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Monday, November 04, 2013

Waitan, Haymarket Chinatown

Peking duck oven Waitan chinese restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney

After a rumoured $10 million dollar refurbishment, Waitan was officially launched last Wednesday in a flashy spectacle of lamborghinis, willowy Asian models and free flowing magnums of Veuve Clicquot. The two-level restaurant takes up much of the newly built Chinatown Centre, nestled between Dixon House and Sussex Centre.

sculpture Waitan chinese restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
Sculpture at the entrance to Waitan

Waitan had been trading quietly for a week prior its official launch. Tucked inside the launch party goodie bag was a $50 voucher, so I return a couple of days later with friends in tow.

Dim and moody lighting, crisp white tablecloths, hanging birdcage light fittings and dark timber furniture are a sign that this is no cookie-cutter Chinese restaurant. There's a deliberate push for opulence here, including its O Lounge with partitioned cushioned platforms - or "opium" beds - for guests to recline on.

Upstairs are the private dining rooms, blinged up with baroque chandeliers, patterned wallpaper and cabinetry imported from China. The largest private room boasts Sydney's biggest dining table, measuring a whopping 5.2 metres across and seating 32 people.

dining room Waitan chinese restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
Waitan dining room

The first to arrive of our party, we're discreetly escorted to a lounge room waiting area and asked if we'd like a drink while we wait. We demur, but I'm guessing the push for alcohol spend must be part of the training, as we're asked four times if we'd like a drink within the space of about fifteen minutes.

fancy crockery plate spoon chopstick rest Waitan chinese restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
Fancy crockery

The crockery is fancy too although presumably the budget hasn't been extended to the in-house music. Hearing Vivaldi's Spring is funny the first time, conjuring up a sense that the blushing bride is about to arrive any minute, but after four times it starts to feel more like Groundhog Day.

wagyu beef horfun noodles Waitan chinese restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
Wagyu beef horfun rice noodles with bean shoots and shallots $27

The menu spans all of Asia, running from oysters with Thai nam jim ($4.50) to Taiwanese 3 cup chicken ($25) to Malaysian seafood laksa ($25). "Small Stuff" include har gau prawn dumplings ($14 for 4), pork belly steamed sliders ($12 for 3) and beef cheek steamed buns ($12 for 3).

Our order of wagyu beef horfun rice noodles is the first dish to arrive, slippery fresh rice noodles made decadent with slices of wagyu. The beef is soft and tender, and although the noodles don't have a smoky char to them, they've been cooked well, with even saucing.

sambal bravas 62c egg jamon serrano Waitan chinese restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
Sambal bravas, 62C egg, jamon serrano $17

They're not afraid to go a little left-field here either. The pork ribs ($38) are proudly listed as "sous vide, charred, sweet spiced" and the nasi goreng ($23) comes with jamon serrano and a fried egg.

We went with the oddest item we could find on the menu, the sambal bravas, although we're wondering if they meant patatas sambal instead. It's a dish that's not that far removed from a Spanish restaurant, only the potatoes would probably be crunchier.

sambal bravas 62c egg jamon serrano Waitan chinese restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
62C egg yolk with potates and jamon serrano

The sambal gives a pleasing chilli kick but it's not dissimilar to the usual bravas spicy tomato sauce. The dish does seem a little at odds with the rest of the menu.

Peking duck Waitan chinese restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
Traditional wood-fired Peking duck $88

There are a number of non-Chinese waitstaff at Waitan and I only mention this because when was the last time a non-Asian took your order at a Chinese restaurant? It probably also has something to do with our bungled Peking duck order above.

The traditional wood-fired Peking duck with housemade pancakes and condiments comes as either a half-bird ($47) or a whole bird ($88). We ask if a second course is included, as usually happens with a whole Peking duck, where the rest of the meat is shredded into a stir-fry or san choy bau.

She looks at us in confusion.  We explain that usually only the Peking duck skin is used in Peking duck pancakes. "What happens to the rest of the meat?" we ask.

"Oh the meat comes later," she tells us. "Ok, can you serve that on the bone?" we ask.

And that's how we get a whole Peking duck on the bone with our pancakes.

Peking duck Waitan chinese restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
Peking duck

The duck itself is plump and juicy although not as heavily marinated as the ones you'll find from the Chinese barbecue shops.

Peking duck pancakes buns Waitan chinese restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
Steamed buns and Peking duck pancakes

We're provided with a separate basket of fluffy steamed buns and Peking duck pancakes. Condiments include cucumber, shallots and two kinds of sauce.

