Think about that cool experience when you walk through the streets of Hong Kong (especially when you’re a little jet lagged) and you find yourself a little tea house which provides a safe refuge from the humidity and the crowds to sip on some fine tea and gorge yourself on amazing dumplings… well that’s kinda a feeling I have when I step into Pu’er, a Hong Kong style tea house in the middle of Waterloo in Sydney.
The super friendly host greets me and I am seated and provided with a menu with all sorts of teas, lovely dumplings and share plates. It’s quite a joy.
He explains that the owner makes his way to China every year and finds the best teas and has his mother translate the labels into English and the teas are subsequently imported to provide authentic rich oriental flavoured experience to Sydneysiders who are just tired of the sham watered down products that adorn dim sum trolleys across the country.
I select the Osmanthus Phoenix on the recommendation. The tea has the fresh and sweet aroma of Osmanthus flower, which has the aromas of peach, light toasted citrus and floral notes. On the palate there is a distinctly smoky overlay with the aftertaste of mango, peach and a “nectarine liqueur” finish.
Crispy Har Gow
This is a crispy fried prawn dumpling originating from the outskirts of Guangzhou. The crispy fried dumpling casing is firm and chewy but eventually breaks after a few clean bites to release the wonderful succulent prawns from their hiding place.
The prawns are fresh succulent and full of flavour which form a wonderful contrast of textures to the dumpling wrap. When they are mixed with the sweet chilli sauce it is a wonderful ying / yang style interaction of flavours.
Scallop, Prawn, Bamboo Shoot, Roe and a Egg Flavoured Dumpling Wrap.
These are a work of art. From an aesthetics perspective, you have the scallop pieces, the red roe, and the yellow egg glutinous dumpling wrap which sparkles on first glance. Then the taste ticks the boxes of fresh produce, amazing textures and the interaction of flavours.
The succulent scallops pair perfectly with the roe to release a burst of the saltiness and natural flavours of scallops. The prawns a wonderful firm and full of flavour while the baby bamboo add a lovely crunch to the dumpling which is primarily dominated by softer ingredients. The glutinous jelly like wrapping which encases the filling melts on the tongue to round out an amazing experience. I have to say I am just amazed by this dumpling!
Hong Kong Mini Burgers
Panko pork, house smoked chilli paste, hoisin, baby cress sandwiched with a golden mantao
The golden Mantao could be served on its own and it would be perfect. It’s a fried sweet bun which has a rich milky sweetness which resides in the crust. Once you break through the crispy outside coating which oozes with oil, there is the fluffy warm white inside which was hidden from the oils wrath.
The Japanese style panko crusted pork schnitzel has the rich fat of the pork which releases its rich oils on first bite while the flakey sharp crunch of the panko batter which works with the crispiness of the fried mantao to balance the juicy pork fillet.
The spice of the chilli paste is also balanced beautiful from the sweet streak of the hoisin sauce to sweetness, oils, spice, crunch and softness – the different styles which work in harmony to balance the dish.
So here it is the 9+ Oakley Ranch wagyu beef with housemade chilli paste, four-leaf greens sandwiched in a soft and fluffy gua bao bun (kinda like a Taiwanese hamburger).
The wagyu releases its full flavours and juices on first bite with a rich buttery flavour that one typically expects, while the outer portion of the wagyu which borne the brunt of the grill has a wonderful smoky aroma. The chilli paste intermingles perfectly with the wagyu with a streak of spice and light tang.
Then the wonderful soft, fluffy pillowy casing of the bun acts to absorb those lovely juices which escaped the wagyu when you chewed through it and to provide a unique texture contrast.
Three Cup Drunken Duck
Duck with Shaoxing wine, soy, sugar, slow cooked with shiitake with fresh basil.
There is the saltiness of the soy which is balanced by the sweetness of the sugar and rich gamey oils from the duck and the aroma of the Shao Xing. This dish is not focused on textures but more a fusion of rich flavours to accompany the duck. The earthiness of the shiitake mushroom with its jelly like texture is a treat and adds another dimension to the dish.
There a few spring onions in the dish, which added some heat and strength to compliment the duck. The skin was soft and the meat (from the marinate of the wine) just fell of the bone, with the rich gamey duck flavour and the oiliness associated with the duck intact for what was a sensational dish.
Crispy Skin Cone Bay (WA) Barramundi
Barramundi with fermented black bean, spring onion, coriander jus
The rich crispy salty skin which caramelised onto the meat of the barramundi. I love the interaction of different textures and this place does it oh so well. The flakey flesh of the barramundi is soft and melts on your tongue and then the crunchy skin with the crusted salt is just a heavenly experience.
This is followed by the sharp taste of the black beans, the enabler that is the salty but refreshingly citrusy coriander jus while the heat of the spring onion and spice of chilli provide a wonderful kick to the dish to round it out.
Pike & Joyce, Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills (South Australia)
This a beautiful light wine which proves to a be a wonderful accompaniment throughout the dishes. I highly recommend it. It is the sort of Pinot that you would normally use for oriental duck or pork style dishes and is definitely suited to this wine list.
The aromas of strawberries and rich ripe cherries continue on the palate displaying a wonderful freshness and tannin and subtle oak to provide a nice dimension and some structure. It pairs a treat with the duck and actually works well with the barramundi.
Redbean Doughnuts with Coconut Syrup
My host recommends the sorbet, but my heart seems to be unable to stray from the doughnuts and I push for the selection. The doughy, floury richness of the doughnut and the sweetness of the red bean is a hit but then when you dip it into cool milky refreshing sweetness of the coconut syrup it presents the ultimate joy of dessert tasting experience. I just love it.
The food is creative and well executed. The scallop dumplings ticked the boxes on flavour, aesthetics, produce, texture and creativity which is a welcome relief from the assembly style dumpling production which typically occurs at dim sum venues.
The Hong Kong Street food is probably the highlight of this place – those tacos and sliders are the perfect way to kick-off a Saturday evening. I initially couldn’t put my finger on it but this overall place balances the use of oriental flavours while not dominating the natural flavours of fresh produce – which is an art in itself.
Oh and if you are past the “what passes for tea” which is served throughout Chinatown, then it is certainly worth a visit just for their tea selection.
Life of a Travel Czar dined as a guest of Pu’er. As always his opinions are always his own.