David Zhou’s formal Chinese restaurant has had a 2012 make-under. Gone are the plush banquettes and novelty lamps, replaced with distressed school chairs, share tables, and a pristine white wash paint-job. Your placemat is the menu, and it’s spruiking regional-style share dishes. Tick, tick, tick. Our waiter even has an asymmetrical flop of hair.
There are some great dishes: braised eggplant, spicy, soft and tangy with garlic, chilli and black vinegar; a bowl of chilled, hard-boiled quail eggs, steeped in oolong tea with fragrant wolf berries giving them a slight aniseed kick, and little school prawns, flash fried for crunching down whole. But what’s with the rush? There’s no angry mob waiting for our seats, and yet everything hits the table instantly, out of order and with no explanation.
Mains arrive immediately, while run-of-the-mill dumplings and (better) stuff-’em-yourself pork buns (sweet steamed bread with a spoonable cube of gelatinous pork belly) bring up the rear. A worrying indication that they’re the only dishes cooked to order. Speed doesn’t do favours for chewy pork ribs, or for the sections of sake-poached chicken, which are strangely clammy, ice-cold from the fridge.
But then, it’s a great room, wine starts at $35 and the menu steers creative over classic. If you’re in the ’hood and in a hurry, it’s not a bad option.