A beau­ti­ful flow­er­ing

Af­ter two decades in the busi­ness, the Chin sis­ters have suc­ceeded in bring­ing to­gether re­fined din­ing and a con­tem­po­rary Asian aes­thetic. David Bur­ton re­ports.

The Dominion Post - Your Weekend (Dominion Post) - - Dine -

In­ever did get to Eatwell Take­aways in Sil­ver­stream, but a past menu doesn’t in­di­cate the fare was any other than fish’n’chips and bog-stan­dard Kiwi Can­tonese.

Yet some­how, from the sludge of chop suey and com­bi­na­tion chow mein, the tal­ents of co-own­ers Lily and Laili Chin have blos­somed into a beau­ti­ful lotus.

Pomelo, their de­but restau­rant in Ori­en­tal Bay, is a picture of re­fine­ment. As the for­mer White House restau­rant, its first floor el­e­va­tion of­fers un­par­al­leled har­bour views, now fur­ther en­hanced with en­larged picture win­dows. Tiled floors, ike­bana flower ar­range­ments, solid wooden ta­bles and wonky glass lamp­shades all con­trib­ute to a slightly se­vere, very con­tem­po­rary Asian aes­thetic – much en­hanced by Hans Weg­ner-style el­bow chairs, which clearly re­veal the debt this mid-cen­tury Dan­ish de­signer owed to Ming pe­riod fur­ni­ture.

All this chimes in per­fectly with Pomelo’s pan-asian reper­toire. As with all menus of this type, it’s hard to es­tab­lish a bench­mark or even to iden­tify ref­er­ences to par­tic­u­lar cuisines, al­though our en­trée of ul­tra­thin-skinned, meaty pork dumplings was clearly Chi­nese. An ac­com­pa­ny­ing “chef’s spe­cial sauce” owed its tasti­ness largely to soy, gin­ger and Chinkiang black vine­gar.

I don’t know where our deep-fried, crispy fin­gers of Caramelised Egg­plant sprang from, but boy were they good, es­pe­cially when dredged in their sticky, sweet-sour tamarind sauce. A sprin­kling of sesame seeds im­proved both flavour and tex­ture still fur­ther.

Red duck curry with ly­chees seems to de­rive from an early recipe by Teage Ezard, Mel­bourne’s master of pan-asian fu­sion. Just as our server warned, it was “very spicy” (read: hot), but this was ame­lio­rated by the sweet­ness of whole ly­chees (tinned, but still good), some cherry toma­toes and the co­conut cream-based gravy. Fresh basil, braised kaf­fir lime leaves and a stalk of cooked lemon­grass at­tested to the back­ground flavours. De­servedly, this Thai­in­spired curry is Pomelo’s most pop­u­lar dish.

Twenty years in the take­away busi­ness has surely con­trib­uted to the Chin sis­ters’ mas­tery of deep fry­ing, for – like the egg­plant – their Crispy Chicken fully lived up to its name, with no resid­ual greasi­ness and next to no taste from what had clearly been fresh oil. True, it doesn’t take a ge­nius to make teriyaki sauce, but this was a text­book ren­di­tion, again en­hanced by a sprin­kling of sesame seeds. Its rich­ness was off­set with a coleslaw, dressed with creamy mayo and fresh­ened with juli­enned Granny Smith (but with no trendy, leath­ery kale leaves, as the menu threat­ened).

Our server had the right at­ti­tude and kept our wa­ter glasses well re­plen­ished. But she might have cleared our dirty side plates af­ter the first course and should have just gone ahead and wiped our filthy ta­ble top af­ter the main course with­out ask­ing per­mis­sion. And she did need to know that “on­sen” refers to a tra­di­tional Ja­panese low tem­per­a­ture egg.

Pomelo is not cheap. In­deed, a main here costs about dou­ble of that at a hum­bler CBD pan-asian such as Mr Go’s. But against this must be off­set the por­tion sizes, which are more than am­ple. We un­nec­es­sar­ily padded out our mains with a side of Mar­ket Veg­eta­bles (as­para­gus, green beans and mush­rooms, all fault­lessly cooked) and a bowl of jas­mine rice. I also broke my vow never to or­der roti out­side of an In­dian-owned Malaysian restau­rant, and paid for it: this roti was by no means stale, but nor would I guess it had been made freshly on the premises by a ded­i­cated roti-wal­lah.

As a re­sult, we left no room for dessert, which was a pity, as Choco­late Cream Cheese Brownie (with Whit­taker’s choco­late mousse and crum­ble top­ping) sounds deeply ap­peal­ing.

POMELO KITCHEN & BAR

Up­stairs at 232 Ori­en­tal Pa­rade Ph: (04) 382 8088 Fully li­censed Open Tues-sun 5.30pm-10pm Price range of mains: $24-$32 Cost: $95 for two (ex­clud­ing wine) Food: Ser­vice: Am­bi­ence: Drinks list:

Pomelo’s en­larged pic­tured win­dows and first floor po­si­tion of­fer din­ers un­par­al­leled views across Ori­en­tal Bay.

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