A welcoming trend I’ve noticed recently in the Sydney food scene is the emergence of high-end modern Chinese cuisine such as Mr Wongs, China Republic etc. Waitan definitely fits into this category and it is definitely interesting to experience their interpretations of traditional dishes and as well as their own creations.
The name choice, Waitan, is an interesting choice as the name is synonymous in Chinese with The Bund (the river located in the centre of Shanghai). Consequently, one expects the restaurant to host Shanghainese based cuisine. This is not the case, with the name more so symbolizing the relationship between the East and West. The cuisine is an extensive selection of dishes from the various regions China, from Cantonese style dishes to Shanghainese, Szechuen and fusion Chinese-Western dishes. And when I mean extensive I mean it, the menu has probably one the largest array of dishes to select from, which makes the choice all more difficult!
The team at Waitan have done a great job in building a contemporary lux ambience, reminiscent of the “Shanghai-Colonial” era. The tables are quite nicely spaced apart there is enough space between each patron. The seats are also very comfortable especially with the added cushioning. However unlike other Chinese restaurants, there is an open kitchen.
Our host for the evening, Amy, did a great job selecting a few dishes for us to try. We begin with Premium Wild Mushroom with Superior Stock Soup ($16.80 per person), perfect as winter has definitely set in. The soup is easily a highlight. Each person receives a generous portion of soup in their own tea pot. The soup stays warm through out the meal as it sits above a small makeshift stove. The soup is clear and light and has nice southing feel.
Black Fungi Marinated with Onion and Wasabi Oil $12.80. One of the things i easily notice as the dishes come out is the attention to detail in presentation.
Sweet and Sour Prawns with Mango ($18.80). This entree was simple and nicely refreshing. The sweetness of the mango and dragon fruit nicely balanced the prawns.
I’ll be the first to say my tolerance to spicy food isn’t the best so when i heard it was a Sichuan dish my initial reaction was to go light on the dish and sauce. Luckily for me this dish was not as spicy as i expected. The poached chicken is fantastically tender and the accompany peanut and chilli sauce was an excellent combination. Sichuan Poached Chicken, Chilli Oil and Sesame Dressing ($19.80).
Out the back, Waitan has a $35,000 oven with the sole purpose of cooking Peking duck. With this type of investment you’d expect that this to be one of their showcase dishes. I was definitely not disappointed, the duck is succulent and moist. The peking duck is delicately cut (unlike a number of places where I’ve been,where the Peking duck look likes its been hacked). Imperial Peking Duck Half Duck $48.
The Blackmore Wagyu Beef (9+ score) cooked on a personal stove. All I can say is WOW! this beef just melted on my mouth. The only time i’ve had beef which was equally as good was having Kobe beef in Japan.
Braised bean curd with chicken mushroom and seasonal vegetable ($19.80).
We finished the meal with a Dessert Tasting Plate ($26.80). The tasting plate consists a mango cream with sago, lemon curd pavlova and macarons, which I found to be a bit of an odd combination. I always welcome pavlova as it’s one of my favourite desserts but i was still a little surprised it was on the tasting menu for a Chinese restaurant. The sago was superb, nicely refreshing and containing real mango bits. The only comment amongst our table was that it could be a little sweeter but i think that was more down to personal preference.
After dinner we were given a tour of the upstairs membership-restricted area. The area has a nice exclusive feel to it with a number of open bar areas, karaoke rooms and of course private dining areas.
Overall, Waitan provided a very memorable Chinese dining experience. The high quality of ingredients used is evident (especially the Wagyu beef) and we had fun with the interactive nature of some of the dishes. It’s definitely great to see a restaurant do something a bit different from the run-of the mill Chinese restaurants.
Disclaimer: PlanMB dined as guests of Waitan