It would require no stretch or exaggeration to proclaim Manta a legend in Sydney’s dining scene. The high-end fixture of Woolloomooloo’s illustrious finger wharf has for 9 years now been the first port of call for schmoozy seafood-centric lunches and luscious business dinners thanks to its uncompromising worship of the highest quality produce. Nothing has changed, nor should it.
A few heritage-respecting makeovers have enhanced Manta’s breezy indoor-outdoor atmosphere throughout the years, but the kitchen’s commitment to produce-forward dishes and local provenance is still very much the same. That’s why the menu can change daily and still deserve the trust of Manta’s many return customers, remixing dishes whether that means a slight change or a complete overhaul.
With Executive Chef Daniel Hughes and Head Chef Steve Hetherington behind the scenes, and a commanding wine list that only ventures outside of Australia to pull in some classics from Italy and France, it’s almost impossible to make a poor choice at Manta.
Although there are some stand outs that deserve attention over the rest. If you really want to start a meal here then dive straight into the menu’s selection of oysters. Then order up a few starters to complement, like the rich Tropical Lobster Slider ($19) with Spanish onion, iceberg and chipotle dancing around a fat, juicy fried piece of QLD lobster meat. The same can be said for the delicate bites of Pickled Nardin Spanish White Anchovies ($24) which are served on brioche with smoked tomato, goats cheese and chives, highlighting how the produce can make all the difference.
The Hiramasa Kingfish Carpaccio ($24) is your go-to for fresh, delicious kingfish representing South Australia’s bountiful Spencer Gulf. The vibrant and summer-appropriate flavour comes from the welcome inflections of green apple, spring onion, black pepper and sorrel. In the same section of the menu, if you’re lucky, will be the Honey Bug Ceviche ($22), showcasing WA produce with generous and slimy pieces of bug on toasted sesame with chilli, garlic and finger lime. Both these dishes are available as part of a tasting platter, which gives you three choices for $35 and is great value if you value variety over serving size.
The Main Course
Though Manta is better known for seafood, it’d be a mistake to ignore the “Land” part of their menu. Options are limited, but the steaks get the nod of approval from neighbouring tables, and my dining companion who orders up the 400g Pinnacle Rib Eye ($62) of MBS2+ beef from the North West corner of Tasmania, served topped with a large grilled oxheart tomato.
Sharing a few slices had me almost wishing I had re-considered my order, although I wasn’t quite far behind in quality with my Pan Fried ‘Alpine’ Salmon ($47), sourced from New Zealand’s Mount Cook as all salmon should be. Interestingly, it’s served swimming in house-made red curry (not spicy) and coconut sauce with grilled NZ scampi, parsnip puree, and charred baby leeks. The thick, incredibly rich curry makes its way into the fleshy skin of the salmon and gives it an exceptional flavour rivalled only by the fish’s crispy skin.
Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the daily specials. One of my favourite dishes of the day was the King Prawn Linguini ($35) with chives, butter and freshly shaved Tasmanian black truffle. There are already a few seafood pasta dishes on the permanent menu (I felt the opportunity cost hard when I noticed the Blue Swimmer Crab Lasagne), but I do hope this one is added without delay. Beautiful al dente pasta flecked with fresh, juicy king prawn and drawing heavily on the distinctive flavour of best-in-class truffle – I couldn’t have loved it more.
Don’t Forget Dessert
New pastry chef Aren Edye should already be well known for his incredible work at Love, Tilly Devine, and for Manta he refreshes the dessert menu to keep it on par with everything else. Proof is in the exceptional and dangerously addictive Lemon Myrtle Curd ($18) with vebena anglaise, lemon sorbet and citrus tuile, holding back on strength and opting for a beautifully balanced profile. Similar is the surprisingly restrained Chocolate Brulee ($18) with sesame brittle, milk and mint sorbet.
Stand Outs: King Prawn Linquini; Hiramasa Kingfish Carpaccio; Lemon Myrtle Curd
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Address: 6/6 Cowper Wharf Roadway, Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
Contact: (02) 9332 3822
The writer dined as a guest of Manta Restaurant & Bar. This is not a sponsored post and all opinions are of the writers.
Feature image supplied and credited to @rebeccavanderhoekphoto. All other photos by Chris Singh.