Waitan embodies the bright opulence and interesting fusion food that characterises upscale, modern Chinese dining, with a price tag (and construction budget) to match. If only their website was slightly more user-friendly - a webmaster out there needs to fix the page number links on their menu page. I'll only be featuring my favourite dishes.
As one of the largest Chinese restaurant venues in Sydney, Waitan's spacious bao fang private rooms are ideal for large parties, especially if you ever find yourself needing to bring small children under five years old to dinner. Unfortunately, this meant I didn't get to experience their distinctive 'opium den' style dining booths, but perhaps that can be saved for next time.
The sesame sauce is really the star player of this beautifully presented Lettuce Roll with Sesame Dressing dish. The sauce is surprisingly acidic and whets your appetite extremely well for dishes to come. I'm not sure how well the cucumber and lettuce worked as a dip though - the cucumber was dine but the lettuce was a bit dry and didn't absorb the sauce very well.
You don't often think of soups in restaurants as a star dish, especially in Chinese restaurants, but the Dry Scallop with Tofu & Tomato Consommé was vividly flavoured (with light scallop notes) and impressively presented (though, looking at the menu photo, they appeared to have lost a tomato somewhere).
Waitan's method of serving the Premium Wild Mushroom soup in a small, traditional Chinese teapot (with a tiny tea light!), to be drunk out of a tiny ceramic tea cup, ensured it stayed piping hot, which was an adorable and thoughtful touch. I love the taste of mushroom and mushroom soup so this was a winner for me.
The Sautéed Lobster with Egg Whites was one of two standout 'mains', though it can be a little rich when placed in the context of a table full of food. Though the egg whites and cream featured prominently, they were very lightly flavoured, which allowed the freshness of the lobster meat to stand out. The fish roe was a perfect punctuating touch of flavour.
The Roasted Pork Hock, Char Siu Sauce with Pancakes was served as an interesting take on the traditional method of eating Beijing duck. All criticisms aside, it was probably my favourite dish, especially served piping hot as the good lord intended. The pork crackling was incredibly crispy and the meat underneath was incredibly tender - 'falling off the bone' quite literally (the bone was served along with it presumably as evidence). The accompanying char siu sauce was sweet and worked surprisingly well with the slight smokiness of the meat and the pork's more 'Western' flavours.
I'm not sure how well the rice pancakes worked - the soft, slightly doughy pancakes didn't enhance the meat the same way that it does with Beijing duck and it seemed to have been served merely as a way to make the dish more 'Chinese'. The salad with a vaguely balsamic vinaigrette-like dressing would have also worked better as a garnish, instead of a side dish, as the portions suggested (also, was just weird to wrap the lettuce in with the pancakes).
Special mention to the mango cream with sago on our Dessert Tasting Plate, though it featured none of the heaviness you might associate with the word 'cream'. The pearl sago was a great textural complement to this sweet and refreshing 'full stop' on our Waitan dining experience.
Unfortunately, even deep-frying couldn't make me enjoy the taste of oysters, though I will say that it is one of the better ones I've tried. I don't think this is on Waitan's online menu but the seasoning was very garlic-y and slightly spicy.
Despite a potentially forbidding price tag, the intricate interiors, thoughtfully selected tableware and beautifully plated dishes makes for a very pleasant dining experience on a special occasion.
Level 2, Chinatown Centre
405-411 Sussex Street
Chinatown, Sydney, NSW