Flying Fish – Soaring to New Heights
Flying Fish is unequivocally the best Western-style seafood-focused restaurant in Sydney. There, I’ve said it, now, come at me everyone.
Superlative statements aside – Flying Fish is a fantastic restaurant that very likely deserves more recognition. Part of the reason is because it’s located in Pyrmont. What’s that mean? Well, it means for those of you who are used to coming from the CBD, your fastest method of getting here is – no joke – a water taxi. I personally took a bus from the CBD, but that approach takes forever, especially in peak traffic.
So yes, it’s hard to get to – but by God, it is worth every last iota of effort. Flying Fish offers an experience that is the pinnacle of Western/Asian seafood fusion. If you thought your sashimi and sushi was your only way to enjoy fresh raw seafood, think again.
Date Visited: 26/10/2012
Address: 21 Pirrama Rd, Pyrmont, NSW 2009
Go-to dish: seared yellow fin tuna, pork belly, pink grapefruit & black pepper caramel
It took some effort to find the place – your GPS will not be accurate. Ask around, you’ll eventually spot the sign.
The location is definitely alfresco in nature, it’s right by the water, and if you’re lucky enough to dine on the second level (we weren’t) you can see the entire Pyrmont Bay area. It’s quite the sight! Just like this boat that I happened to capture while waiting to be seated
Furnishings, as you’d expect, are on par with a hatted restaurant. You get plenty of space between tables, and it’s always refreshing to sit at a table where all the cloths are so white.
We opt for the degustation menu, of course and what came to us is some serious variety.
First up, we get ‘snacks’ which are not displayed on the menu. Grissini is basically a very thin, crispy and short breadstick. There was one for each. Crunch throughout, these are faultless. The dip itself tastes like a creamed salmon with plenty of umami kick. It’s finger-licking delicious and pairs so well. A winning combination of crunchy breadsticks with a green sumac (a lemony herb) dust, adding a tangy hit.
Of course, like any restaurant, bread was on offer. We didn’t ask for much, but we did ask for variety – this was just a classic baguette cross-section. Taste and texture? Winning.
Because we wanted to pretend to be healthy, wholemeal was the latter choice – tasted like you would at a bakery. I was surprised the bread wasn’t warm, but it’s not a big deal.
I’ve had taro in many ways before, but I don’t recall the last time I had them as savoury chips. These are DELICIOUS. You don’t really taste the taro too much anymore; what really wins here is the amazing crunchy texture and salty aftertaste. If they packaged these and sold them alongside the chips you can buy at the super market…I would buy these all day long. I’m sure they’re healthier too. Best pre-meal snack I’ve had in a long time.
And of course, we were to have a seafood-based snack considering the kind of restaurant this is. The classic but tried-and-true ocean trout, salmon’s badass cousin makes its first appearance and tastes great. Texture is soft and only yielding with bites. The creme (I believe this is some sort of fish reduction/mayo mix?) provides a good texture fill in between bites, while the crunchy and umami-filled seaweed counteracts with that crispiness that’s just so delectable.
Umami’s going to be thrown around a lot in this meal, that’s for sure.
For our final snack (I know right, four pre-meal snacks!) we have the salmon, which was sure to appear on the menu at some point. The salmon itself is to write home about, but what really takes this dish up a notch is the roe – look at how gorgeous the big baubles look. Bite into one and they’ll burst in your mouth, the way it’s meant to be. Delicious with the salmon, better with the crispy and wheaty texture/taste combo of the spelt rye bread underneath. The okra? Didn’t really notice it all that much, but that’s not a big deal.
And the first course proper arrives – scallop ceviche. What you can see is actually just one scallop – it’s just sliced very thinly and marinated in mirin vinegar (I think). Scallops almost never reveal any distinct flavour as they’re just way too subtle. Flying Fish’s recipe attempts to bring them out as much it can, but overall it’s the texture of the scallop that speaks more than its flavour – soft, and ever slightly springy.
What is really interesting is the watermelon gazpacho (a tomato-based soup with spices, served cold). We were meant to drink some of this with every slice of scallop we ate. Yes, it does actually match – it seems to be a very effective palate cleanser while at the same time accentuating what was already on the tongue before getting rid of it. Can’t quite describe it, but it’s like a taste stimulant. Well welcomed!
Up next we have kingfish, which has a slight shoyu taste to it, most likely from the soy used. The great thing about this dish is the contrast between the soft flesh of the kingfish and the puffed rice which is almost like a savoury version of coco pops. The dish is a little busy as there’s a lot of filler ingredients going on, but it’s actually quite satisfying if you just take a large bite out of the whole thing and chew liberally. Who needs to be classy?
My favourite dish of the entire meal (but trust me, NOT an easy decision to make), we have supple yellow fin tuna, seared to pseudo-perfection, dashed with one of the greatest condiments I’ve ever come across, sitting on a bed of not-too-shabby pork belly.
It all starts in the tuna. While not considered as good as the king of tuna – the blue fin – the yellow fin is still a superb specimen, and it ticks all the right boxes. A firm texture with a strong, light-fatty flavour is what really hits the spot.
On top of this is the curious choice to pair it with pork belly. The belly itself is braised for an overall soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture, but not completely. Plenty of chewing is still required, but otherwise is a decent belly.
