Ah, what a beautiful thing. Perfectly rested steak, where the inside is juicy and pink (that's the way I ordered it) and the outside seared and flavoursome, thanks to caramelisation from the grill.
The magic, however, is in how all those succulent, meaty juices stay inside the steak and don't end up pouring out of the beef and into the sauce. The trick is to rest the meat and you'd be surprised just how many restaurants get this simplest of techniques wrong.
I'm here at the Palisade Hotel, the tall pub that stands out like an asparagus spear in Millers Point, the other side of The Rocks, to the west of Observatory Hill.
We've got the best table in the house, which isn't hard to snare considering there are only two other tables dining. From our window we can see the rejuvenation of Walsh Bay and Millers Point and behind, our wonderful Harbour Bridge.
Palisade is the stomping ground of Brian Sudek (and longtime offsider Matthew Quinn). He's been here for eight years, ever since he moved (originally with Annie Parmentier, now at Castlecrag's Lunch) from Beach Road at Palm Beach. It has been a long while since I ate here but not a lot seems to have changed.
I easily find the pub, then find the narrow, greeny blue stairs to the restaurant and arrive at a series of cute, old-fashioned rooms with smudgy yellowy walls, a fireplace and humorous paintings.
Tonight the adept, lone waiter is sporting the remnants of a mohawk and is less than gazelle-like as he moves over the pine floorboards. Not that he needs to move fast on a quiet night like this.
To our white paper-covered table he delivers three seared sea scallops ($19). They're paired with chewy, lightly spicy preserved eggplant, which is very lemony and very good.
Silky textured fresh pappardelle (ribbon pasta, $17) comes smothered in a tomatoey sauce, full of gelatinous chunks of oxtail meat. A fine dice of preserved lemon on top adds sparkle to the flavours, cutting the richness and adding a fineness that takes the dish from good to wonderful.
Deceptively simple cooking appears again, this time in the roasting of Thirlmere spatchcock with green olives ($26.50), served with a dollop of goat's cheese and roasted tomato. One of the reasons I love spatchcock (young chicken) is because it has more skin to meat. And I love this one because the skin is browned before being spread with green olive puree and the meat is moist, naturally fresh and sweet. I'm not sure it needs the goat's cheese but it certainly doesn't hurt.
Then this. The quintessential steak. A few slices of Diamantina beef are from what appears to be the butt of the fillet (the fat rather than thin end, $29.50). They're served with an onion and muscatel grape-graced agrodolce sauce, which is the new sweet and sour to you and me.
Yes, I've had better meat and I've had better sauces. But rarely at this price. This is food you want every day: something cooked better than you could do at home, using produce you'd spend all day trying to buy and served with casual charm in a room with glimpses of the bridge.
Even the side dishes aren't relegated to mediocrity. The skinniest, youngest beans I've seen in a long time come mingled with snow peas in a mustard vinaigrette dressing, scattered with crushed pistachios ($7).
Dessert is a little lower key. Rhubarb and vanilla ice-cream terrine ($13) comes as two pink and cream triangles, like the best bit of Neapolitan ice-cream, with a few strands of tender, sweet-sour rhubarb for interest.
A couple of cracked meringues ($13) are a bit chewy but you can blame the humidity. They're draped with a dreamy, delightfully balanced, sour and sweet passionfruit curd but could do without the hard, white-centred strawberries on top.
There's no heavy analysis needed here, no desire to kick the tyres and open and shut doors, as it were. This is food you want to devour.
Would you drive across town for it? Probably not but since most suburbs don't have food like this, you certainly might linger after work. Sure, they could give the window ledges a bit of a wipe but Palisade is the perfect pub for its place. It serves satisfying food, cooked remarkably well - it's enough to make you feel as well-rested as that steak.