Monday, 15 December 2008

east ocean

421-429 Sussex St
Haymarket NSW 2000

Phone (02) 9212 4198


East Ocean Restaurant

One of Sydney’s Yum Cha stalwarts might just be one of the best places to eat your Har Gao and Char Siew Bao at the moment.

At 12.30pm, the line up is snaking down the staircase and the crowd is suitably buzzing with the anticipation of plump, juicy dumplings waiting upstairs. It’s ok though; we’ve got a secret weapon – punctual friends who have arrived half an hour earlier than us so we needn’t wait very long in the queue. Think of it as your Yum Cha designated driver.

We’re seated by a surly looking waiter who doesn’t seem to have much patience for anyone ordering pink lemonade or other fruity requests for beverages. I make my mind up to win him over by the end of our lunchtime sitting.

Peak hour in here is a Hong Kong traffic jam of trolleys laden with a heap of freshly cooked goodies. We immediately order a few rounds of See Jiup Pai Kwat – black bean steamed pork spare ribs. They’re meaty, strongly garlic-infused and fragrantly imbued with black bean flavour too.

Siu Long Bao (Shanghai soup dumplings) have been elevated to rock star status amongst the dumpling world with Din Tai Fung’s entrance into Sydney this year. But the truth is, they’ve been enjoyed by those in the know for a lot longer. East Ocean definitely give Din Tai Fung a run for their money with their pork version - no crabmeat fanciness here, just perfectly juicy pork with that burst of piping-hot soup waiting to explode in your mouth. Mind you let them cool down a little before diving in. The pastry may not be as chiffon-thin, but the flavour packs a punch.

The foundations of Sydney Yum Cha – Har Gao (plump, juicy prawn dumplings), Siew Mai (pork dim sims), Char Siew Bao (BBQ pork bread dumplings) and Gao Choy Gao (garlic chive and prawn dumplings) – are rock solid in flavour, freshness and quality of produce. There is nothing worse than a cold dumpling, after all.

First wind aside, we managed to sit through a second and third..and our waiter seems to grow impressed with our staying power. He’s breaking and manages to let a “Wow…so much food..hahaha” when he removes a tower of empty steamers.

Other highlights include the Wu Gok – those taro dumplings with impossibly golden, flaky lace-looking exterior with an almost creamy, pork filled savoury taro interior. It’s a bit of an acquired taste for some, but definitely worth trying.

Top off the savoury overload with mango pancakes, that is, if you have the room. Refreshingly cold mango and cream is enveloped in a light golden pancake and rolled, burrito-style. It reminds me of a Weiss bar, Chinese style.

Here’s the cincher: 10 people, a tonne of food..and the damage? Less than $25 each. Impressive by today’s standards.

Two hours later, we roll out of East Ocean, and walk it off by a spot of shopping – the only suitable cardio to be doing after such a satisfying feast.