Monday, December 22, 2014

Billy Kwong, Potts Point. Frenetic pace but fabulous food.

Kylie Kwong's new restaurant in Macleay St, Potts Point (opp Rockwall Crescent) is called Billy Kwong, irritatingly the same name as her other venue in Surry Hills, started 14 years ago.  Allan and I ate there on the spur of the moment on the evening Sydney-siders would prefer to forget after the siege in Martin Place.  We were deflated and negative, even though we were not directly affected, unlike some of our lawyer friends.  So we turned to food and this restaurant only opened its doors the week before, following several months of remodelling of the old Arun Thai premises. 
Ms Kwongs food is extraordinary!  She uses traditional Chinese cooking, Asian spices and ingredients with some Bush Tucker elements, most notably Wallaby (farmed in Kangaroo Island apparently), salt-bush, crickets and king fish collars.  Her duck was the best I have ever eaten - being soft mousse-like breast meat with crispy skinned legs.  The soft parts almost tasted as if they were poached in butterscotch!  Plenty for two with bok choi in soy and steamed rice (but at a price, see below).  We had started with a bowl of diced ocean trout sashimi - delicious. 
Billy Kwongs ambiance is more like a plane than a restaurant.  First, since half the site was hived off to become a bank, the room is long and narrow with serious background noise and indirect lighting, like an aircraft.  Then there are six or seven chefs, each wearing communicating headphones with protruding microphone.  The large open kitchen has numerous stations which take up a third of the restaurant.  About half the patrons sit up at the extended wooden bar facing the culinary masters, Captain Kwong herself amidships and in control of the entire operation.  Orders from waiters are then translated and issued by the boss on the wireless headphones: Three pork! Two sashimi! Five chicken!  A parade of plates is handed out by the boss herself, each carefully inspected, plate edge wiped where necessary and handed to a line of waiters given individual guest numbers (we were 303 and 304). 
In places 301 and 302 were the patrons proud parents at their first dinner, having had the night before cancelled due to the cordon around Sydney and closure of so many roads due to alarming events in Martin Place. 
There was a definite camaraderie amongst the staff and patrons alike but nothing could possibly be called relaxing about this eating experience. It is the opposite of the elegant and sedate Arun Thai of Kham Signavong which occupied this site for many years.  Billy Kwong is half the width with double the number of patrons.  But that seems to be what people like these days. 
A nice Spanish dry white wine sent our bill for two to $180 ... a bit OTT but thats what it costs to enjoy what the SMH called Hillsong on chop sticks!!  And they gave it a rating of 16/20 which is perfectly reasonable to my mind. 
I will have to cook at home for a month to make up for the extravagance of the evening!  But such is the price of top tucker. 
Written by Andrew Byrne .. Redfern Clinic via Bowral.