On the next table we notice that they're served assembled Peking duck pancakes. If you order the whole Peking duck, let us know what you get!

Peking ducks in the specially built woodfired oven

Before you leave, make sure you check out the Peking duck oven along the side of the restaurant. The duck oven was built using special bricks imported from China. The flames are fierce and hanging right at the back you can see the Peking ducks, roasting quietly in the shadows.

Peking ducks Waitan chinese restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
Peking ducks waiting to be carved

open kitchen chefs Waitan chinese restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
View into the open kitchen

open kitchen chefs bamboo steamer baskets Waitan chinese restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
Bamboo steamer basket station


butterfly peaflower drink crushed ice sticky rice mango dessert sweet caysorn thai restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
Butterfly peaflower drink, crushed ice dessert and sticky rice with mango

You can order desserts at Waitan (miso baked cheesecake with black sesame ice cream for $14; black sticky rice with mango sorbet $14; seasonal fruit plate $14 and more) but we skip across the road for a more casual setting.

Caysorn may be home to some of Sydney's tastiest fried chicken, but it also has a wide range of desserts. The restaurant is almost empty at 9pm on a Friday night but they happily let us in for sweets.

crushed ice dessert sweet caysorn thai restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
Crushed ice with mixed fruits $5

Our crushed ice is a pyramid of shaved ice crystals drizzled with evaporated milk, condensed milk and sala syrup (sala is similar to snake fruit). We dig down underneath for an Asian fruit party of toddy palm seeds and jackfruit with herbal jelly and basil seeds.

sticky rice ice cream peanuts coconut jelly sweet caysorn thai restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
Vanilla ice cream with sticky rice and peanuts $5

There are no banana fritters left so we switch our order to sticky rice with vanilla ice cream and peanuts. The rice is tinted blue using butterfly pea flowers, commonly used in Thai and Malaysian desserts to tint things blue.

The G-Man also insists we try the butterfly pea flower drink, a deep blue purple in colour that changes to a pinky purple after you add a squeeze of lemon juice. It looks like a bonafide magic trick but is actually a result of the pH levels changing with the addition of acid.

sticky rice mango dessert sweet caysorn thai restaurant haymarket chinatown sydney
Mango with sticky rice and coconut cream $6.90

But the piece de resistance is the mango with sticky rice and coconut cream. The sticky rice is deliciously salty, the plumped grains swollen with coconut cream. It's a natural foil for the sweet slivers of mango, perfectly sliced and formed into a heart. Love.

View Larger Map
Waitan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

405 Sussex Street, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9212 7999

Opening hours:
Open 7 days 6pm - 12am

View Larger Map
Caysorn Thai on Urbanspoon

Caysorn Thai

Shop 106-108A, Level 1, Prince Centre
8 Quay Street, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9211 5749

Opening hours:
Open 7 days 11am - 10pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Caysorn, Haymarket
28 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/04/2013 12:29:00 am


  • At 11/04/2013 1:00 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    lol shame about the miscommunication! still looks like one very tasty duck mmm i wonder if i can eat the whole duck by myself..

  • At 11/04/2013 1:07 am, Anonymous Lawrence @ Fight The Craving said…

    Mmmmmm....how was that duck skin at Waitan? Looks promising! There's nothing I enjoy more in life than that nice little crisp that goes along with my peking duck skin of fatty goodness.

    Must try it out soon! Great post

  • At 11/04/2013 6:54 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    mmmmm the glistening skin of that duck! This place looks heaps fancy and with reclining beds? Nice! hahaha the sambal bravas (they probably did mean patatas rather than bravas lol) does look odd being in an Asian menu.

  • At 11/04/2013 8:04 am, Blogger Tina @ bitemeshowme said…

    interesting to see what happens when normal peking duck is ordered! Sounds like an interesting concept, though I feel a little confused as to which direction it's striving for.

  • At 11/04/2013 8:28 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    the peking duck looks amazing! I love those mantou type buns that fold in 1/2. Usually we get those with braised pork belly slices. Did you get them with the duck? Would love to try it!

  • At 11/04/2013 9:11 am, Anonymous thesuzchef said…

    Sounds like some teething problems in the early days... hope they sort it out, especially if they spent $10m on the fitout! Was the duck yummy though?

  • At 11/04/2013 9:29 am, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    I thought the duck was quite different to what we get around Chinatown, but I liked the smokiness of it. I loved the miso baked cheesecake on launch night - would totally have that again. Interesting to see some of the other dishes.

