Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Billy Kwong, Surry Hills

I was having quite a day on Monday, that feeling of being overwhelmed for no reason, bad luck and silly mistakes happening left, right and centre, and you just wished you could duck back under your covers.  I couldn't be happier when dinner time was around the corner, and I was meeting my friend K for dinner at Longrain.  It had been a while and everything was starting to look better,  as I was dreaming of cocktails and dessert platters.  Unfortunately, when I got to Longrain it was closed for a private function.  You can't book, especially for two, but when you get there you become stranded.  Note to self, just call next time and make sure there is no private function, lesson learnt.

Unbelievable, my day was just getting worse, as I was looking up other restaurants of interest and one after another was closed on Monday.  K mentioned Italian and something hearty, so Pizza e Birra sprung to mind and a call confirmed that they were opened.  K was driving down Crown Street, and I noticed Billy Kwong and a tiny queue outside.  I remembered an article written by Terry Durack from a while back on 'the 50 things every Sydney food lover should try', and on that list was was the fried egg dish at Billy Kwong's.  I had to know if the fried egg dish compared to my grandmother's, so a convinced K was willing to give it a go, especially when she got a glimpse of Kylie Kwong in the kitchen, so that's how we ended up at Billy Kwong's.

Now, you would think that everything was hunky dorky after getting a table, but it wasn't.  However, it was my own doing as my compact camera and the dim lighting wouldn't agree with each other and my cold tired hands that night.  It was decided that the best resort for the food photos that night, would be my BlackBerry Torch.

They didn't have the exact fried egg dish that was listed by Terry Durack, but close enough.  Even better as I prefer XO sauce over oyster sauce.  Our first dish of the homestyle fried biodynamic eggs with organic tamari and housemade XO came out.  Sometimes with rice, there is nothing better then crisp puffy fried eggs with a runny yolk and a dash of soy sauce.  This is a dish that definitely makes me thing of my grandma, but her soy sauce of choice is still Maggi to this day.  The fried eggs at Billy Kwong's is a much more refined version, with the XO sauce, chillies and shallots really coming through.  I just think it needed a touch more seasoning to really shine.  However, K's never had anything like this texturally and she really enjoyed it.

Homestyle fried biodynamic eggs with organic tamari and housemade XO, $19

I was thankful the friendly staff told us what was on the special menu.  Otherwise, K and I would have missed out on the steamed savoury pancakes with cumin beef and housemade sauce, as we couldn't make out the writing on the handwritten specials menu provided to us.  The shredded beef with cumin was lovely, especially with the sweet housemade sauce that really accentuated the flavours of the beef.  The sauce really bought this dish together, once you wrapped up the pancakes with the cucumbers and shallots as well.  There was plenty of beef left over after the Peking duck style pancakes were demolished, so we happily ate the beef with our rice and spoonfuls of housemade sauce on top.

Steamed savoury pancakes with cumin beef and housemade sauce, $32

There's a bit of a wait between courses, and we're starting to get full.  It's not a good situation as we're still waiting for our two mains.  I was praying that the main portions sizes would be on the smaller side.  However, our chicken main of crispy-skin free-range chicken with organic brown rice vinegar dressing came out and it was huge, and we're laughing about over ordering again.  We chose this over the duck with mandarin sauce special, as we  had already ordered the pork belly special and didn't want another overly rich dish.  However, I think we may have regretted that choice, as the chicken skin was far from crispy, and as succulent as the chicken was, the vinegar dressing was slightly bland.  This dish didn't quite have that kick or crispness we were expecting, it felt more like a poached chicken dish.

Crispy-skin free-range chicken with organic brown rice vinegar dressing, $48

While we were listening to the specials, we also heard pork belly and decided to go with it, as the dishes have super long names here and it had been a long day.  This was our favourite dish of the night, and it's been a while since I enjoyed a pork belly dish as much as this one.

When I usually have pork belly, I feel that it's quite heavy going down.  However, I didn't have an issue with the caramelised, but soft pork belly here.  I also find a lot of the time that grapes aren't use properly in savoury dishes and act more like a garnish, but not this time either.  The grapes were actually slightly cooked, so when you bit into the plump grape, the sweet warm grape juice exploded in your mouth and acted as the perfect foil against the fattiness of sweet pork belly, making it so easy to go down.  The addition of the crisp pieces of celery and cabbage were perfect texturally, and helped balance out the sweetness of the sauce.

