In Short: XOPP is the golden child of Sydney’s established king of Asian cuisine, Golden Century Chinese Restaurant. It is named after the famous dish that made the original restaurant a bucket list destination. XOPP continues to deliver on some of the classic dishes while providing a modern spin on new dishes as well. In addition, there is a well stocked bar and combined with its unique location and interior design, makes this a perfect example of modern Chinese dining.
When you think of some of Sydney’s most iconic dishes, vouched for not just by the patrons but by famous chefs from around the world, quite often Golden Century’s famous XO Pipis is at the top or near the top of the list. Pipi is a type of shellfish clam that is native to New Zealand. The XO Pipi dish was first created in Golden Century Sydney Chinatown restaurant in 1990 by now-retired head chef Leung Yung, which involves cooking the fleshy shellfish in a secret signature XO sauce. While it is still Golden Century’s best seller, it has now became so famous that Billy Wong, the son of Golden Century’s founders, Linda and Eric Wong decided to name their new restaurant after the name of the dish that put the original restaurant on the map of best culinary destinations.
XOPP is not your traditional Chinese restaurant. Located inside the new Exchange building designed by Kengo Kuma at Darling Square, the restaurant occupies the 2nd level of the building and the sits 160-seat with a circular layout around an open middle atrium and a view of Darling Square. The interior of the restaurant is designed by Billy’s brother and head of Hong Kong-based Paring Onions Design, Alex Wong, with a mix of industrial exposed concrete pillars blended with a ceiling lighting with bold flower patterned motifs. The mix of green and white Herman Miller Magis Milà dining chairs looks sophisticated, simplistic but they are oh so comfortable when you sit on them. The attention to design detail extends to the use of green bowls with orange chop sticks and drinking glasses. Even their wine glasses are cleverly and discretely embossed with the name of the restaurant XOPP on it.
What might come as a surprise to you as well, is that the head chef Zachary Ng isn’t a graduate from Golden Century’s stable of chefs and cooks. Instead, his cooking background included a stint at Sepia, a hatted venue with a Japanese influence. But that might be a good thing as it sets XOPP apart from its mother restaurant and the dishes that come out from his kitchen is a marriage of old and new, tradition and innovation.
For entrees, we had the XOPP Prawn Mantou Roll with XO Mayonnaise and XO sauce. Fluffy, pillowy-soft, golden deep fried mantou filled with a delicious prawn cocktail mixed with XO Mayonnaise and XO sauce. Need I say more ? The mantou was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Its sweet bun flavours contrasted with the savoury prawn filling. To say that it was finger licking good is an understatement.
One of little Coco and Viner Sammi’s favourites is Steamed Prawn Dumpling. It is one of her must-have dishes when its on the menu. According to her, XOPP’s Steamed Prawn Dumpling is one of the best she has ever had. Juicy, plump balls of lightly marinated prawns encased in a delicate skin, the dumpling was larger than the ones at most yum cha restaurants and the fillings was generous. At one point, the waitress thought she was done and tried to take away the steam basket. Sammi reached out and stopped her, because there was still the delicious fine crystal skin left. The dumplings was so good that she left nothing in the basket, a true endorsement!
For mains, Sammi wanted Sweet and Sour pork. I was a touch skeptical at first as I have had so many mediocre versions at Chinese restaurants where the meat is tough and tasteless. But XOPP’s Sweet and Sour pork exceeded my expectations. Tender pieces of bite-sized well marinated pork are coated in a light batter and deep fried to a golden brown to resemble shiny gold nuggets. It is then coated in a sauce to give it extra shine and stir-fried with yellow, red and green capsicums, celery, onion for a flavour, colour and textural contrast. For a citrusy, tart sweet flavour, pieces of pineapples is added to the dish, making it a an extremely delicious and addictive plate of food. It is a good dish to go with a hot bowl of white rice and when done well like XOPP’s version, it becomes a favourite with children and adults too.
No visit to XOPP is complete without an order of their famous Stir-Fried Pipis with XO sauce. It is the dish that made its original restaurant Golden Century famous and the main reason why this spin-off restaurant is called XOPP. Large fleshy Australian pPipis are cooked fresh from the tank, wok fried with their signature xo sauce that is thick, heady and jam packed with flavour, then served on a bed of crispy vermicelli pancake or egg noodles or Chinese donut bread. Our suggestion is to go with the crispy vermicelli pancake, because it just soaks up all the goodness of the sauce. You get the crispy parts of the vermicelli pancake, the soft parts that is saturated in the sauce and all topped with the fresh pipis lightly stir-fried in their secret signature sauce. Between the 2 of us, we ordered 500gms and it was just nice, though we did have fights over who should have the last pipi on the plate.
Beef Tendon is a hard ingredient to cook, as to get it to the perfect level of tender gelatinous texture, it needs to be braised over low heat for many hours. A classic Cantonese dish is Beef Tendon, Brisket and Turnip hotpot. The beef brisket is stewed together with the beef tendon and spices like star anise and cloves, then cooked till its fork tender and melt in your mouth. Daikon radish is then added to the stew at the right moment, so that it still has a bit of bite while absorbing the flavours from the stew sauce. It is comfort food at its best and XOPP has done the classic dish justice, invoking all the classic aromas, flavours and techniques in a single dish.
XOPP features a lot of classic Chinese dishes but when they are most adventurous in, is their dessert menu. A must-try dessert us their Jasmine Bubble Tea Panna Cotta. Served in a tumbler glass, there is the white wobbly Panna Cotta at the bottom, a layer of black tapioca pearls like the ones you find in bubble tea, then an actual layer of foam bubbles at the top. It not only looked fantastic, but tasted really good ! The smooth creamy panna cotta contrasted with the chewy texture of the tapioca pearls and it’s a great innovative dessert.
XOPP is all about quality of ingredients and refined approach to Chinese cuisine. For us, the quality was unsurpassed and you can be guaranteed to leave feeling pampered and satisfied, both by the staff for the excellent service and the chefs for the unending array of delicious food that comes out from the kitchen.