Freelance writer, mum of two who loves living in sunny Perth.
Published May 23rd 2012
As a business visitor to Sydney, I've become somewhat predictable as to my dining preferences. At least one of my nights in Sydney will find me heading up to Surry Hills, specifically to the small but perfectly formed Billy Kwong, the restaurant of famed chef Kylie Kwong.
The restaurant itself is tiny, and as they don't take bookings, expect to queue for a table at weekends. The design of the restaurant is loosely based on a traditional Chinese eating house, so it's an intimate restaurant where you'll not only be able to see what your neighbour is eating, you can smell it too. If you don't like getting up close and personal with fellow restaurant goers, you might not enjoy their use of space.
For large parties, there is one large table that seats 6-8 that is bookable and occupies a lovely more secluded corner spot. From the restaurant you can see directly into the small kitchen space and this creates a great buzz and anticipation of the lovely delights being created. The restaurant is dark, noisy and vibrant, and makes you feel like part of a specially invited selection of guests.
Ms Kwong has modelled her menu on creating tasty food items that actively benchmark sustainable and ethical eating. Expect to see an array of locally grown, organic and biodynamic options filling up the menu in addition to much of the condiments and sauces being sourced through fair trade suppliers.
The menu changes seasonally, and whilst it isn't overtly vast, it does provide you with enough choices to really ponder over your selection. I'm always compelled to choose the house specialty of crispy skinned duck, which dependant upon the season will be served with plums, mandarins or oranges. My favourite has got to be the plum sauce; on my last visit I did find the orange sauce a little too tart for the delectable duck.
I had a real battle choosing entrees this time, too many tempting options so made a quick front of mind decision to opt for Wok-Fried Rice Noodle Rolls with Braised Biodynamic Beef and Black Beans and my companion went with the Homestyle Fried Biodynamic Eggs with Organic Tamari and Homemade XO.
Based on these taste selections, I could definitely agree to live on the beef noodle rolls for the rest of my days. Simply delectable. The eggs were tasty, but tasted a little oily for my taste and the XO sauce on this occasion was a little too vinegary and not punchy enough. Not disappointing by any stretch, but a short step away from the previous perfection I've encountered.
The main event of duck didn't disappoint, but I did have to manage my own expectations and my love of the absent plum sauce to contend with a beautiful albeit slightly tart orange jus.
Served with perfectly steamed jasmine rice, between two companions we struggled to finish everything laid out for us. On a previous visit, I've savoured the white cooked chicken in chilli and coriander, and cheekily stolen my companion's squid in a spicy marinade, which was a special at the time.
Waiting staff were fantastic; knew the menu inside and out and had their favourite selections too. Service was speedy and efficient and the wine list provided a great accompaniment to the dining experience.
I don't think the plastic stools and close quarter eating environment is for everyone, but for me, this just makes you feel included in the atmosphere.
Dishes aren't cheapie cheap with entrees in the $20 range, and mains between $15-$48. However, it's a great place for sharing a few main meal items between friends, and this works out a reasonable option.