I recently met Matt Moran for a coffee in the city near Aria, which has now been gracing the Brisbane dining scene for six months.
And what was he raving about? Not the latest special at Aria but the braised beef cheek followed by apple crumble served up by two friends the night before.
"Bloody good," was his comment. "It was great to have friends cook for me."
Where does he like to eat in Brisbane? Peasant, Crosstown Eating House, Anise, Sardine Tin, Pearl Cafe and Montrachet are on the list. He says Sono, at Portside, would stand up against any Japanese restaurant in Australia. And he doesn't mind a steak at the Normanby.
We had a chat about what's happening in the restaurant and what it's like to be on Master Chef .
Matt credited Master Chef with encouraging increased interest in food. He said it was great that little kids were now getting into food and to see people appreciating quality and what it takes to put things on a plate.
In Aria, Matt says to expect to see some of his own branded beef coming though along with the lamb of which he is so proud. There's also some special baby vegetables from the Blue Mountains that will be a feature during winter.
When it comes to Queensland produce, Matt is a fan of spanner crab and coral trout but is not sold on Hervey Bay scallops.
Matt smiled when he told me bookings at Aria were strong and they recently experienced their best week ever! The latest lunch menu offers one course at $35 per person, two courses at $55 per person and three courses at $70 per person.
So what's on Aria's menu at the moment? Expect kingfish served with spanner crab, avocado, harissa and a smoked tea seasoning; cured ocean trout with celeriac rémoulade and beetroot mousse; as well as some of Aria's favourites .... duck pie with caramelised witlof and parsnip, and the melt-in-your-mouth twice-cooked Bangalow Sweet Pork belly with apple purée, black pudding and Pedro Ximénez gel.
I've lunched at Aria twice and must say the food exceeded my expectations each time. I particularly like the restaurant's reinterpretation of classic desserts and the intense flavours involved. Delish!