soak up with the intense mushroom ragout.
Who needs potato gratin when I can have these awesome hand cut potato chips? The potato chips are man-size-fied, big and chunky, beautifully cooked to a flawless golden tint without any burnt edges. It is nice and crispy on the outside, fluffy and waxy on the inside. They are seriously good, “Show me the money, baby!”
The Pom’s 300gram scotch fillet wagyu is a decent size on the plate but every mouthful is pure pleasure and well worth every penny. Despite the scotch fillet is cooked to a medium-well as ordered, the high grade (6+) wagyu from Oakleigh Ranch Central Queensland is still exceptionally tender without losing most of its characteristics and we still able to cut through the meat effortlessly.
By grilling the wagyu a little bit longer and let the caramelisation does its job also gives the piece of meat a phat smokey flavour, goes perfectly well with the creamy onion puree, the tender king browns, the sweetness of the roasted garlic and the red wine jus. Everything just harmonised with each other flawlessly.
I also think the portion size of the dishes at Capital Grill are well balanced, we both feel full but not stuffed, just enough space left for one more dessert. I can never get tired of looking at a perky souffle puffing out of a ramekin. The passionfruit souffle is indeed impressive, light and airy on the top with an intense passionfruit sauce, although I find the bottom of the souffle is custardy and eggy. A saucer of rich cream fraiche with more passionfruit sauce on the side is for those who really like their dessert uber sweet.
We also share a classic creme brulee, served with a triangle shard of sweet wafer, and rhubarb jam. Someone had a little bit too much fun with the blowtorch in the kitchen, the toffee layer on top is a little burned with a bitter aftertaste. The custard beneath is heart-clogging thick and rich, I am glad there is some tarty rhubarb jam to tame the sweetness down.
After finishing our dinner, we almost don’t feel like leaving this warm cosy space to step into the freezing wet weather outside. And it also only just struck me that we are actually the only two diners in the restaurant the whole time. Possibly the miserable downpour on a schoolie night that makes people preferably to stay indoor rather than venturing out for a meal. The waiter assures us that it is usually packed during lunch hours and I am in no doubt to believe him after tasting some of the great food here myself. But I just like to think that I am a millionaire and book out the entire restaurant for a romantic dinner night out.
[ATFT and The Pom are dined as guests of Capital Grill]
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Capital Grill & Bar The Gateway 1 Macquarie Place Sydney (Entrance cnr Loftus Street & Reiby Place) Sydney NSW 2000 P: (02) 9247 4445 Opening Hours: Mon - Fri ESPRESSO BAR - from 8am LUNCH - 12pm to 3pm TAPAS & WINE BAR - 12pm to 11pm DINNER - From 6pm