To avoid blanket election coverage, we escaped to an old favourite, the pan-asian China Doll, for a leisurely dinner. This restaurant is not achingly hip and it’s not focused on bringing one single regional cuisine to light, it’s unashamedly a broad church of asian specialities. But it works because the standards of cooking and service are consistently good (and delicious!), although the location can make it a bit pricey.
In Sydney we like to see ourselves as a great place for year round outside dining, and dining on Woolloomooloo wharf on the harbour is a great example. The stunning old renovated finger wharf, with it’s parade of restaurants and all the front walls flung open, keeps winter diners cosy under the gas heaters even if the temperature has dipped below 10°.
Starting the feast
It’s a great place to share with a group of friends so we indulged in the $105 luxury banquet. Starting with melt-in-the mouth ocean trout sashimi with blackened chilli dressing to give it bite, leads us beautifully to the plump tasty mouthfuls of shu mai with chilli oil, plus steamed prawn and green bean dumplings with black pepper, black sesame and lime.
Getting seriously stuck in at China Doll
Nothing beats rolling our own classic duck pancakes with cucumber and rich plum sauce, very moreish indeed. And quickly followed with the wonderful sounding wok fried alaskan king crab with black pepper, black sesame and lime – the sauce was intensely tangy and the crab legs were broken up enough before serving to make it relatively easy to access the crab meat, while still giving us a great excuse to get our hands filthy. The waterbowls for occasional cleaning were essential and much appreciated.
Girding ourselves for four more beautiful savoury dishes
By this stage I was starting to feel nicely sated, however there was much more to come. In succession we had the whole steamed market fish, the wok fried beef fillet with oyster mushroom and fragrant wine sauce, masterstock pork belly with chilli caramel and nam pla phrik, and steamed broccolini with oyster sauce providing some much needed greens.The sweet caramelisation of the pork belly, its mixture of crunchy and perfectly rendered fat, made it the naughty favourite of the night.
Making room for China Doll dessert
I’m feeling pretty full at this stage, so I appreciate a decent break in the proceedings before the desserts arrive. Whetting my appetite again is the pretty trio of sago, passionfruit, palm sugar; sticky rice with cinnamon and apple; and a further trio of sorbets! All delicious, and the tart raspberry sorbet in particular went well with both the other desserts.
Best bits: this pork belly never fails, the “outdoor but warmed” environment.
Worst bits: the price is high.
Where was I?
China Doll, 4/6 Cowper Walk Rd, Woolloomooloo, Sydney 2011
So have you eaten at China doll, tell me what you think?