The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street Pyrmont, New South Wales 2009
|Opening hours||L Fri, Sun; D Tues-Sun|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Bar, Business lunch, Groups, Licensed, Long lunch, Private dining, Pre-post-theatre, Views, Wheelchair access|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Chef||Teague Izard, Dany Karam|
|Payments||Diner's Club, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Free wine for Citibank cardholders here|
Steak and chips, or stake your chips? I doubt there's a casino in the world without a steakhouse on the premises. Las Vegas is lined with beef, from Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Prime to Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak and Wolfgang Puck's Cut.
It's much the same in Australia, with Neil Perry's award-winning Rockpool Bar and Grill pulling in the punters at Melbourne's Crown and Perth's Burswood.
Not surprisingly, a big part of the $850 million renovation of The Star includes a new, contemporary grill restaurant with the mandatory celebrity chef attached.
In this case, it's Teage Ezard, of Melbourne's two-hatted Ezard and Asian fusion diner Gingerboy. Also in the kitchen is Vegas-born-and-bred executive chef Michael Tripp, giving the menu its American edge.
Black by Ezard is an unusual restaurant for increasingly casual Sydney, with Paul Kelly Design's almost over-the-top decor in woods, copper and leather. There are booths, high tables, private rooms and an inviting bar.
The equally glam menu runs to seven different steaks and more contemporary compositions such as beef tartare with heirloom beets and mustard ice-cream, and blue eye with warm quinoa ragout, soft egg, chorizo and truffle.
Dinner gets off to a racy start with not-your-average kingfish sashimi ($26), the finely sliced fish laid over edamame puree and scattered with crisp puffed rice, crystallised wakame seaweed and squishy balls of sesame custard rolled in black sesame seed. It's an emphatic dish, all punchy and crunchy, the textures and tastes really connecting with the tastebuds.
Black's take on Joel Robuchon's l'oeuf de poule is another show-stopper; a slow-cooked organic egg wrapped in a frizzy parcel of crisp brik pastry ($34), served with a rich potato cream, jamon iberico, truffle and micro cress: a stunning combination that sends the brain into automatic "wow" mode.
Sommelier James Audas, back from Tetsuya's Waku Ghin in Singapore, has gone for lots of American frontier wine, including an earthy, almost gutsy 2008 Argyle Pinot Noir from Oregon ($80).
It's all very enjoyable in a Viva Las Vegas way, with the smooth-talking Craig Hemmings (formerly with Guillaume Brahimi) heading a service team equally charming to tables of post-conference execs, roulette widows and, er, punters. Even the iPad wine list is fun to use and easy to read.
But - and it's a big but - they sous-vide the steak. The kitchen claims pre-cooking individually vacuum-packed steaks in a water bath at 54 degrees for up to 1½ hours and finishing them on a wood-fired grill gives you the best of both worlds - precise control over cooking times and the necessary char and hint of wood smoke. I'm not convinced.
A "rare-to-medium-rare" grass-fed, dry-aged 400-gram bone-in angus rib-eye ($52) looks just the ticket: lightly crusty outside and consistently, evenly pink throughout. It even tastes decent but the meat is set and firm, with none of that irresistibly juicy, bloody give-and-take that keeps you coming back for more. It's a technique, I suspect, that suits the chef more than the steak. (Note: steaks ordered blue go straight on the grill.)
Any extras - apart from a mini-loaf of brioche - cost extra, including eight sauces ($4-$10) and sides such as parsnip croquettes under sweet caramel ($10), and a well-dressed lettuce, grapefruit and almond salad ($9).
This slow-cooking caper is more convincing applied to fish, especially the headline-inducing hapuka ($46), poached in Mahalo seawater drilled from below the ocean bed off Hawaii and transported to Sydney via Hong Kong (oh, for heaven's sake). But it's beautiful, delicately cooked and not at all salty; needing, in fact, the flavour bombs of capers among the cauliflower cream, florets of deep-fried cauliflower, fleshy mussels and clams, and bubbly fish froth.
Dessert is a mannered rhubarb and strawberry tart overlaid with a clear film of pepper jelly and scattered with tanned balsamic meringues ($18). Like the steak, it feels meticulously handled without bringing much joy to the table.
It's stimulating to have such casino-led glamour in town. Yes, Black is expensive and, for me, the dependence on sous-vide cooking brings it down a point. But if you have to drop a bundle on the tables of a casino, this could be your best bet.
Black by Ezard
Address Level G, The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, 1800 700 700, star.com.au.
Open Lunch Fri; Dinner Tues-Sun.
Cost About $190 for two, plus wine.