Why do I love Kylie Kwong and the food she dishes up? Four words: sustainable, local, organic and native. And it’s Chinese- the food of my motherland. Billy Kwong breathes new life into traditional dishes and takes diner’s tastebuds on a whirlwind tour around not just China but Oz too with the use of Australian native bush foods.
The four of us walk into a sleek, softly lit Billy Kwong that is buzzing with the lively chatter of diners on a Sunday night. Two dining spaces sandwich a long bar at which diners watch the action of well-worn woks, giant steamers and Kylie complete with headset, steadily reading out the orders to her kitchen as the dockets come spurting out of the machine. The walls are a dappled merlot, the furniture dark and the front of house team dressed in chic black. We decline the prospect of choosing from the menu and opt for Kylie’s set menu.
We start with Goong Goong’s pickles (Goong Goong is what you call your maternal grandfather) which cleanse the palate with their soft, vinegary tang.
The tartare of Mark Eather’s ocean trout is finely diced and flavoured with soy and sesame oil. It’s delicate, fresh and the richness of the fish lends itself beautifully to the Asian flavours.
The wallaby and pork siu mai are worlds apart from their yum cha counterparts. Here the skins are supple and encase a rich, moist morsel of meat that is topped with a sweet goji berry. They’re delicious.
We eat subtle steamed vegetable and warrigal greens dumplings and salt bush cakes whose pastry is flaky and crisp. The accompanying chilli sauce is fiery but has a depth of flavour that makes me wish they sold it by the gallon load. Our palates are invigorated by the Chinese coleslaw containing bean sprouts, carrot, sesame and fragrant herbs before the appearance of the steamed prawn wontons. This is one of the highlights. Four perfectly crafted wontons rest in a brown vinegar dressing and when bitten into, reveal nuggets of sweet prawn. The wonton skins, the slightly tart vinegar, the delicate prawn- it’s all perfect. Steamed pork buns are soft and pillowy, generously filled with meat rather than the usual, over-abundant gravy.
The meal moves into its second phase with the arrival of crispy skin duck- duck a l’orange Chinese style. Organic orange and Davidson’s plum are the base of a sweet watery sauce that has been drizzled over the crispy skinned but achingly tender duck. It’s easily the most popular dish of the night- pity it needs to be shared four ways. A simple steamed fish fillet and stir fried Australian native greens round off the ‘mains’ in addition to a lively dish of steamed Hokkien noodles topped with the palest of green shavings of kombu. We wash it all down with three bottles of white, all recommended by the sommelier who is full of good humour, completely charming and knows his stuff.
We finish with a simple quenelle of mousse and a pannacotta dressed with syrupy quandong before heading out into the night. Billy Kwong is nuanced, inspiring, clever and leaves you wanting more. If you’re in Sydney, then you need to eat here. It’s an education.
Good to know:
Kylie’s set menu (7 courses) $75 per person
28 Macleay Street
Telephone +61 2 9332 3300
Monday to Thursday 5:30pm to 10:00pm
Friday and Saturday 5:30pm to 11:00pm
Sunday 5:30pm to 9:00pm
Make a booking here: https://www.opentable.com.au/r/billy-kwong-potts-point
Images: Thomas Southam