07 Feb The Superior Guide to Sydney Restaurants – Part 2
Welcome to part 2 of the Superior Linen Service Guide to Sydney Restaurants. Today we are looking at a couple of icons of the Sydney Restaurant scene and one up and comer with serious potential. So let’s get started!
This has been awarded two hats by the good food guide and it is easy to see why. The new chef Josh Raine has stamped his authority and delivering new ideas and as you can imagine the food and wine is exquisite. However, when you are paying over $600 for two people (including wine) it had better come with two hats and the best of everything! Paying this sort of money for a meal it has to be special, and to our great relief the experience lived up to our high expectations.
I won’t bother with with the do’s and don’ts for Tetsuya’s as it is all very good. You are in very safe hands with the team of chef Josh Raine and restaurant manager Michael Dove. Cheeky tip: The wait staff might look down at you if the tip is not to their expectation, after all they are used to dealing with well heeled individuals as opposed to me 🙂
Food is good as you would expect given Dan Hong is the chef in charge, he even managed to rope his mother in at one stage. Part of the Merivale group, Mr. Wong is a marketer’s dream, the restaurant is in a gloomy alley you would normally avoid but this adds to the character of the place. The street is lined with dim lights, located beside the Est hotel and at the loading docks of other restaurants with a cobbled road and lots of talking and laughter inside, it makes it very inviting.
Inside is what you imagine a Shanghai Speak Easy would look like between WWI and WWII, lots of seduction and personality.
The restaurant has two hats – but there is no apparent reason why, the staff are hanging around trying to get orders for food and deliver it to you as soon as possible, yes the food is tasty and yes there is some imagination in the dishes but the restaurant is about getting you in and out as soon as possible to reset and utilize the space for new patrons – I have no illusions about restaurants and their need to get the best bang for their dollar and this means turning over patrons as soon as they can but this has to be done with finesse. Unfortunately Mr. Wong does not do this with finesse at all and this becomes obvious as the night progresses. We were aware in the way the waitress served us that we were meant to be in and out as quickly as possible. And it was not just her, the whole restaurant is based on churning through customers and getting the next lot in. This is a two-hatted restaurant, did I mention it is part of Merivale?
Tables are close together to get more people in and the chatter and laughter, means it is difficult to have a conversation and hard to hear what others on the table are saying. I feel it would be different during lunch, there would not be as many people drinking but it detracts from any form of intimacy.
Food is good, but I would not say the staff make you feel special nor are you encouraged to deliberate about what is on offer. Overall the experience was reasonable but again I will not be making Mr. Wong a regular haunt. If you want essentially the same food in a relaxed atmosphere go to Queen Chow in the Queens Hotel, Enmore. This is part of Merivale and offers good food in the same vain but with the relaxation of a pub atmosphere. I have not seen two hats attributed to this location but as it is Merivale let’s wait and see.
DO’S AND DONT’S
DO – try the duck, as they will tell you themselves they have a whole room dedicated to it.
DON’T go for a long lunch or extended meal they have ways of making you feel uncooperative.
Located in Surry Hills but only just, Commonwealth Street is fast becoming the place to be. Chin Chin, made the smartest move before opening and hired Craig Hemmings as General Manager, the man has an amazing ability to make things work, he has the Midas touch when it comes to anything hospitality.
This is a restaurant that has 250 seats and even though the staff are attentive, it is easy to see how there could be mistakes made. We had to book and wait an hour to be seated – this would be a fantastic opportunity for Harpoon Harry – the pub across the road to make an impact and offer something unique as it is the obvious place to go when waiting for a table at Chin Chin. However, they have remained completely oblivious to it, and not changed a thing.
We sat at the bar of Chin Chin to absorb the atmosphere, there is lots happening, and the place is full of enthusiasm, vibrant and lively. This is no accident it is designed this way, full of light and enthusiastic staff… The magic touch of Hemmings!
Chin Chin did not hide behind a promise but shouted to anyone and everyone that it is not a purveyor of the best food but is a purveyor of very good food and an amazing atmosphere. Hemmings has driven Chin Chin forward and made it an experience to rival the excellent Melbourne version of the restaurant.
There are the same “WOW” experiences you can get when you see the table and menu. Their menu is unique and their signature “Manga” on the back welcomes you to Chin Chin.
Must try dishes:
Stir Fry Prawn, Bug Tail, Egg Noodle– it is spicy, but it is a must dish. It is not an ordinary seafood noodle, you will get prawn and bug tail in every bite.
Coconut Sago with Ice Cream- I never liked Sago until Chin Chin Coconut Sago. Milky in the bottom but “Icey” shaved ice on top to make it perfect texture! It is okay to share with friends in winter, but you will stop sharing this dessert once weather gets warmer! Different seasonable fruits used throughout the year.
There are “Feed me” menu as sharing plates but à la carte is always the better option to try something new and ensure other people do not get any! Of course if you feel the dish is not as unique as you thought it was then you offer to others on that basis – After all it is important to share and be generous (or so my mother told me).
Things to consider:
- If you do not like queues try getting to the restaurant at 11am or between 3-5pm where you have more chance to get in without waiting.
- Invite your friends (6 or more) to get in as a group. They will take a group booking and you do not have to visit Harpoon Harrys.
DO’S AND DONT’S
DO – Try as much as you can it is all nice and the staff are helpful
DON’T Get upset if there is an hour’s wait, there is plenty to do and soon there will be another bar opening. Ester’s new venture is opening and hopefully Matt will be delivering some of his talent to the adoring followers.
Don’t forget that just down the street is Longrain. This restaurant has been in business for well over 18 years and there is a good reason why. It has exceptional food with Griff and Jin delivering imaginative and delicious offerings, sadly the man behind the scenes Dan Knight that drove front of house has moved on and will be sorely missed. But as he has said himself he needs a new challenge so we all wish him the best and wait to find out where he will be going and make sure we visit as he is someone that makes a difference.
There are numerous components that affect your dining experience, I feel there is a tendency to look towards the venue as the major contributor but as with anything the venue is a manifestation of the people behind it. From the top down and from the bottom up if there is the right sort of attitude it becomes obvious. See below for a one sentence summary of each venue.
- Tetsuya’s – Sophistication and perfection.
- Mr. Wong – Has the promise of something but does not quite get there. Food is good but not fantastic and experience reasonable but not great. Also, probably slightly over priced.
- Chin Chin – Tons of enthusiasm and vibrancy, credible food, attitude, and atmosphere.
Next week, for all you pasta lovers out there, I’ll be reviewing Italian restaurants. So, yet again my wife and I will sacrifice ourselves and dine at some of Sydney’s best venues. All in an attempt to bring you an unbiased opinion of the Sydney restaurant scene. Martyrs aren’t we?