  • At 11/04/2013 10:00 am, Blogger Jacq said…

    Lol you got the "sambal bravas"! I'm curious to know how you ended up eating the duck - did you debone it yourself and put it into the pancakes? I'm considering going back with my voucher just to see what you get when you order the whole peking duck...

  • At 11/04/2013 10:58 am, Anonymous msihua said…

    GOSH! 10 million?? Woah... and I love how thin those pancakes look! And that dessert.. so cute!

  • At 11/04/2013 11:41 am, Blogger Mel said…

    Good to see what food is on offer (and the prices too). I think I could make a meal out of my $50 voucher. Damn those Aussie waiters though...tsk tsk.

  • At 11/04/2013 11:52 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Ah well, at least it wasn't Girl from Ipanema on repeat. I would've screamed.

    "Butterfly peaflower" sounds like the name a celebrity would give her daughter.

  • At 11/04/2013 11:56 am, Blogger Alison said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 11/04/2013 11:58 am, Anonymous Alison@StreetFood said…

    I remember a lot of non Asian servers at Ippudo. Also, my in-laws Chinese local at the Gold Coast has no Asian waiters at all! Waitan sounds like a lot of sound and no fury, must still be finding it's chicken feet.

  • At 11/04/2013 2:30 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sounds like Waitan is a bit confused about what it wants to be. At those prices, you would want fine dining, but beef hor fun??? (In any case, you can probably get several nicer version for about a third the price within 500m.) The wood fired peking duck does look great though. Just not sure I'd spend $88 even if it is a lucky number! The Caysorn desserts look great though. Love Thai desserts - do they have red ruby?

  • At 11/04/2013 3:38 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Delicious, I've been waiting with baited breath to hear all about Waitan and I'm glad you could give us the inside scoop.

    As for the duck, (yikes) thought it looks amazingly tasty and juicy (as you promised!) It will definitely be my mission to check it out and see what we get.

    Thanks for the heads up on the best fried chicken and sticky mango rice. That I also need to check out and taste test too!

  • At 11/04/2013 6:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    $25 for a seafood laksa?!? Must be some fancy-pants laksa!

  • At 11/04/2013 8:41 pm, Anonymous billy @ A table for two said…

    so much confusion, so little time.... didn't we used to have a restaurant mix pizza with roti?

  • At 11/04/2013 11:53 pm, Anonymous Miss Dissent said…

    Jealous you've already gotten back to Waitan! It's on my list!

  • At 11/05/2013 12:00 am, Blogger Sarah said…

    Eek - that launch party doesn't sound like it would be much fun! :(

    The decor does look great though. Shame about the variable food - seems that you did better going across the street for dessert. :)

  • At 11/05/2013 12:30 am, Blogger Vivian - vxdollface said…

    glad you went to check out the regular menu! hmm that jamon dish does seem out of place! still looks good though :)

  • At 11/05/2013 11:38 am, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    wow the fit out looks amazing! thats a sexy load of peking duck!

  • At 11/05/2013 9:13 pm, Blogger MAB vs Food said…

    Wowsers $27 for beef hor fun noodles! Hopefully they iron out all the problems.

  • At 11/05/2013 9:25 pm, Blogger Sherrie @ Crystal Noir said…

    Oooh I went to their opening night and the duck was so yummy!

  • At 11/05/2013 10:09 pm, Anonymous Cindy ( A Foodie's Joy) said…

    The $50 gift voucher certainly won't get you very far. Too bad there was a miscommunication about the Peking duck!

  • At 11/05/2013 11:44 pm, Blogger Annie said…

    been hearing so much about it since the launch night. still can't believe it's a $10 million refurbishment especially in the middle of the Haymarket/Chinatown area. hope it does really well :)

  • At 11/06/2013 10:34 am, Anonymous missklicious said…

    I enjoyed the peking duck on opening night, so might have to use my $50 voucher and check it out! The prices do seem a litte steep though.

    The sticky rice and mango dessert from caysorn looks very pretty. Love the plating!

  • At 11/11/2013 11:34 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Stan - Sorry, no red ruby at Caysorn. That's a favourite of mine too!

  • At 11/26/2013 3:36 pm, Anonymous bob @jugernauts said…

    was scrolling down reading it and expected a summary/conclusion and it skipped into crayson - and I thought it was a french/other word for dessert or something but it turns outs it's a different place altogether

    That peking duck f up is pretty hilarious. good thing you have a voucher then


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