80 Pyrmont St Pyrmont, NSW 2009
|Opening hours||Lunch daily noon-3pm; dinner daily 5.30-11pm; bar daily noon-11pm|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Long lunch, Licensed|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9657 9130|
Once you enter a casino precinct, day and night tend to disappear. Without sunshine or moonlight, it's a timeless 24-hour fantasy land of sensory stimulation.
By contrast, night and day at the newly landed Flying Fish restaurant and bar on the harbour-facing side of The Star entertainment complex, are as different as, well, night and day.
Lunches are bright and light, giving the office crowd views of greenery, moored boats and glistening water (and in the distance, hush my mouth, the rising tower of Crown Sydney at Barangaroo).
When the sun goes down, the darkened windows reflect back a glittering interior of slightly hyperactive diners under mesmerising bubbles of hand-blown glass pendants. Champagne corks pop like it's 1999, and the loud-and-getting-louder crowd orders mud crab, lobster and $220 split-level, hot and cold seafood platters for two.
After 14 years at the pointy end of Jones Bay Wharf, owner Con Dedes has colonised the old Balla space, with a suitably oceanic makeover from big-time designer Paul Kelly.
Dedes himself darts from table to table, clearing plates, posing for celebrity snaps and topping up glasses, and his cheerful, hands-on management style filters down to the equally can-do staff.
Head chef Peter Robertson has a CV that stretches back through Neil Perry's Rockpool, Eleven Bridge and Jade Temple, and the opening menu is as all-things-to-all-people as a mostly seafood menu can be.
It lacks opening snacks, however, which are hiding on the bar menu, with a sesame-crusted prawn toast ($8) and a tangy spanner-crab finger sandwich with chives and mayo ($8) well worth seeking out.
First courses are precise and mannered; a geodesic dome of tuna sashimi and avocado hedge-hogged with crisp puffed rice ($31); and a fabulous slab of melting, milky, slow-cooked pork belly ($29) with an equally fabulous wheel of eggplant, stuffed with prawn and carpeted with chives, an early relative of which I seem to recall at Rockpool back in the day. It's rich pickings as a first course, and should really be a main, especially in this Chinese Year of the Pig.
Prices are very much big-end-of-town, with mains hitting $48 and $58 with ease. Fish is a highlight, with a beautiful coral trout fillet ($58), served crisp-skinned but lushly fleshed, on a bed of fresh peas and the last of the asparagus with a slinky little lemon cream sauce spiked with fig leaf oil.
At night, the big players hit up the market-priced seafood (mud crab $195 a kilogram, eastern rock lobster $230 a kilogram), teamed with XO or Malaysian-style black pepper sauce.
The crab is woo-hoo great – as it needs to be for $156 for 800 grams – but the sauce is too polite, reduced and sticky to deliver that joyful, peppery, buttery, messiness of great pepper crab. Puffy little fried mantou buns come with it, toasty and fun.
Robertson and team cleverly weave Asian flavours through the fabric of the menu, with pandan – the vanilla of the Asian kitchen – welcome as a fragrant, fetchingly green cream beneath a troppo mix of coconut ice, mango sorbet, young coconut and diced mango ($20).
It all gets a bit surreal on a big night, as over-excited diners eddy and flow, but if you want the nonstop buzz of an entertainment precinct, that's the risk you take. The kitchen, on the other hand, is no gamble at all.
Vegetarian Two vegetarian mains and four vegetable side dishes
Drinks Lively cocktails, mocktails, craft beers and a 28-strong champagne list that goes up to a high-rollin' 2002 Krug for $995
Go-to dish Glazed pork belly, prawn-stuffed eggplant, cherry radish, $29
Pro tip Start with a cheeky Spencer Gulf prawn toast and spanner-crab sandwich from the bar menu