A while back I was invited to attend the extravagant launch of Waitan Restaurant and Bar in the Chinatown precinct and at the time I had vowed to check the place out once it was officially open. Fast track to a few months later and I finally actioned that thought. A few weeks ago it was Chinese Father's Day and the dad was coincidently in town so I thought it was a fitting time to try out Waitan properly.
The interiors of Waitain are ultra opulent and luxurious in comparison to most of the Chinese restaurants you are familiar with. It definitely has that luxe modern vibe which rings true to its "fine dining" style of cooking and presentation. The entire restaurant sits on two levels - the area you see here is the general dining hall which is beyond spacious and the top level is more for functions and VIPS from what I recall.
Tea is served very differently here - you get charged per cup! Very pricey indeed. I apologise in advance for failing to include prices for each dish - unfortunately I had forgotten to take photos of the menu and the online version doesn't indicate prices. I can only tell you that everything we ate in this post amounted to around $424 in total, hopefully that gives a general idea.
The Black Fungi Marinated with Onion and Wasabi Oil was a selection made by the father - it tasted quite ordinary to me, nothing special really. Good as a starter to freshen up your palette for what's to come.
The Shanghai Styled Smoked Fish was nicely seasoned with a balance of sweet and savoury flavours, as you would expect. My family is accustomed to this being served hot as that's what restaurants in Shanghai do but ultimately the flavours were there and each bite was quite tasty. A classic entree order!
The Sichuan Poached Chicken was the biggest letdown for the night. I had read quite a few good reviews about this dish however it was very disappointing for us. The sauce was quite oily and the flavours were not absorbed into the chicken, making the dish very bland and meh overall.
The Braised Bean Curd Brew with Vegetables was a pleasant surprise for the table as it had exceeded our expectations. The tofu, which was topped with seaweed was silky smooth in texture and full of flavour. The abalone-style mushrooms were tender and nicely braised. A very enjoyable vegetable dish!
The Deep-Fried Crab with Pepper & Salt was definitely the highlight for the night - proving once again that crab can do no wrong. Each piece of crab was beautifully coated with a layer of salt and pepper seasoned batter before revealing the sweet succulent crab meat inside. The flavours were ridiculously delicious and addictive - absolutely flawless!
The Stir-Fried Sliced Abalone with XO Sauce was also a delightful treat that we all enjoyed. Despite the hefty price tag (from what I recall this was around $130 ish), the flavours did tick all the boxes. The abalone slices were thinly sliced and chewy to bite, and each was bursting with the unanimously-adored XO flavours. The toss of veggies inside added a nice overall balance to the dish.
The Imperial Peking Duck is a house speciality and from what I remember, Waitan had imported a special open wood fired oven from China so to ensure that all the smoky flavours were nicely infused into all their ducks.
We watched as the staff carefully sliced a Whole Duck and was deeply intrigued by the Pancakes display which resembled that of a hot pot. Turns out there was boiling water underneath to keep the pancakes hot and moist - a nice touch! All the usual condiments were there including Traditional Black Bean Sauce, Leek and Cucumber.
Overall the peking duck was pretty standard to me - definitely nothing unique stood out in comparison to other places. One thing I did notice was that the smoky aromas of the duck meat was particularly strong - perhaps attributed to Waitan's special oven? Maybe it's just me but I can't really differentiate between a standard peking duck dish to one that is particularly outstanding.
The Peking Duck also comes in San Choy Bow style - at this stage we were beyond full so we just took a few bites each.
Overall we had mixed feelings about our experience at Waitan. Whilst there were some standout dishes - predominantly the fresh seafood ones - there were also some overrated dishes. The prices weren't cheap but they were all relatively reasonable. Naturally if you are going to order live seafood, it's going to be a bit exxy.
The service was definitely a letdown in some senses. We saw quite a few staff hanging around but for some reason it was so difficult to get their attention throughout the night.
It was interesting to see that despite it being a Sunday night, the restaurant was very quiet and one side of the restaurant was completely empty.
I think Waitan still has a few things to refine but I guess if you are into a more luxurious dining experience for Chinese food, this place is a good fit. With a price-tag surpassing the $10 million mark, this two-level, 2500 sqm venue is definitely the epitome of fancy. There are 14 private dining rooms upstairs which may be good for special occasions and corporate functions.
What are your thoughts on Waitan?
405 Sussex Street
Haymarket NSW 2000
(02) 8218 1000
Labels: Chinese, Fusion, Modern Chinese