Rose Bay is about 10 or 15 minutes from the city, away from the hustle and bustle and the hoons but it doesn’t display too much opulence despite its reputation as a well to do neighborhood. It’s understated, until you realize that those houses are actually really massive and there’s quite a lot of boats on the water. Still, you don’t notice it.

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Pier sits atop an actual pier, jutting out onto Rose Bay itself. Glass lining either side, it’s incredibly subtle and elegant. On first glance, you wouldn’t think it’s necessarily home to a 3 hat diner. No you have to notice the idea behind how it’s sited and how it’s designed around the location itself. You’re dining almost out on the water, with a view that’s nondescript and perhaps unspectacular. You’re not going to see the opera house bathed in the glow of the city lights. It’s just a rather tranquil, minimalist approach to a restaurant. You feel like you’re almost on the water, but you’re completely dry. At once caught in some wonderful intermediary between land and sea, natural and man made.

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Which is Pier from start to finish, every minutiae, every detail, every nuance. Some people won’t get it at all. They want the fireworks and the pizazz and the big bangs and the foams and the sperificacions and service that sucks up or whatever. No. Pier is for the people who appreciate the simple, underappreciated things in life. The delicate lightness of being. A certain refined sense of life beyond the ordinary brusqueness with which we approach things.

I suppose my opinion is clouded by several factors. One. I’ve just graduated culinary college and my parents came over for a visit. Two. I didn’t pay a cent HHAHAHAHAHAHAH! Three. I love seafood. Four. I’m into this quiet, suppressed expressionist vibe right now. Even then, you’d have to be really thick to not appreciate the flavors and the beauty on the plate.

I’m greeted by the waitstaff by name, a pleasant little surprise despite the obviousness of the situation. It shows I was expected and that they care. We sit at the table and get some still water whilst we browse the menu. As we eat, the restaurant fills up half full. Yet, they purposely keep all the customers on one side of the long room, allowing the other side to retain an unspoiled view of the boats on the bay awash in the light of the setting sun. Like a fading vesper hinting at what was to come.

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We opted for the 8 course degu. With matching wines. Plus 6 oysters each. 3 rock, 3 coffin bay. Plus coffee. Damages were insane. Yet, it felt completely worth it. It was, I must confess, the best meal I have had to this point in my life. I sincerely hope it will not be the best ever. I know there is even better. Yet, I still feel Pier deserves its place in the culinary world as something beautiful and something I can truly appreciate. It’s so me. The fact that it’s seafood, the delicate nature, the thoughtfulness, the attention to detail… It’s no mind altering experience but it’s what a really awesome restaurant should be.

We start with oysters. I devour them before I remember to pull my camera. I went from left to right, rock then coffin then rock and so on. Starting au naturel, then adding lemon then mignonette at the end. They’re superbly fresh. But they’re also just oysters. I want moar!!!

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First course was a canape straight from Thomas Keller. King salmon tartare with capers sitting on a cone made of wonton skin. The variation being the wonton skin swopped for the tuile in Keller’s original. The fish is fresh, you can tell with each firm little bite, despite the fact that it’s tiny little cubes. The capers lend this saltiness that is intended. As a palate opener and not as a dish in its own right. I realize this only after the meal. The ultra crisp wonton skin also adds to that effect as the gustatory actions are driven into work and attention. One side detail were the holders for these. Ours came in a set of three, whilst the people dining at other tables had a holder specifically designed for 2 cones because they were a couple. Another group had 2 sets of 2. If it were a holder with 4 cones, they’d have to pass it around, which would be silly.

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2nd course was Carpaccio of John Dory with Tomato, Lime Vinaigrette, Cracked White Pepper and Soft Herbs. I loved the presentation. It led you on to start from the outside, untouched fish to the slices sitting within the dressing, giving the dish a certain evolution of flavor as you went along. It was delightful. I flipped each slice into a tiny little packet and placed it into the orifice. It is deceptively simple. Once in the mouth, you get a full burst of fish and herbs, brought on in no small part with a good dose of sea salt. The John Dory just strong enough to handle the herbs and still dominate in its own right. When I got to the dressing, it simply transgressed to the next level. The lime brightening up the palate and the oil helping the flavors to linger in the mouth just that bit longer. Every single apprehension I had was wiped away. Immediately I realized this was going to be so freakin’ awesome. I suppose it helped immensely that we started with a biggish white. A 2007 Castro Martin Albarino from Rias Baixas in Spain. Peaches and apples. Perfectly complimentary to the dish and so drinkable on its own.

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3rd course. Tian of Spanner Crab with Scallop Ceviche, Pea Salad and Pea Jus. This upped the ante. The crab was sweet and tender. Delightful little morsels amplified in flavor with the very similar sweetness from the fresh peas. These were unbelievable. Then you get the textural link, with the crab and the pea jus provided a similar, brushy/hairy feeling at the top of the mouth. The scallop provided contrast with its smooth slickness. Then the matching Sauvignon Blanc gave it just the right acid kick.

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4th course. Pan Roasted Scallops with Sauteed Veal Sweetbreads, Shimeji Mushrooms & Cauliflower Tofu. I usually baulk at repeat ingredients but this scallop and the one before felt like alternate universes. This was a course in full texture with increasing flavor. Perfectly roasted scallops just browned on the outside were given a splendid depth from the richness of the sweetbread and the savoryness of the mushroom jus. The cauliflower tofu reflected the scallops even more so and felt similar to the matching wine. Here, the wine matched in terms of viscosity, rather than flavor as the principle. Interesting and incredibly delicious.

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5th course. Crispy Skinned Murray Cod wth Caramelised Witlof, Jamon Serrano, Dutch Carrots and Bitter Orange. Iberico would have swamped the fish, overpowering it. The mildly bitter/astringent aspect from the witlof and orange was countered by the fact that they were also sweet. The carrots also provided another sweet accent, only in high contrast crunchy versus creamy puree. The puree itself was beautifully scented with orange. The dish was sublime. A perfect marriage of multiple textures and flavors that seemed like a cohesive whole. Another added extra was the unremarkable pinot noir that lifted the dish all the more. Most whites would not have been able to take on the mantle this dish proffers. This dish exemplifies how well the sommelier works with head chefs Greg Doyle and Grant King.

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6th course. This merged the savory and sweet worlds. Roquefort Cheesecake with Pear Gel, Celery, Maple Syrup, Fig and Grissini Sticks. I can’t explain fully why there isn’t a hint of blue in the cheese. Or how the thing was so damn good. Suffice to say that it was so damn good. The orangey dessert wine that went with this was phenom.

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7th Course. A light as air Carrot Sponge. Possibly an aerated genoise served with some cream cheese, peanuts and cream cheese frosting. I remember the frosting having a sherbet-esque taste and how the sponge was lighter than souffle. Excuses for the blur photo! As an exercise in lightness, this was perfect, given we were almost at the end and getting full. Yet, despite the near nothingness, it was still full on flavor.

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Last and final course. A spectacular finish from Katrina Kanetani. Rum Braised Bananas with Rum Sponge, Coconut Sorbet, Almond Brittle, Cocoa Powder and Tamarind Jelly. Resplendent in its marriage of textures, flavors and presented amazingly. This is one where you need a little bit of everything in one awesome mouthful. This came with a Chenin Blanc but I swiped that mostly with the carrot cake already!

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And to finish for good, a cappuccino with some orange marshmallows!

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Thanks Mom & Dad!

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