Dining perfection to a tea
WRITTEN ON TEA – CITY
135 Bathurst St Licensed/ BYO; lunch and dinner daily from 11.30am to 9.30pm. Takeaways. 6234 9989
WRITTEN on Tea has gone uptown and upmarket in all but its prices. In an elegant cream and black makeover of a previously nondescript store front, the tables are well spaced, each with an attractive Chinese table runner, the chairs are comfortable, there’s a large function room which doubles as a table tennis and karaoke room when not in use, a much more spacious kitchen than in the Sandy Bay establishment and Rebecca Cong’s pride and joy – three beautifully appointed inside toilets. And, in addition to her smile, you are now greeted at the door by a couple of Chinese stylised lions, part of the as- yet uncompleted restaurant decoration.
While Sandy Bay is as good and popular as ever, the new city chef, Mr Chen, from Melbourne, has introduced an array of new dishes to distinguish the two menus.
For 13 of us sharing whatever dishes Rebecca brought, our meal started with what she said was a traditional Chinese nibble, peanuts boiled with salt and star anise – so good they were addictive, and fi nished with an off- menu special of stir fried mussels in a lipsticking black bean sauce.
In between came Written on Tea’s signature dish of dry- fried beans with minced pork and spicy sauce, a beautiful hot pot of eggplant and beef, duck three different ways, chicken and crispy salted wings, slippery buns, and pork and cabbage dumplings, plus dishes of assorted vegetables and fungi in their own garlic and bean sauces.
Altogether a fabulous feast and, working out at $ 23 a head without wine, surely one of the city’s exceptional bargains.
On a second visit, four of us doubled up on those peanuts, beans and mussels and added stir- fried cabbage with shredded duck, a delicate Cantonesestyle steamed “snapper’’ served whole in a ginger and spring onion sauce and wonderfully salt- crumbed and crunchy, perfectly cooked king prawns.
And the dishes on those two visits were only a sampling of the extensive 43- item menu running from dumplings, noodles and soups through chicken, duck, seafood, pork, lamb and beef hot pots, vegetarian and fi ve different fried rice dishes, plus a couple of desserts.
The luncheon menu is shorter and cheaper and the adequate wine list even includes a sweetish Italian Lambrusco, which Rebecca says is perfect with some of the salty, spicy
menu dishes. I’ll take her word for it. But certainly a slightly off dry Tasmanian reisling and a young, fresh Tassie sauv blanc were ideal throughout both meals.
Price guide: Dumplings 12 for $ 12; soups $ 6-$ 15; fried rice $ 14; and the remaining dishes between $ 7 and $ 25, with the snapper $ 35; fi ve pieces of Peking duck $ 20; and a half/ whole Nanjing duck $ 26/$ 46. BYO corkage $ 3 a glass. No credit cards.