Bianca: Woolloomooloo has always been one of those elusive suburbs that I would skirt around on all my dining ‘endeavours’, not to mention the sweats that come on when someone asks me to spell it out. This marks my second visit to ‘China Doll’ both incidentally with my good friend ‘Gina’. My main reason for the second visit was that elusive pork belly, I’d heard great things so I knew we were meant to be together, albeit fleetingly.
Gina, my Real Melbourne Housewife, has an affinity for San choy Bau so naturally we went for a serving of the ‘Vegetable San Choy Bau’ $14. A really vibrant and satisfying amalgamation of crispy veggies consisting of baby corn, carrots, capsicum and scallions. While it was tasty I can’t say I’d order it again.
We couldn’t pass up the option of dumplings and got a serving of the ‘Pork Prawn Scallop & Shiitake Shu Mai w/ chilli oil. $20. Our lovely waitress on the night, Roxy, was emphatic about being fairly sparse with the accompanying dipping oil. It was SPICY. These were gorgeously plump and despite my usual aversion to seafood I rather enjoyed the thin slice of scallop adorning the shu mai. $20 for four dumplings is fairly steep, factor in the location, view… blah blah blah they were literally bursting with filling. So it didn’t exactly sting handing over the $$ for this dish.
Moving along to mains it wasn’t a question of what I’d be putting forward. I would say we shared the serving of ‘Crispy Pork Belly’ –w/ chilli caramel & Nam Pla Phrik. $36 but I found my fork was dipping in and out of this dish more than Gina’s. The perfect combination of superbly crispy skin, tender and juicy belly meat with glorious strands of fatty steaks throughout. I wouldn’t hesitate to put this in my top five pork belly dishes in Sydney. I couldn’t fault it whatsoever.
To round out the mains we also had the ‘Salt & Pepper Prawns w/ wok toasted chilli & garlic $39. This was another strong dish, a light batter coated the prawns which were then accented when dipped into the salt and pepper mixture. My tolerance for some seafood seems to be getting much stronger, particularly for most fleshy white fish. My only grievance would be whether this constituted value for money.
To accompany the main dishes we also shared a serving of the ‘Steamed Broccoli w/oyster sauce & garlic $12. I can’t imagine I’ll be writing any love letters to broccoli soon, nothing to see here, moving along!
And finally, dessert. We initially erred on the respectable side, deciding to share one dessert between us but the lovely Roxy brought us out a complimentary dessert to share. Because clearly we are both two ladies in need of some fattening up. Our initial pick was the ‘Chocolate cake & Pistachio tuille w/beetroot gel & sweet milk Chantilly. $14. Anything with chocolate in the title usually has my undivided attention and this was no different. The cake, which should really be the hero of the dessert was a little dry but once you added either the Chantilly or the milk chocolate sauce it was easily fixed. I don’t like beetroot so I didn’t enjoy that at all, though I could see how that would help balance the sweetness. The tuille was another strong element and with the chocolate crumbs added some lovely texture.
The second dessert was the ‘Sago pudding’ – w/vanilla coconut cream & passionfruit syrup $12. This was my first time trying sago and it reminded me a little of pearl cous cous (clearly not in a dessert). I found the texture of the sago interesting and loved the addition of the passion-fruit seeds. I don’t handle milk and heavy creams at the best of times so despite the lovely flavour I could only manage a few bites.
Another fantastic meal at China Doll…And I’ll be back for that Pork Belly!