Life was so much simpler for The Star when it launched in September 1995 as Sydney Harbour Casino in a temporary venue nicknamed ‘the shed’ because frankly, it was a long, cavernous tin shed across the road from the current site. Two years later, Star City, the permanent facility was born on a warm September night in 1997. The decor was intended as a tribute to Sydney’s casual, sun, beach and blue skies, however, it was just too casual for locals who were expecting Monte Carlo glam, a new nickname was also coined – the “RSL on steroids”. None of that mattered because the casino was a monopoly – granted by the NSW government to attract a developer. The last extension was granted in 2008 for a further 12 years of exclusivity. And the punters flocked in – by car, light rail, buses that spread across Sydney ferrying locals and via private jets chauffeuring Asian gambling ‘whales’.
Perhaps with an eye on impending competition, Star City was refurbished in a $1b makeover and relaunched as The Star in September 2011. When the curtains lifted, the glitter was all too evident – Calvin Klein, Chanel and Gucci (darling) retail outlets graced Sydney’s latest renovated landmark. Not quite the hedonistic range found in Macau or Crown, but heck, it was a lot more prestigious than Scene to Believe photography that occupied the retail concourse of Star City (Scene to Believe is where where your photo is taken against a green screen and helpfully inserted all sorts of zany scenes – in the middle of a cluster of koalas, being attached by sharks on Sydney Harbour, you get the idea).
The Star’s food offering is now simply stellar, the crowning glory is Momofuku Seiobo, super star chef, David Chang’s first outside the US, Black by Ezard, Chase Kojima’s Sokyo and of course, Stefano Manfredi’s Balla.
Balla looks stunning and offers a jaw-dropping outlook with floor to ceiling glass walls facing the Harbour. Inside it feels spacious thanks to cathedral high ceilings, minimalist, functional decor and a gleaming silver kitchen, the generous use of wood and golden lighting basks the restaurant in a warm, intimate glow. Attractive, slender waiters float like angels in their crisp, brilliant white shirts with elegant black highlights.
Noodlies, Sydney food blog is at Balla to taste Manfredi’s Buon Natale (Christmas menu). While Balla is Milanese-inspired, the relative heaviness of the north gives way to southern influences – more seafood, lighter sauces and fresher flavours – perfect for the Sydney summer.
The menu gets off to a light, zesty start, with differently textured seafood spilling from a vegetable shell. The seafood taste is obvious but not overwhelming, teasing you to have more. The ravioli is an unintentional ‘shock and awe’ moment, I’m no Italian expert and the lively al dente pasta takes me by surprise and succeeds in waking up my senses to explore and enjoy this dish – lucky, because how often does one get to taste fish ravioli? The stuffed turkey breast anchors the menu providing heartiness to the meal; it’s a more typical northern dish while the turkey is a nod to the Festive season. Dessert is everything I love in the one dish, soft and spongy panettone (none of that stale, dry mass produced stuff) made more heavenly by mascarpone that lightens everything including my head.
See Stefano Manfredi explain this special menu below and read on for a special Balla offer for noodlies readers.
Buon Natale Menu, with matching wine
Insalata di frutti di mare, prawn, calamari and octopus salad
2010 Casa Coste Piane Proscecco Naturale
Ravioli di pesce, salsa pomodoro e pepperoncino, burata and zucchini flower filled ravioli with cherry tomato and marjoram
2010 Torre Varano Falanghina
Tacchino ripieno, roast stuffed turkey breast
2010 Feudo Arancio Nero d’Avola
Panettone, mascarpone e ciliegie, panettone with mascarpone and poached cherries
Stellar Special offer for noodlies, Sydney food blog readers
You too can experience this Buon Natale menu with matching wine. Simply need to call 1800 700 700 and quote “BALLA BLOGGER” when making your booking to receive $10 off the Buon Natale dinner hosted by Stefano Manfredi. It’s a limited offer, for a limited time.
80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont
Ph: (02) 9777 9000
Noodlies, Sydney food blog dined as a guest of Balla.