Sunday, April 29, 2007

China Doll - Sydney

Introduction: At 4/6 Cowper Wharf Rd (Finger Wharf) Woolloomooloo this modern Chinese restaurant sits in the middle of a long strip of restaurants along the wharf.
Ambience: This Iain Halliday designed restaurant is pleasant but quite unexceptional. The rear wall has a blown up photograph of a willow pattern and there is a willow pattern plate at each table setting. An inside/outside space evenly split seating about 60 and an upstairs area seating a further 40 with views over the wharf of some expensive real estate is pretty well identical to the neighbouring restaurants. The cloth covered tables and serviettes are a nice change from the paper covers that are becoming so common today. On a warm day it's a joy to sit at an outside table
Service: prompt and reasonably efficient. A liitle over enthusiastic about the wine and cocktails

Food: Certainly the best thing about the place. We had, and thorougly enjoyed the $75 Degustation menu.

Starting with an excellent Hiramasu Kingfish and ocean trout sashimi in a light black bean vinagarette sauce folwed by an equally excellent, do it yourself, Kurobuta pork and peanut san choy bau.
The chilli salt squid was not so hot as to kill the taste buds and the well balanced tea smoked trout salad that followed could not be faulted.

The black pepper prawns with Yellow squash and snowpeas was pleasing to the eye as well as to the palate. I was less impressed with the Jungle curry of Blue eye with snake beans, which were very fibrous, and green peppercorns The delicate taste of the blue eye was drowned in he hot curry sauce.
The tea smoked duck was very tender with a strong smoky taste and the stir fried Chinese greens and Jasmine steamed rice were good accompaniments.
The crispy pork belly with a separate dish of chilli caramel was thorouhly overcooked and both far too dry and lacking the usual tenderness. Finally a most colourful plate of fresh fruit completed the meal
Wine; We enjoyed a light red - Moss Wood Amy's Vineyard Cab Merot ($58) There is a modest wine list with a few by the glass. Bottle prices start at about $40. They do have a cocktail list from about $14 to $19 in their words "Demonstrate the power of flavour, through altering composition of texture and taste, (to) explain the emrging international discipline of Molecular Mixology" Wow I don't know whether to laugh or cry!!!
When China Doll claims that these drinks"pay homage to and thank many of the great bartenderswho helped build China Doll to where it is today" All of two and a half years old by the way, I feel offended by the claptrap.
Price: At a little over $100/head I thought it was fair value. Mains on the a la carte menu are around $35

Comments: They do manage a balanced synergy of tastes and flavours. Worth a visit

Score: 14.75/20

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