Beautiful wok technique and homemade XO sauce give due justice to these king prawns.
The bonus is tangy finger lime popping in my mouth.
Sydney’s dining scene has never been so vibrant and competitive in recent years. Each week, new restaurants, cafes and bars are sprouting all over the city like wild mushrooms. Boisterous fanfare and promo by a well-oiled PR machinery is the preferred mode of entry for many restarants, let alone the legion of food lovers spreading the gossip via social media.
So it’s rather surprising that a modern 250-seater Cantonese has slipped into the fray this week without a squeak in the media except for a few dumplings on instagram.
He Tai Open Kitchen Yum Cha, North Ryde
“We just opened our doors for business three days ago” part owner Fay Wong tells us this Saturday evening.
“Yaay, no starchy table cloths for a change!” I say to my friends.
It is a refreshing decor for a new Chinese restaurant because the main dining area is spacious with more square than round tables, highlighted with modern Asian wood motifs and funky floor tiles. The stylish cocktail bar offers bar dining whilst private dining rooms can accommodate up to twelve diners.
Is this outfit beginning to sound familiar? I’ll give you another hint – the toilets are individual cubicles with its own wash basin and hand dryer.
For I am told Michael McCann, renown hospitality architect behind stalwart CBD Chinese Mr Wong, Pyrmont’s Flying Fish and Woollahra’s Victor Churchill is the creative mind behind He Tai though it is located in the heart of a Sydney’s high technology corridor in North Ryde.
Drunken chicken with shallot
It’s early days though this menu item would be more enticing if it reads drunken chicken with “goji berries” instead of “shallot” which is only used as a garnish.
Still, it’s a good interpretation of a Zhejiang classic where shao xing wine is subtle against succulent chicken slivers with sweetness from goji berries.
Okra & vegetable salad with chef special sauce
Chef special sauce for an okra and vegetable salad appears to be a concoction of tangy ponzu and sesame oil.
“Vegetable” for this menu item means crunchy baby corn, cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced iceberg lettuce. Combined with the dressing, this salad tastes more Japanese than Chinese.
Chef special fried rice with pork, prawn and snow pea
For me, any new Chinese restaurant needs to pass the simple “fried rice test” and the chef special with pork, prawn and snow pea passes with flying colours, except “snow pea” on the menu actually means green peas on the plate.
Chunky prawn cutlets are not glassy and bouncy from being treated with bicarbonate soda and that’s a big tick in my books. Studded with bits of salty Chinese pork, I would come back just for a large platter of this fried rice.
Grandma’s slow cooked pork belly
Grandma’s slow cooked pork belly is punctuated by the classic flavours of five spice and rice wine.
Most prefer steamed rice with this dish though I can tuck right in without any carbs. The balance of sweetness is on the mark though the pork belly could have been a little more tender.
Wok fried king prawns with homemade XO sauce and finger lime topping
Beautiful wok technique and homemade XO sauce give due justice to six large king prawns, heads trimmed and slit lengthwise down the back.
Florets of broccoli and coriander give green relief to a homemade XO sauce rich and spicy with seafood flavours. The bonus is tangy finger lime popping in my mouth.
Crystal wolfberry & osmanthis jelly
The dessert menu is where Chinese restaurants love to fail and in many cases, miserably too.
He Tai has only three desserts one of which is fresh fruits, which in my books, don’t really count.
For tonight, the only dessert on offer is crystal wolfberry and osmanthus jelly which needs a lot more thought and creativity for $15. It might be a take on Mr Wong’s refreshing green apple ice, osmanthus jelly, water chestnuts and coconut sorbet since one of the chefs is apparently an ex-Mr Wonger.
Owner Fay Wong takes us on a guided tour of this huge space, where seafood tanks are filled with king crabs, abalone and a variety of live fish.
The cocktail bar is enticing and a few pre-dinner drinks might be in order for our next visit.
Flavours are generally good though some dishes need fine-tuning and we acknowledge it is only the first week of business. Service is friendly and attentive in an elegant setting different from most Chinese restaurants. So regardless of any improvement to the food, I expect this place to eventually get busier at these prices.
There appears to be some fancy schmancy dumplings on instagram though I am more inclined to check out other dishes on the menu.
He Tai Open Kitchen Yum Cha
Shop 3390, Level 3 Macquarie Centre
17 Waterloo road, North Ryde
Tel: +61 2 9888 7558
Opening hours: 7 days Lunch from 11 am, Dinner from 6.00pm