Let's Do Lunch: Kenji @ Opera Kitchen, Sydney (25th October 2013)

As part of The Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food Month, restaurants in the Good Food Guide are offering lunch specials in the month of October for Sydneysiders to sample some of the best dishes they have to offer. Aptly named Let's Do Lunch, for just $38, you get to sample the lunch menu offered by the selected restaurant, choice of a glass of Brown Brothers wine, a Coopers Beer, or a S. Pellegrino sparkling or Acqua Panna still mineral water, plus tea or coffee to finish. Each restaurant lists their menu on the Good Food Month site so you can decide in advance if the menu entices you before heading over. The Let's Do Lunch is available weekdays only during normal restaurant lunch hours though some of the regional restaurants may offer it during weekends as well.

From the list of 47 restaurants available for lunch in the Sydney CBD area (there are 74 restaurants in total participating in Let's Do Lunch), I picked Kenji at the Opera Kitchen. I've been to the Sydney Opera House for many events but never once eaten at Opera Kitchen so this was a great opportunity for me to check it out. Located on the lower concourse of the Sydney Opera House, the Opera Kitchen is a conglomerate of restaurants - Kenji, MissChu, Cloudy Bay Fish Co and of course, Opera Kitchen themselves, each with its own selection of dishes that adds to Opera Kitchen's extensive international menu. The place was buzzing when I turned up at noon with lunchtime patrons and tourists enjoying the spectacular harbour views and warmth of the sun. No booking was required - I was able to order and pay for my set meal directly at the counter. The Let's Do Lunch menu here is available daily between hours 11.30am - 3pm and consists of a plate of sashimi, sushi and carpaccio (choice of salmon, kingfish or scallop). I went for the scallop carpaccio, glass of Brown Brothers Pinot Grigio (you don't get a say in they type of wine - it's pre-selected to pair with the food) and coffee option. I was given a number for my order and also a free large booklet featuring Sydney Opera House's 40th anniversary signature dishes from their iconic chefs to take home.

Opera Kitchen located on the lower concourse of the Sydney Opera House

Hmm, finding a table was harder than I thought. It wasn't the lack of availability but the fact that there were many seagulls lurking around too close to the tables (they are such a menace!). Getting pooped on doesn't appeal to me either...I eventually found one that got me some sun but not too much (shaded but can still feel the warmth) and my pinot grigio turned up shortly after I sat down. Crisp and dry with citrus flavours - nice and refreshing for a beautiful spring afternoon. It was easy to drink but I had to pace myself since the food wasn't even served up yet! Some 10 minutes later, my meal arrived. Beautifully presented on a single large square plate, the food looked fantastic - several thick pieces of tuna, kingfish and salmon, a saucer of scallop carpaccio with the scallop thinly sliced and placed to look like a flower, dotted with bright orange salmon roe, and nigirizushi (aka hand-pressed sushi) of tuna, kingfish, salmon and prawn each, with a small saucer of soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger on the side. Can't wait to dig in but first, photo for my blog!

View from my table towards the covered seating area

"ARGHHHHHH!" I screamed as I jumped up from my seat. While I was busy angling my camera for the shot, two seagulls swooped in from both sides aiming towards the food and one of them swerved and toppled the glass of wine which spilled EVERYWHERE! My dress was soaked in wine and the food had a good drenching too. I wasn't impressed - damn you seagulls! The maitre'd promptly came over and asked if I was OK (it was then I noticed other patrons had their eyes on me). "Let's seat you further in and I will bring you a new set," she said politely as she cleaned up the table. I was still a bit shaken from the experience and numbly followed her to another table, this time located furthest in from the waterfront. Fortunately I don't have to eat the wine-sodden food - it was a really nice of Opera Kitchen to prepare me a brand new meal.

Round 2, this time I managed to get my photo and happily proceeded with lunch. I started off with the scallop carpaccio which was just was divine. Sweet-tasting raw slices of scallop with slightly salty mouth-popping salmon roe in a soy-based mixture. Mmm, I can do with more of this...

Let's Do Lunch: Kenji @ Opera Kitchen ($38) - Brown Brothers Pinot Grigio with a plate of sashimi, sushi and scallop carpaccio

"Again?" asked the South American lady from the next table as she gave me an oh-you-are-so-pitiful look. Yep, I cannot believe my luck. I've moved seats but nothing deters these savage seagulls. I was about to have my first sushi when a seagull appeared from freaking nowhere and flew off with all three of my salmon sashimi - WTF! Instead of having a relaxing Friday lunch, I found myself on guard the whole time and eating with extreme speed in fear of a repeat incident (I probably finished the whole thing including drowning my glass of wine in less than 10 minutes). Even though the food was well presented and fresh, there was just no way anyone could enjoy Kenji's Let's Do Lunch menu with seagulls around; I was traumatised by the whole experience. I'm not sure if Opera Kitchen can make the dining experience any better, perhaps using a cover for the plate (I suspect it is the smell of raw fish that attracts the birds) or better still, use some device that actually gets the seagulls well away from dining customers.

Oh god, the alcohol is just going straight to my head...coffee, I need it now! The flat white took forever - for some reason they had forgotten about it and it didn't help that my order number was taken away when they cleared my first table. After enquiring about my coffee twice, it finally came. The coffee here was pretty good. Though I didn't think the seagulls would want my coffee, I was still on guard mode looking around for the bastards...see what I mean about being traumatised?

Flat white (also part of the set meal)

Kenji Japanese @ Opera Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


  1. those seagulls are very smart down at circular quay. i once came out of mcdonalds with a cheeseburger and one of them dive bombed me and nearly grabbed it out of my hand. i ended up chasing it around customs house like a crazy man. thanks for the warning about the seagulls. i think i'll stick to the restaurants that have seating inside like est for the same price with table service. my rule of thumb for let's do lunch is always go for the most hatted restaurants. if you're going to pay the same price you might as well go for the most expensive restaurants on the list :-)

    1. Thanks for the tip Simon - I'll be sure to note your rule of thumb for next year's Good Food Month ;)


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