What really brings it all in is the black pepper caramel – quite possibly the best new condiment I’ve ever come across. It tastes almost exactly like it sounds. The black pepper gives a spicy, almost tangy taste to the caramel which itself is somewhat diluted (and that’s good, as the flavour is powerful enough already). It’s a combination of very simple flavours, but yields astonishing results.
Definitely the dish to get next time around.
Even if you haven’t had it, it’s likely you’ve heard of it – this is the signature dish at the ridiculously famous Tetsuya’s [review pending] and yet, we have almost the same thing here! Hmmmmmmmmmmm.
Ocean trout makes its second appearance on the menu here, and it is GOOD.
As it is a confit, the flavour of the trout itself does the talking, albeit complemented by the generous sprinklings of furikake (a Japanese condiment that’s a mix of dried fish and other minor spices). It’s probably the best umami experience out of tonight’s menu. The fish itself is generous, soft and tender. Melt in your mouth-like consistency.
The shiitake crisp tastes quite nice, with the aroma of the mushroom coming out very easily, while actual enoki round out the platter. Very satisfying – my second fav dish of the night.
At this point, the sun has gone down and some interesting ambient lighting shows up…like looking at a sea of stars…anyways back to the food.
We now move onto the courses that are cooked with heat, first up – this whiting.
I think I’ve become more accustomed (nay, I prefer) fish that is raw/smoked rather than fried. I didn’t particularly like this whiting all that much – not much flavour out of it aside from the exterior, which was reasonable.
The prawns were much better – escabeche is a Mediterranean method for poaching or pan-frying seafood, and these prawns show it. It’s like the Chinese equivalent of cooking seafood. Rich and juicy, I couldn’t ask for more.
To round this plate out with a carb, the potatoes step in – it’s kind of like a hard mash, which makes sense as is a confit of potato. Satisfying finish to an otherwise average fish.
We begin moving off the seafood and get our hands into the red meat. The quail is supple and tender, but is also quite tough, a bit too tough even for quail. Lots of chewing required, that’s for sure. Luckily, it wasn’t a totally annoying experience as I chose to chew it along with the jamon (Spanish dry-cured ham) which always injected another burst of smoky flavour with each bite.
Thanks to the sherry vinaigrette and green pea mousse, the dish never got too dry. Best part though – definitely the juicy, crispy skin. Guilty pleasure? Yeah, for sure.
The last savoury dish before the desserts, we’ve got ourselves a short rib (around the upper middle of the cow) steak, which has a distinctly Asian taste to it thanks to the accompaniment of mixed veggies and black bean jus. The cut itself is medium-rare, with a very pink centre. Bloody mmmm.
A decent cut of steak, though not to the same standard as the seafood in the preceding courses.
I actually really like goat’s cheese as a pre-dessert though most of my friends find the taste and aroma to be an offence to their nostrils. I love it. The cheese is so soft and creamy, which, served cold, almost makes it taste like ice cream. I mean it technically is when you think about it.
It’s strong on the tongue, but you can balance it out by strategically eating the relatively sour balsamic raspberries drenching them in the honey. It’s hugely satisfying for very simple reasons – the ying and yang between sweet and sour. Creamy goodness, I can’t fault it.
A great palate cleanser with two components – both flavours are very refreshing in the mouth. And don’t worry about the basil – you basically can’t taste it. Pretend it’s Granny Smith apple or something
A rather fascinating dessert – elderflower isn’t something you come across very often. Its jelly tastes somewhat like a normal jelly with a slight herby hint that’s not too distinct from Chinese medicine. For this very reason some people won’t really like it, but I didn’t mind it. Wasn’t the star of the plate though. That particular honour would go to the lychee sorbet – but this was an easy win; sorbet = win, lychee = win, lychee sorbet = double win.
The lemonade foam – kind of like aerated lemonade really, more of a gimmick than anything else. Tastes the same, after all.
The blackberries were a nice edition – always love a good batch of blackberries!
I’ve realised that more often than not, my preferred desserts have tended to include crumble. There’s just something so attractive about the crunchiness…the crumblyness of crumble! Tastes so good. Couple it with two types of lovely gelato and you have a safe but fantastic dessert.
The strawberry gelato is of high quality – it tastes milky but not overly creamy or aerated, and with the refreshing strawberry flavour. The same can be said of the vanilla gelato, but of course, with light notes of vanilla instead.
And then of course, the crumble. Mmmm so sugary and carby, but damn, you really do only live once.
Last but not least, petit fours!
Almond cookie – mmm buttermilk
Rose macaron – very crunchy biscuit with a sticky sweet ganache
Choc cake – this was quite standard
Blueberry sponge – sweet and grainy
Worst part about the petit fours was actually how we were to split them between two people…we didn’t get two sets! Not sure if that’s the way it’s meant to be…
Yeah so once again I totally overshot the 1.5k word limit I’ve imposed on my posts…but it seems like degustations just don’t lend themselves to that. Soz
Flying Fish – definitely the best seafood that’s not exclusively Japanese. You’ve got to give it a go!
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
The Good: most dishes win, seafood is just awesome, desserts are awesome
The Bad: non-seafood dishes is standard and not outstanding, cooked fish was a let down. The restaurant could be hard to get to and locate
I give Flying Fish a grand total of eight and a half Caesars out of ten – 8.5/10