In short: A modern take on Chinese and Asian favourites, relaxed atmosphere with the harbour as a backdrop, housed in Barangaroo precinct.
We always look forward to seeing our buddy Sue, who visits from the Sunshine Coast of Queensland every 6 months or so. It usually involves going out for a good feed. Seeing that the days were warming up and she had not visited Barangaroo, we decided to take her to Barangaroo and spent a lazy couple of hours at Lotus. Lotus is a modern representation of Chinese/Asian cuisine situated on Wulgulul Walk. With the glistening waters of Sydney Harbour, a cooling sea breeze and relaxed settees to settle into. The atmosphere is a magnitude less frenzied than Chinatown. Owner Michael Jiang has two other Lotus restaurants in Sydney, and it’s a culmination of a childhood dream to deliver food of his heritage. He has attracted Chris Yan and Kenji Okuda who have worked at Billy Kwong to take the helm at Lotus Barangaroo.
As we perused the menu, we were intrigued by the native and exotic ingredients that have been incorporated into the dishes. Some of these ingredients include lemon aspen, butterfly pea flower, and crystal ice plant. They are planted locally in a collaborative effort between Chef Yan and a horticulturist.
To kick off the afternoon, we sampled a pair of mocktails off the drinks menu. The lychee iced tea is made with Shanghai afternoon tea, lychee and lemon. The end result is a deep yellowish drink with a plump lychee on a stick, balanced across the rim of the rim of the glass. Flavours-wise, the drink has a mellow tea flavour and is not overly sweet, even with the addition of lychee. The lemon helps to balance the flavours of the tea and lychee. It is a very pretty, refreshing and delicious sip.
Afternoon cobbler is a concoction of blueberries, lemon, mint and soda. The end result of this drink is a light purple colour from the blueberry. The addition of soda gives the drink a fizz, while the lemon balances the flavour and the mint gives it a refreshing twist.
Midway through our drinks, the first of the dishes arrive and we dig into mushroom spring roll. The spring roll is stuffed with a filling made from assorted mushrooms and then deep fried to a crispy golden colour and garnished with a sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds to add an additional crunchy, nutty flavour. Even though the dish is deep fried, it was fried to perfection, but yet not overly oily. Definitely a dish that would be endorsed by both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, and mushroom lovers, you will just love this one!
While it’s easy to go straight for the dumplings, we couldn’t resist trying the crystal ice plant salad with cucumber, enoki mushroom and black vinegar. For someone who has never tried crystal ice plant, I was intrigued to find that the crystal ice plant naturally grows in sand dunes and sea weed deposits, and has a surprising succulent texture that almost reminds me of eating a cactus plant. Tossed and mixed with cucumbers, enoki mushrooms and a black vinegar dressing, you get an explosion of Asian flavours meshed with native bush flavours that with each mouthful sets it apart from regular salad dishes.
Our visitor Sue is a big fan of eggplant, so we had to order the steamed eggplant salad with fermented chilli, garlic and coriander for her to try. The eggplant and white radish is cut into thick short sticks and is cooked such that it retains some crunch, yet is tender and supple. Dressed with a sauce made with fermented chilli, garlic and a hint of Sichuan pepper and garnished with coriander, this was such an addictive and enticing dish that while it was a dish ordered for Sue’s benefit, we found ourselves constantly picking at it as well and going back until the dish was finished right to the last drop of vegetables and sauce.
From the Lotus’ starter section, we also picked out 2 meat dishes. Their BBQ pork with pickled bamboo shoots and cauliflower is something that all lovers of char siew should try. It is made with pork that has the right balance of meat and fat, smothered in a sweet and sticky sauce, charred to perfection with some delicious dark bits that some swear is the best part of a char siew BBQ pork. The side of pickled veg really contrasts well with the rich pork and cuts through the meat nicely.
BBQ Duck with pancake is another dish that is commonly found in most Chinese restaurants. But to find a place that does the dish well is quite rare as it is a dish that does require a lot of skill and effort in preparation. Lotus does not disappoint with their offering of half BBQ duck with mandarin pancake and sweet miso sauce. The BBQ duck had a red glinting skin that is a trade mark of BBQ duck done well. The layer of fat under the skin is also well rendered, allowing you to eat multiple pieces of the delicious duck meat without the oily aftertaste. In fact it was so good, you might be tempted to forget that you are actually supposed to place each piece of duck meat with a piece of cucumber and green onion on a perfect white round pancake, and brush on a smear of sweet miso sauce and wrap it all together into a roll before eating it. By doing so, with each bite, you get the meaty flavour of the duck, the freshness of the cucumber and spring roll, and the sweetness of the sweet miso sauce, all held together by the delicate pancake skin. It is definitely a dish that is hands on and finger licking good.
With our appetite sated, we came away utterly impressed with Lotus Barangaroo. Sometimes after a big Chinese meal you can walk out feeling bloated but that was not the case with our experience. I love the innovative approach to the presentation and the use of unusual ingredients that add a new dimension to the dishes they feature in.