Witness the unstoppable power that is chef Kylie Kwong
You can’t help but want to get involved with whatever thing chef Kylie Kwong is passionate about right now. It’s a list that just keeps on growing, from bush herbs to bespoke gin. She’s now at the forefront of a culinary push of Australian wine-makers, distillers, producers and brewers. Thankfully, she still has time to make Chinese food.
If you’ll recall the first Billy Kwong site on Crown Street, it was a dinky room with cripplingly low stools where getting up to visit the loos was a process of knocking over teacups, and likely putting an elbow in somebody’s XO eggs (more on those later) or their “fair trade” chocolate (that too).
But the new site, a large room painted in an outback palette of burnt umber and rust (is that a bushel of gum leaves in the ladies?) down the Paul Keating end of Potts Point, features – among many other comforts – chairs at human height with actual back support. A long counter facing the open kitchen means punters can get up close and personal with Kwong 2.0, now with Bluetooth headset.
A cab/sauv that’s spent time on a mix of fiano and viognier skins from Sutton Grange is eminently drinkable. It’s also a perfect match with the glossy orb of meltingly short pastry, filled with shredded braised wallaby meat and served with a Davidson plum jam. While we’re talking buns, there’s also the sweet and fluffy steamed pork number accompanied by a blood-pumpingly hot chilli sauce. Approach with caution.
But enough talk of wine. A side serve of fat hen, purslane and amaranth stir-fried with garlic makes good friends with the classic juicy cold cut chicken, hiding under a mountain of thin-sliced green onion. A block of silken tofu wears thin strands of kombu, which have the texture of a sticky sea creature and the look of tattered silk. It’s definitely all about the mouth-feel with this one, and it really needs rice. Steamed Hokkein noodles are just straight up mindlessly delicious. Here, the noodles are interlaced in a mingle of hot, refreshing and fragrant herbs (coriander, holy basil, mint), dill, thinly sliced cucumber, bean shoots and a julienne of carrots.
Still standing? We are, barely. But barely is all you need when it comes to dessert here, where they keep it simple and low-key. A light ginger panna cotta or a perfect creamy quenelle of “fair trade” chocolate mousse is enough to put a sugar twinge to rest.
There are a few teething issues with some less experienced members of staff, though. Why take away an almost full hot bowl of rice, offering to refresh it for the next course, then put it on the bill? It seems a little mean. It’s probably not a bad shout to greet new guests at reception rather than pretending they’re not there while you print out a handful of dockets, either.
But hey - we’ll gladly take a small amount of green service for the greater good here. And there’s plenty of it. Great, even.