Caramelised pork belly, $47

K and I ended up clutching our stomachs and looking at our half chicken and half dish of pork belly still on the table.  As we have gotten older, we really don't eat as much as we use to.  As we were reminiscing about this and how much we use to eat, an angel of a waiter came over to save us from all the unconsumed food by offering to pack them away for us.

The dishes were packed in some small, but cute BioPaks.  This is how Cheesecake Boy got a fabulous take away dinner after uni on Monday night too.  After a long day of work and study, I guess nothing's better than a pork belly and rice dinner to recharge the batteries, and Cheesecake Boy contently agreed too.  By the way, the flavours of the chicken got better the next day too, as the vinegar was sharper and came through in the chicken more.

BioPak takeaway dinner waiting for Cheesecake Boy

I love the concept and the philosophy that Billy Kwong stands by, and it's good to see a celebrity chef work hard in their own kitchen.  I don't normally harp about service, but it's been a while that I've been to a place where the staff are so lovely.  When we got out it was freezing and raining, but good food, friends and take away BioPaks start to make you look forward to a good night's rest and the next day.  That is until you get to the the next day, and then you burn your finger by toasting yourself a sugary blueberry bagel for breakfast and reward yourself with two blisters, sigh.  Nothing that half a bottle of good wine won't fix later, right?

Happy dining, Dumpling Girl.

Billy Kwong
Shop 3
355 Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Ph: (02) 9332 3300

Billy Kwong on Urbanspoon


thang @ noodlies said...

Interesting.. I still haven't been here, though I have heard good things about it.

Not sure about savoury pancakes though.

chopinandmysaucepan said...

Nothing quite like a bit of adventure to work up the appetite before dinner. I haven't been to BK for a long time. I remember we used to have a drink and wait at the Dolphin pub until they call us on the mobile. I like the fried rice and the egg. Some of the other dishes can be overpowering in flavours.

Dumpling Girl said...

Hi thang, sorry should have clarified that the pancakes are Peking duck style pancakes, so the dish was just like Peking duck but it was replaced by beef and a sweet housemade sauce and some sesame seeds. I have rectified the confusion on the post. I think sometimes restaurants deliberately name things to confuse people :)

Hello chopinandmysaucepan, lol nothing like a stressful day to make one eat a lot. You must have the patience of a saint, I hate long waits and try to avoid it, even if they offer to take my number, my stomach can't wait.

Dolly said...

ive never been here too..

im very interested in the pork belly.

Ken always raves about his mum pork bely.. its so salty compared to vietnamese pork belly which is more sweet.

how did Kylies pork belly taste like?

Dumpling Girl said...

Hi Dolly, it's definitely sweet.

Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said...

I remember reading that Terry Durack article as well but have yet to try the fried eggs either.

Monday night dining always is a bit of a challenge, I think everyone just tries to avoid that dreaded mondayitis

Dumpling Girl said...

Hi Gianna, I wish I could of avoided Mondayitis, but seemed to hit me hard last week. Hopefully, not tomorrow :)

jack said...

That pork sounds so good. I really like grapes/currants when they are used in savoury meat dishes, I think they really lighten a heavy dish! Hope you have a Monday-itis free day :)

Dolly said...

thanks for the reply :)

i thought so.. its strange how my bfs family its it salty.. like too salty. i only started liking pork belly when i met him.. b4 that i went on a VN tour and they served it to me EVERYDAY.. i was so scared of it when i got back to syd. hehe.

but yeah.. i'd def. want to try BIlly Kwong's one..

Dumpling Girl said...

Awww Jack, so sweet, thank you I almost escaped Mondayitis :)

Totally agreed that it lightened up the dish, and made it lovely to eat.

Hi Dolly, I don't have a high salt tolerance either, but my favourite dish that night was the pork belly.

Jen said...

I haven't been here yet but the pork belly looks good. I don't believe in fine dining Asian but I do believe in her principles.

Dumpling Girl said...

Hello Jen, the pork belly was the highlight for us, and I almost chose the duck over this, but have read on other blogs that the duck that we missed out on is also quite good too.