Newer Chinese restaurants in Sydney and for that matter in major cities like London, New York and San Francisco are evolving to capture the essence of modernisation that is happening around the world.
The Eight in Sydney’s chinatown is one such restaurant serving fine Cantonese cuisine where traditional classics such as steamed fish with ginger and shallots are jostling for prime position on the menu with newer fusion dishes like braised abalone with foie gras.
The name of the restaurant is synonymous with wealth because the pronunciation of the word “eight” in Cantonese sounds like “prosperity” and “good fortune”.
Located on level three of Market City in the heart of Chinatown, The Eight has a more modern feel and ambience over more traditional chinese restaurants.
Owner Henry Tang, who also runs Zilver restaurant on Pitt street in Chinatown took over this space at the beginning of 2011 formerly occupied by Kam Fook chinese restaurant. The fit-out has gone through a complete makeover where this huge 700+ seater restaurant is decked out with a modern decor and private dining rooms.
We arrive at 8.15pm on a Friday night in search of seafood chinese style. The traditional complimentary soup of the day comes in a large clay pot and on a cold winter night, we savour some heart-warming pork-ribs soup.
We order some live prawns and the waiter brings about 800gms in a plastic bag to seek our approval where he estimates is a good serving for the 4 of us dining tonight. The prawns are so fresh they are doing trampoline exercises in the plastic bag.
I believe this process of seeking customer concurrence is good practice for chinese restaurants offering fresh seafood so that customers have an idea of the quantity, size and price of these relatively expensive seafood dishes.
We choose prawns which are not overly big because the smaller ones tend to be sweeter and crunchier in texture. The only way to eat these little buggers is to dig right in with our fingers, peeling each prawn while the connoisseur would also suck on all the flavours concentrated in the prawn head.
For the live prawns, always request for an added serving of fresh coriander and ginger dipping sauce.
This sauce is light with a dash of soy, sesame oil and is meant to complement the gentle sweet flavours of the prawns. I did not mind getting my hands dirty because each prawn is bursting with its sweet taste and crunchy texture and the light dipping sauce is the perfect complement.
The waiter brings a 1.8kg live lobster in a plastic bag to our table which we feel is too big and he goes away and returns with one that is 1.3kg which meets our approval and we choose ‘yee meen’ as a noodle to come with the lobster.
It is important to request the waiter to space out the arrival of the lobster because a large plate of live prawns takes a little more time to eat as it needs to be peeled.
We are disappointed because the lobster arrives soon after the live prawns. The waiter acknowledges this mistake and our lobster is given a cover to be kept warm while we tuck into our prawns. This is one mistake that must be avoided by chinese restaurants serving expensive seafood.
The lobster itself is quite tasty but the noodles needed a lot more work on the flavour department. This is one of the most popular seafood dishes for chinese restaurants serving fine Cantonese cuisine and we all felt it needs to step up a gear to be on par with other top chinese restaurants in town.
An eggplant with dried scallops in soy sauce has tender strips of peeled eggplant and the savoury remnants of dried scallops topping. This dish is tasty and flavoursome although a tad salty.
The stock standard complimentary deep-fried sesame seed balls, cake and fruits is offered for dessert.
The Eight has weaved itself into the fabric of the floor carpet in the restaurant.
So dear readers, what is your experience with chinese restaurants in general?
Level 5, Market City
9-13 Hay Street, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +612 9282 9988