Bianca: There is a special place in my heart for Chinese food, specifically dumplings. I find them to be a comforting food despite the fact I am a pasta loving Italian/Aussie. That’s kind of the beauty of growing up in a diverse multicultural country like Australia. So it’s no question that I’m always on the hunt for a new dumpling haunt – specifically somewhere that does something a little different.
In the ever-expanding suburb of Waterloo ‘Pu’er’ sits perched on the corners of Danks and Bourke Street. Despite only working around the corner in Redfern it’s very rare for me to take the leap into Waterloo, the next suburb over and check out the restaurants and cafes, which really is my loss. There’s so much to be seen and more importantly eaten.
Alex and I settled in one Friday eve to check out this Waterloo gem, immediately I was drawn to two things, Wagyu Tacos and Hong Kong Mini Burgers, we automatically knew we were in for something other than the usual Honey Chickens and Mongolian Beefs. Yep, we’re white as. We enquired as to the nature of the food offered, it’s “Not fusion food but a modern take with a western slant” there you go folks. Either way we were excited!
Easing in to the meal and getting our bodies ready for the onslaught we sipped at a subtle blend of ‘Osmanthus Phoenix tea $9’ before we moved on to the hard liquor, otherwise known as the lady drinks. Which is what I now refer to cocktails. Alex had the ‘Hazelnut Martini’ which he found a little strong but it watered down rather nicely with the ice-cube chunks. I really enjoyed the chocolate rimmed glass because anytime you can combine alcohol and chocolate you are onto a winner in my books. Definitely one for those that are a little adventurous with their ‘lady drink’ choices. I had the ‘Berry Sling’ and whilst it was nice it was a little too floral and pretty tasting for my particular palate.
Now onto the good stuff, we shared the ‘Pork & Peanut dumplings’ – Teo Chew style pork spiced pork, roasted crunchy peanut and shiitake mushroom. $7. Maybe this is showcasing my naiveté but I have never seen peanuts in a dumpling before. It’s actually genius, upon that first bite there was a strong burst of peanut flavour but what really tipped it over into something special were the little chunks of peanut throughout the dumpling mixture. Easily one of our favourites of the night. I found the mushroom flavour lacking but to be honest that wasn’t really a detriment, the peanuts were the star here.
We have also both gotten better dealing with the ‘fruits’ of the ocean and decided to order the ‘Crispy Har Gow’ – Prawn dumplings. $8. The outer shell was especially intriguing, I envision a pan-fried dumpling but it was deep-fried, almost having the taste and texture of a prawn cracker which is no bad thing in my books as well as having ample pieces of prawn. This was one of those occasions when we wished we were joined by at least another two people, just so we could sample more dumplings on the menu.
We then moved on to the street food portion of the menu, taken with the ‘Hong Kong Mini Burgers’ – panko pork, house smoked chilli paste, hoisin, baby cress, golden mantao. $15. This was my favourite thing eaten on the night, firstly it was such a whimsical concept and the bun was unlike anything I’ve encountered before, crispy and soft at the same time. The pork was simply crumbed and fried. It simultaneously straddled that line between salty, sweet and spicy.
Alex’s favourite dish of the night was the ‘Wagyu Tacos’ – 9+ Oakley Ranch Wagyu Beef, chinese taco buns, four leef greans. $16. Instantly punching you in the face with a strong kick of chilli, the beef was very tender. We were both impressed with this innovative take on a taco/bao. Another must order.
We were now just eating for the sake of eating at this point, eager to check out the main offerings. Alex is a big fan of Din Tai Fung’s stir fried green beans so put in his request for the ‘Stir Fried Green Beans’ – with pork mince, house made dried prawn and scallop xo sauce. $18. This was chosen over my requested pleadings for the Eggplant. Let’s just say I should continue to do all of the ordering. The mince was tasty but we both couldn’t get past the strong fishy taste and smell something we probably should have taken into consideration prior.
Our last savoury of the night was the ‘Caramelised Berkshire Pork Belly’ –served with Pu’er and spice infused tea eggs. $24. An intensely rich and fatty dish, with the meat easily pulling away from the fat. I was originally under the impression that it was a crispy pork dish so it pays to pay close attention when ordering. I believe I saw ‘Pork Belly’ and was immediately blinded. Nice but far from the strongest dish we sampled that night.
It seems no meal can end these days without some sort of sweet finale and we settled for the ‘Brownie’ – w/almond praline, spiced wine bananas and salted palm sugar ice-cream. $10. I wasn’t particularly blown away by the brownie as it’s something I make quite often at home but I was floored and blown away by the almond ‘praline’ nuts adorning the brownie and the ice-cream. Easily one of the best ice-creams I’ve encountered in a restaurant. And lastly the ‘Red Bean Doughnuts’ $10, the doughnut aspect was executed perfectly, the only downfall was the red bean filling, it was almost missing in action.
I guess the biggest question of all is “Would I go back?” far from me to mince my words, this is one restaurant I’d happily return to and recommend to folks in the mood for something a little bit different.
*For Food’s Sake were invited to dine at Pu’er by Quinton and Pu’er, all opinions however are independent and our own.