Phone: (09) 302 9886
Cost: Small $8-$22; large $18-$42; dumplings $18-$20; desserts $10
The Professor suggested it wasn't fair to review Seven in a column called "Let's Eat". "It's a bar," she said. But the group that stood aside for us as we came down the narrow staircase had plainly come to eat.
"What's the food like?" one of them asked and when the Professor did one of those little hand-wiggles that means "so-so", they hooted in chorus, the way teenagers do when they catch two teachers snogging.
A bar? Drinks take up more than half the space on the menu but the web page promises "a new boisterous Asian eatery with Ebisu head chef Fred Wong at its reins" offering "pan-Asian delicacies" and "unrivalled views of the harbour".
Well, actually, there are many views of the harbour to rival Seven's and our view was of a rust-stained Panamanian-registered car carrier tied up at Marsden. That's not Seven's fault, of course, but there is much else that is.
Seven, on the rooftop of the Seafarers Building that also houses Ostro, will probably be quite nice in summer. It has royal-blue fake grass on the floor and a marquee roof that gives it the feel of a functions venue. Most tables have a chair on one side and on the other a padded bench, which is set too low, although having your plate at chin level makes it harder to spill stuff on your shirt.
What, then, of the pan-Asian delicacies? I took it from the phrase "at its reins" that Wong wasn't in the kitchen, but rather downstairs at Ebisu, and he was an executive chef here. But whoever was making the food was presumably working to his exacting specifications, including for a duck dish so disastrous it beggars description, but I'll try.
It was called Duck & Bao on the menu, a name at least suggestive of Chinese inspiration (bao is the Mandarin name for steamed buns, and it came with plum sauce), and the duck was described as twice-cooked. But the second cooking was the deep-frying in miso batter of an entire leg, which gave it a cloggy, soggy crust like that of bad fish and chips.
Once we removed this - it was more than half of the supposedly edible matter - what remained was a grey, overcooked leg, which we dissected with chopsticks and fitted into the buns with the accompanying agricultural slices of cucumber. The accoutrements suggested a spin on Peking duck, but it was more of a vicious parody really and it easily ranks among the worst 10 dishes I've eaten this year.
The rest of the food was nowhere near as bad, but it was nowhere near good, either. A ceviche of yellowfin tuna was ruined by a jalapeno mayo, which obliterated any flavour, and although grilled toothfish with a miso glaze was tasty, it's a matter of regret that both of these, the only fish on the menu, have questionable sustainability ratings.
A dish of barbecued lamb chops, with a smoky eggplant puree was also perfectly nice, but asking $36 for three small chops is a joke almost as unfunny as that duck. Of the house fried rice, studded with slices of that MSG- and sugar-rich sausage called lap cheong, all I will say is that it is not an Asian delicacy. Desserts, one of house-made marshmallow, the other of mango and sago, were routine but at least not dear.
Take a tip from the Professor and treat the place as a bar and you'll probably be happy. But if you do decide to eat, do yourself a favour: avoid the duck.