Modern Australian Cuisine: China Doll

NB: ‘Modern Australian’, a term coined in the 80’s, describes the cuisine of immigrant settlers to Australia and the fusion of tastes that followed. Not to be confused with ‘Australian cuisine’ which refers to the unique hunter-gatherer – “bush tucker” diet indigenous Australians developed over 40,000–60,000 years, from regional Australian flora and fauna.
Now that’s clear, let’s begin…

China Doll does upmarket modern Australia cuisine – Asian style – with a twist. On the Woolloomooloo wharf on the fancy side of town, this is a place for people watching and where the rich and famous come to dine…

You know you’re in an upmarket restaurant when you go to the bathroom to find a gaggle of fresh faced 20 year olds snorting coke off the bathroom sink…but I diverge…back to the food

The produce was fresh…fresh as my bathroom companions…

Peking Duck pancakes: Duck breast in precisely cut and equal proportions arrive…. Unlike Peking duck in Chinatown, it wasn’t cut in front of us, there was no warm dripping duck fat (a good thing) and five spice infused crispy skin (also a good thing), and the duck bill, head, eyes and hanging carcasses are nowhere in sight (6 pancakes did cost the equivalent of 2 whole crispy ducks from the BBQ King)

Rhubarb & Coconut Daiquiri

havana club white rum, coconut, rhubarb, lime

It’s pink, very pink and tart if you like that kind of thing…and definitely NOT for the sweet tooth

BEST DISH – Eggplant & Tofu with Sichuan chilli bean paste:
Asian oriental eggplant with its bitter aftertaste is perfect with chilli and fried silken tofu

Crepe wrapped blood orange pudding with coconut rice bubbles…layers of crunchy sweet coconut/rice bubble brittle, homemade vanilla bean icecream and crepe wrapped tart orange pudding. The pomegranate jewels and lemon jelly cubes provide much needed relief from the heavy cream layers…don’t leave without tasting this one 

Cocktails anyone?

Walnut & Anejo Blaze

Warmed los azulejos anejo tequila infused with cinnamon, chocolate bitters, roasted walnut


Wa Japanese Restaurant Cafe

Is it a restaurant? Is it a cafe? Or is ‘restaurant cafe’ a cultural translation issue? Who knows and who cares when Wa Japanese Restaurant Cafe cook soba noodle miso soup to perfection!

Wa’s a teeny little place in Bondi Junction with no more than 10 tables (most of which are reserved both weekend and week nights) and as of May 2016 is my favourite Japanese noodle place….

On first discovering Wa I rode my bike there one to two times a week for a month for the vegetarian (with fish stock) miso soup and Matcha tea soba noodles.

The flavours are subtle with saffron threads, roasted (black and white) sesame, ground chilli, finely shredded shallots and Dashi (who knows why the chef thought raw onion chunks were a good idea to throw into the mix today – actually that’s minus 1 star for lack of appreciation of delicate flavours)

You can ‘mix n match’: choose miso or soya bean base; spicy or mild; soba or udon; beef, chicken or vegetarian. I’ve only had vegetarian and while I don’t have an aversion to any particular vegetable, I’ve never understood why people eat baby carrots when the core is so hard and stringy. It’s probably the ‘cuteness’ factor that  fits well with Japanese aesthetics and cultural sensibility.  With plenty of baby carrots and cabbage (red & white) this is a sweet miso soup

Only 10 minutes walk from Centennial Park it’s a convenient place to pick up picnic food for lunch in the park (if you don’t mind plastic containers left in the aftermath…it’s an ethical trade off).

NOTE: If you like your savouries sweet, try the Deepfried Eggplant, not my favourite but from a reputable, sweet-toothed source, it’s the bomb

Dena: 4 stars (minus 1 star for the raw onions)

The Bennelong: Cured and Cultured

The Bennelong restaurant at the iconic Sydney Opera House is a perfect place for an upmarket birthday surprise…

There are a number of potential seating arrangements, including at the bar, ‘the circle’ (scanning the dress circle brings to mind upmarket thoroughbreds at an equestrian event) or casual bar stools with a birds eye view of chefs preparing ‘raw, cured and cultured produce’ for counter service.

The harbour views were magnificent but more interesting was the view of the chefs preparing our meals…

Carrots on carrots on carrots (otherwise known as salad of organic carrots, sherry caramel, almonds and sheep’s milk 

if emotions were palatable this dish would taste like the happiness you feel at the beginning of spring in high definition colour

For non vegos the red claw yabbies with lemon jam, cultured cream and buckwheat pancakes (particularly light and unbuckwheat-like!) is a must…

A delightfully surprising drink for this non-alcoholic punter was the honey thyme kombucha (made especially for Bennelong) unexpectedly floral with more highs than lows..served in cut crystal with a slice of dehydrated lime made me feel like a real (alcohol drinking) grown up

‘Chocolate cake from across the water’ (yes that is the name of the dessert…) was 7  layers of textured chocolate. This was an Australian Masterchef challenge some time ago…(along with Gilmore’s signature ‘snow egg’)

It looks inconspicuous but don’t even think of trying this one on your own…

WARNING: A little something to note: try and sit upwind of the hot plate and you won’t be subjected to burnt butter smoke in your eyes


Jo (in absentia): 3 stars (based on photos only. Open to revising rating with future actual tasting).

Din Tai Fung (World Square, Sydney)

Din Tai Fung Review 

Shanghai Drunken Chicken & Vegetarian Delight: All the elements you need for a perfectly balanced cold starter  – seaweed & tofu & rice wine & poultry.


Number of dishes required = 3 * p

p = number of people: p  = 2

number of dishes required = 3 * 2 = 6

BEST DISH: Spicy Pork and Vegetarian dumplings

NB: when dining with reformed engineers be ready to include equations in blogposts

Added value is you get up and close to the craft of dumpling making…and the precision of perfectly weighed, wrapped and presented dumplings

More steam than the Hilton gym sauna: please give us free membership…

Jo: I’ve got something to say about dessert…If you think high-carbohydrate root vegetables are boring, think again. This is tasty mauve magic (taro-based), I actually think this is the best dish.

Dena: I’ve got something else to say about that…for gluten free, dairy free, vegans with food intolerances this is a nightmare dish (she says blowing her nose…)

Jo: I wondered where all the serviettes went…


Din Tai Fung are a chain that started in Taiwan. While they weren’t the first dumpling place in Sydney, they were novel and ahead of their time. There are other great dumpling places in Sydney. Chinese Noodle House (Fake Grapes) in China town have been around for over 2 decades, have a shorter menu of rustic dumplings (Jo: excellent lamb and cumin pot stickers), but few vegetarian dishes – though you have to try the Sichuan eggplant dish.

Jo: 4 stars

Dena: 3.5 stars