Connect me to:
Billy Kwong Chinese Eating House (Sydney, Australia)
||3/355 Crown Street, Surry Hills,|
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2009 Issue: 16(3) page: 26 and 27
The Spring 2009 issue of this magazine details a dozen restaurants in Australia. One is, Flower Drum, that we and others consider Melbourne's top Chinese eatery; others called this restaurant the world's best Chinese restaurant. Not mentioned was any place in Sydney, Australia's most populous city with more than four and a quarter million folk, is the state capital of New South Wales, the first British colony in the country, and a city with many Chinese restaurants.
One often touted is a small neighborhood place that opens at 6:00 pm with a line of folk waiting to get in. Some writers speak of this one's popularity, and that this place takes no reservations. They also say it is the only carbon-neutral, MSG-free Chinese restaurant that serves organic and sustainable foods, and has for some five years. They often wait for a table, and they often talk about it.
Billy Kwong's is a dozen or so blocks from Sidney's huge central train station. Withing walking distance of downtown, it is in a neighborhood with dozens of ethnic restaurants Italian, Japanese, Nepalese, Lebanese, and others. Nearby is another Chinese eatery called the Mah Jong Room. Many of these eateries have selections on outside chalkboards; not so those in Billy Kwong. Kylie Kwong prints hers daily utilizing foods found in the organic marketplace.
Ms. Kwong is of Cantonese heritage and a member of Australia's first and perhaps its largest Chinese family. She is a true Aussie with a unique restaurant that touts, supports, and features sustainable foods. When asked about her background, she replies: "I learned to cook Chinese food on my own and professionally I learned the rest from Neil Perry."
Her practice of keeping an eye on the environment is clear. She is an ambassador for the Fair Trade Agreement, the Australian Marine Council (AMCS), and other organizations; and she touts all of them with delight. This true believer told us that when she eats out in Sydney, it is only at North China Dumpling House in this city's Haymarket, and when she goes to Melbourne she eats only at the Flower Drum Restaurant.
She does eat out on her many trips to China, and has written a book about them and other Chinese restaurants and Chinese home-cooked foods. These have been written about in Flavor and Fortune's Volumes 14(3) and (4) on pages 19, 25, and 31, respectively). She also told us she gets headaches when traveling as "I am allergic to too much MSG." She continues, in that conversation, saying "I do not like marzipan, I do not eat snakes as I am squeamish, and I do love Sichuan food." She adds that she takes some nineteen people to China each year and shows them what foods are great and greatly appreciated.
Her Chinese Eating House seats forty-eight and virtually every night she serves about a hundred people. They, like we, order from her printed menu, and many order the pre-determined banquet for 89 Aussie dollars as we did. She recommends it because it has a large variety of tastes and textures and because it is very popular. We indulge and go for it.
We love the Prawn Wonton with their sweet chili sauce; and adore the Free-range Chicken Livers with Sweet Onions. Both are simply magnificent. The Pickled Beetroot and Carrot Salad with Soft-boiled Biodynamic Egg is simple and hardly Chinese. Folks at the next table have Stir-fry Bok Choy Broccoli and Snow Peas with slivers of fresh ginger. We wish we did, too, because the fixed banquet menu does lack greens. Only a few baby coriander sprigs and scallion slivers appear, and they do so in almost every dish.
We drool over the Crispy Skin Duck with Organic Plum Sauce and delight in tasting its long sticks of cinnamon, really cassia, and the whole star anise, and half purple plums. Even better is the Hiramara or king fish filets served sashimi style. Our only complaint about that dish is there are very few pieces of fish; likewise the Steamed Pacific Oysters with ginger and shallots. Her best dishes arrive in short supply; the others come in large portions; a pity.
The philosophy at Billy Kwong, as written on the menu, says: "To leave as small and light an environmental footprint as possible, to give back to the community whenever we can, and to think globally and act locally." She really does worry about soil, animals, environment, and people. Maybe, as we often eat too much, that is why we leave her banquet happy but hungry.