Monday, 1 September 2008

blue ginger

As published in Time Out Sydney
241 Darling Street
Balmain NSW 2041
Tel : +61 2 9818 4662

Every suburb has a token Asian restaurant. Some are better than others, depending on your level of tolerance for authenticity. After all, it’s questionable as to whether Mongolian Lamb was ever served in Mongolia.

Luckily for Balmain locals, they have Blue Ginger. Owner and chef Les Huynh is often heralded as a champion of new-school Asian and his restaurant has become a mecca for fashionistas to feed on fusion. The term ‘fusion’ is one often met with trepidation not in the least as it’s overused and the results aren’t always good. In this case though, Blue Ginger’s fusion is simply the kind that combines great quality produce and expert execution, combined with a careful knowledge of what makes South-East Asian food rock.

Push through the heavily ornate doors to find a dimly lit, sexy interior featuring a long communal table as well as cosy tables for two. At 8pm on a Friday night, this place is packed, so it’s best to make a booking.

The menu reads well enough like your local Chinese; San Choy Bao with Duck or Chicken; Salt and Pepper Squid; but that’s where the comparison stops. From here, it’s a journey through South East Asia, via Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Old favourite, San Choy Bao is carefully manicured to form a perfect cup for a delicious combination of textures and flavours; sweet corn, tender bamboo shoots, sesame and tenderly cooked chicken. Even dumplings get a dress up with Shitake Mushrooms delicately mixed with Shrimp and served straight from the bamboo steamer.

The mains turn up some imaginative dishes and the Braised Duck with Tamarind sauce is a winner. Crispy skin gives way to the tender meaty interior, delicately drizzled with a tangy and very addictive Tamarind and Chilli infused sauce; kind of an Asian take on Confit of Duck. The Cha Kway Teo manages to simultaneously retain is Penang roots and yet somehow take this humble street-vendor dish to new, stylish heights. I doubt the real thing ever includes King Prawns this big and Chinese sausage has never been this chic.

For those with a sweeter side, the tempting list of dishes will prove the hardest part of your evening; the sweet black sticky rice is a tried and true local favourite, but if you want to try a bit of everything; the tasting plate for 2 is a sure-fire bet.

So if you’ve a hankering for Asian fare, but you don’t like to put your Fendi on the floor, Blue Ginger just might be your ticket.

$50 pp, licensed. Open for dinner 6.00pm – 11.00pm Tues- Sunday.

4 stars