Catalina requires almost no introduction. The angular white walled building with contrasting black sign perches above the water in Rose Bay is iconic and synonymous to an immersive dining experience in a premium location. This autumn Executive Chef Mark Axisa introduces a new menu featuring seasonal additions and earthy flavours as the days shorten and the air begins to chill.
But first thing first – a sip of an autumnal cocktail as the sun sets. Harajuku Girl ($26) is a fusion of Tanqueray Gin and Japanese Sake with cucumber, mint and coconut syrup. The coupe is rimmed in something least expected for cocktail – wasabi. In addition to the autumn selection, a long list of other seasonal popular cocktails is available, just to make the choice a bit difficult.
Seafood continues to be the emphasis of the new autumn menu, including new entrée addition John Dory fillet with charred scampi tail and bone marrow ($38). But it’s the Western Australian Marron that catches our attention. A freshwater crayfish from Western Australia, the meat is more delicate and sweeter than its larger lobster cousin. The grilled crustacean is served with lemon thyme brandade, orange butter and Avruga ($38). The saltiness from the brandade and citrusy butter are all the seasoning needed.
Resisting hard the Confit Duck Leg Terrine and House Cured Duck Breast ($30), we opted for a second seafood entrée of Pan-seared Scallops, Spanner Crab and Squid Ink Tortellini in cauliflower puree and bottarga ($32). It’s not a competition between the seafood but a harmony brought together with creamy puree and salted and cured fish roe. We only wish there is more.
A quick glance of the wine list brought us to the realisation that not even a university degree in Old World and New World wines would bring us up to speed to the extensive selection in Catalina. Time to call for professional help and we left ourselves completely in the hands of Head Sommelier Xavier Vigier.
In order to preserve the premium wines by the glass, Catalina works with ‘The System’. Created by Greg Lambrecht, the system uses a medical grade needle and a capsule of Argon gas to pour a bottle of wine without opening it. The needle is inserted through the cork and the Argon gas is injected filling the space of the extracted wine. Once extraction is completed, the needle is removed and the springy cork releases itself. The gas, heavier than oxygen, sits on top of the wine to protect it. The wine can be kept for a longer period without altering its quality. Thanks to this unique technique and recommendations from Xavier, we sampled two whites and one red that we usually would not select or know of. 2015 Hatzidakis ($18/glass) from Santorini Greece is full and aromatic on the palate and well-matched to the seafood entrées.
Our second white 2015 Suavia ‘Massi Fitti’ Bianco Veronese ($17/glass) from Verona, Italy is of light yellow color, floral and crunchy (like a bite into an apple as Xavier describes). He recommends this crispy and refres.hing white with our first main – House Made Parsley Spaghettini with Mooloolaba King Prawns, Confit Clarence River Baby Octopus, Cuttlefish, Chilli and Garlic Bread Crumbs and Lobster Oil ($49). Spaghettini is thinner than spaghetti but thicker than angel hair; the green pasta soaks up flavours from the rich seafood broth and lobster oil, not to mention the tender and sweet seafood.
The Roasted Suckling Pig for two ($120) takes 45 minutes to prepare so we settle for the Pan Roasted Junee Lamb Rump ($49). The rump is cooked sous vide to medium rare and accompanied by braised lamb shoulder in a crispy parcel. This time Xavier teleports us to Corsica, an area where wine history goes back for thousands of years and now focuses on grapes like Nielluccio and Sciacarello. The earthy and medium 2016 Sant Armettu ($18/glass) complements the duck without overpowering it.
After such superb entrées, main and having had a few glasses, Catalina’s Banana Split ($25) was exactly what we were in the mood for. There are only a few of slices of bananas, the centre of the dessert being a peanut butter parfait. Cold, creamy, smooth but not too sweet. The balance between the buttery parfait and sweet honeycomb chocolate is bang on point.
As the last rays of daylight disappeared behind the horizon, we could just make out the tingling lights in the distance over the Sydney Harbour. The drop of temperature in the air was noticeable but we felt warm and fuzzy after such an exquisite meal, not to mention the European wines we were introduced to. Monday night was made to feel like a special occasion at Catalina.
Lyne Park, Rose Bay Sydney
Phone: (02) 9371 0555
I Ate My Way Through dined as a guest of Catalina