If you haven't tried stir-fried milk, you need to rectify this. Immediately. It's one of the highlights at the newly opened Queen Chow, finally flinging open its doors in December after months of delays. But you know what? The wait has been worth it. There's been some serious investment in the concept, fit-out and menu by the Merivale group, resulting in a quirky mash-up of suburban hotel bar meets Hong Kong street food headed by executive chefs Patrick Friesen and Chris Hogarth, both ex-Papi Chulo.
Ground floor bar at Queen Chow
Merivale look to be rebranding Enmore's Queen Victoria Hotel as Queens Hotel but I reckon locals will always call it the Queen Vic. The ground floor has been overhauled from RSL-style bistro to an old-fashioned pub. The small dining tables at the back score a view of all the action in the kitchen.
Upstairs dining area
Upstairs the changes are even more dramatic, with a moody cocktail bar area called The Smelly Goat. The covered outdoor dining area is immediately worth seeking, bathed in natural light but cleverly sheltered from any wind or rain.
Queen Chow steamed dim sum platter $32
Housemade dumplings headline the Hong Kong-themed menu at lunchtime. Dim sum master Eric Koh previously worked his dumpling magic with Merivale at Mr Wong before being poached by Tim Ho Wan Australia. He then returned to the Merivale fold with dim sum pop-up Work in Progress before joining the Queen Chow crew.
Wild mushroom dumpling
Dumplings may be a dime a dozen in Sydney but there's a noticeable level of finesse in the dumplings by Koh. The skins are thin and just the right level of stickiness, steamed so the dumplings are still plump and juicy without feeling soggy or waterlogged.
You can order dumplings individually, but the easiest way to try several at once is to order the steamed dim sum platter. The dumplings vary by day - today we score the scallop and prawn, jade seafood, wild mushroom and crystal pumpkin.
The scallop and prawn dumpling is adorned with a generous splodge of tobiko flying fish roe and the jade seafood dumpling skin is tinted a pretty shade of green by using spinach. The crystal pumpkin is expectedly sweet, with an impressive translucency to the tapioca and wheat starch skins. My surprise favourite of the lot is the wild mushroom, yielding an intense umami hit.
Stir fried milk, prawns, prawn roe, tobiko and fried bread $24
Equally satisfying is the stir fried milk. This Hong Kong classic involves a mixture of egg whites, milk and corn starch carefully heated until the mixture barely sets. Add in sweet chunks of prawn and an avalanche of tobiko and relish the textural contrast against the wobbly clouds of milky egg white.
We do find the you tiao deep fried bread sticks a little on the dense and chewy side, but expect these to improve as the kitchen finds its feet.
Hokkien noodles, Sichuan pork slices, black fungi and garlic stems $24
There's no mention of chilli against the Hokkien noodle dish but be warned, this one packs a punch. It's a satisfying, and sambal-heavy tangle of chewy Hokkien noodles tossed with tender pork slices, crunchy black fungus, crisp garlic stems and a smattering of sesame seeds.
Slightly fires the emperor of cuttlefish, macadamia and garlic chive $16
Winner of most poetic dish on the menu is the slightly fires the emperor, a textural crunchfest of garlic stems, young corn, cuttlefish, black fungus and macadamia nuts.
Chong Qing hot and numbing chicken wings $18
And if you're looking for maximum flavour, Chong Qing hot and numbing chicken wings deliver on its promise. There's a ridiculous amount of Sichuan pepper in here, coupled with dried red chillies that will wallop your tongue into submission. But you won't be able to stop eating that chicken, fried to an audible crisp and dancing with chilli and mouth-numbing Sichuan pepper.
Typhoon shelter mud crab market price - we paid $140 for 1kg
If you really want to splash out - and we're celebrating two birthdays so we do - go for broke and order the typhoon shelter mud crab. You'll be rewarded with enough deep fried garlic to ward off all of Transylvania. It's one big mess of garlic, chilli, black beans and soy.
Crab goodness inside the carapace
Go in with your fingers and lick, suck and scrape every last skerrick of crab meat that you can find. The best bits are in the carapace of course.
Coffee milk tea $15
Unlike most Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong, dessert is not just a bowl of the housemade red bean soup. Coffee milk tea is a clever homage to the Hong Kong addiction to coffee and tea mixed together in the one drink. Yes, really.
Queen Chow's assembly of chocolate mud cake bites and caramel ice domes (infused with tea and then bruleed to the surface is caramelised) piled high with instant coffee mousse is far more pleasurable. Its combination of cream and coffee flavours is reminiscent of tiramisu. Tiny salted caramel balls and a shower of praline dust provide textural interest.
The forgotten koi fish in the frozen pond $15
The forgotten koi fish in the frozen pond is a story you'll have to ask your waiter about. Tastewise, it's just the kind of dessert you want in a Sydney summer, combining fresh coconut, mango and pink pomelo with lychee granita, mango ice cream and two beautifully shaped and shaded koi fish made from mango pudding. The purple frilly pieces are tosaka seaweed. They add a terrific savoury note.
Executive chef Patrick Friesen in the kitchen
And the best news of all? Queen Chow is open until 2am every night except Sunday. Win.
Queens Hotel (aka the Queen Victoria Hotel)
167 Enmore Road, Enmore, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9240 3000
Monday to Thursday 12pm-2am
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1/08/2017 03:16:00 am