sea bay restaurant

mainpictureBack when I was still at uni (I say that like it was so long ago) there was this place that I used to eat at sometimes. And by sometimes I mean five to six times a week. Up to twice a day. That place was the Chinese Noodle Restaurant on Quay St in Haymarket. I ate there so much, that the waitresses would ever-so-subtly gesture at me on arrival and usher me straight in, disregarding the throng of people who were waiting outside. And now that I am in the city, all corporate and suit wearing, and unable to dash across the intersection and through the Prince Centre for my daily dumpling & noodle fix, I miss them. Not so badly sometimes, and horribly at others.

Desparation for a fried dumpling lunch had led me to the internet. And the internet led me here. Just a short walk from the office, Sea Bay Restaurant sits a little way along Pitt Street, opposite World Square. Now, the dumplings aren't the delicate little creatures you will find inside World Square, at Din Tai Fung, but rather the thick and chunky, standardly meaty dumplings that you'll normally find in Chinatown. The location means you'll pay a couple of dollars extra per dish, but, as they say, time is money and lunch hours are short.

imagename
tea & chilli for two

I've eaten here twice this week. Yes, twice. Once with a friendly dumpling fiend from uni (ahh! the good old days!) and once with Billy on one of his many sojurns to Sydney town. I find the service here quite standard, though the smiley faced older gentleman (maybe owner?) is only around at lunchtimes. Tea will be brought to your table automatically. Don't worry about this. There's no charge. ("No charge?!" I hear you exclaim. That's right. No. Charge. "Yay!" cheers the crowd.) There is also no charge for the miasmic chilli in oil mix that lands alongside. (I will warn you, the chilli isn't hot at first brush. But the heat builds. Slowly. And suddenly, you will have a drippy nose and a propensity for laughing. Not good on dates. Don't say I didn't warn you. Also, don't say I don't care. I do. Dearly.)

imagename
fried dumplings (pork & chive) $9.00

Moving on, did someone say dumplings? Shortly after ordering, 12 plump, crescent shaped, burnish bottomed dumplings landed on our table. They were not as oily as others I have had, and wonderfully plump and tasty. The chives really did their work (I couldn't speak to people later without having awkward "dumpling breath" moments - easily fixed with gum, and lots of it) and the pork was tender and moist.

imagename
steamed meat filled buns $9.00

Ten steamed "xiao long bao" arrive in a double deckered steamer basket. They are piping hot and taste wonderful with the soy/vinegar/chilli mix that I've concocted over the years. Now, before we all throw our hands up in the air and say "But they're not xiao long bao! What about the soup? Anyway, they can't be better than..." I'm going to exposit a little theory, namely, I've decided that xiao long bao at a northern chinese style restaurant are never going to be the same as xiao long bao from a central to southern chinese style restaurant. Northern chinese buns are always bigger, doughier and meatier. They're made for hunters and people who spend their lives in freezing conditions with little more than some baijiu to keep them going. In central and southern China, however, there is warmth. And fertile soil. And far fewer crazy border crossers ready to attack your yaks and pillage your villages. So the buns are smaller, daintier, more beautiful. Fit for royalty. Case in point, Shanghai Nights. Shanghai. South.

imagename
dumplings all gone

The point being that there is validity to both styles. And that a dumpling made in one style shouldn't be trashed (for want of a better term) for its likeness to the other. My other point is that these buns were good. And, unsophisticated as they were, I liked 'em.

imagename
pork pastries $9.00

My other, other point (how many points have I had so far? I don't normally rant like this. Truly. But it's been getting my goat of late and... I'll stop now. I think this is point three) is that no way those lovely sophisticated central & southerners would have come up with anything like this. No. WAY.

imagename
pork pastry innards

Imagine you have made yourself a giant dumpling. It's filled with mince, and chives, and other assorted, undiscernable goodies. And it is beautiful. Now instead of steaming it, you fry it. And instead of just frying it, you also squish it. And then fry the other side. Oh my word! De-lish. This was, truly, the highlight of my double visit. I would exclaim at the pastry "Oh! It's so crunchy, and golden! Yummm" and then at the insides "It tastes different to the dumplings. And so moist!" and then at the pastry again, and then at the filling again, and Billy would refill his tea and nod at me. Then he would take photos of the food. And I would revert back to normal conversation.

imagename
jellyfish salad $9.80

That flash of green you have been seeing in the back of some of the photographs is not, as some might have guessed, dumplings that have grown mould in the time it has taken me to tell this story. It is, thankfully, a jellyfish salad. Now jellyfish salad, as a rule, is garlicky. So garlicky, in fact, that it usually verges on spicy. It also is a no-go when on a first date. Also when you have to go to that class with that cute boy immediately after lunch. I learnt that one the hard way. This salad is lovely with enough dressing to tenderise the crisp shredded cabbage. The jellyfish is not as crunchy as I am used to, its texture more remeniscent of a slightly chewier konjaku jelly, but I enjoy it nonetheless. The cucumber is an especially appreciated addition in light of the over-chilli-fication that I suffered. (See earlier note).

imagename
fried handmade noodles (beef) $11.80

The handmade noodles are flavoursome. Period. The tomato has absorbed all of the flavour from the wok and is absolutely the most delicious bit of cooked tomato I've ever eaten. (I'm maybe exaggerating. It was good though). The noodles themselves are wonderfully toothsome, though have sadly been cut short. I like a long noodle. (Get your minds out of the gutter people. I talk food. FOOD!) And the beef is lovely and tender and flavoursome.

imagename
almost. full. must eat more.

All in all, two unregrettable meals. Would I go again? I already did. And when you're in the city and can't possibly make it to Chinatown, this is a really great alternative. It's also very clean and spaced out, so you aren't playing elbow battles with the unknowns next to you. Yes, it is noisy when the crowd hits, and you may not be able to get a table straight away everytime. And yes, it is a little awkward waiting outside because on one side there is a seedy laneway, and on the other lies Eric's Adult Bookshop. But I am fond of a northern Chinese dumpling. And I'll likely be back soon.

imagename

Sea Bay Restaurant
372 Pitt St
Sydney 2000 NSW
Phone: (02) 9267 4855

8 bites more:

lili - pikelet & pie said...

I have been to Sea Bay a few times (never for lunch, and it has always been busy), and have been pretty disappointed. I don't like it nearly as much as the Chinese Noodle Restaurant. I find the dumpling wrappers far too thick and stodgy at Sea Bay.
Your review is making me consider giving old Sea Bay one last chance, though. (and now I want dumplings, pre-9am. I think it might be time for me to move to China).

Howard said...

This place is nice and like you mention, because the location is convenient. I wouldn't mind heading back into Chinatown to try a few of the original places though as these days I just goto Ashfield because it's closer to home!

chocolatesuze said...

the yaks are coming the yaks are coming! run for the hills!

Simon said...

Interesting write up and nice play on words. Had a lot of fun reading this one :)

I'd always thought that konjaku was spelled konnyaku. Wow, so many variations.

FFichiban said...

Mmmm mouldy dumplings... mmm long "noodle"... mmm Eric's bookshop.

But srsly is this the place with the awesome lamb skewers? I think I have been here before but maybe ages agooo

shez said...

lilli: mmmyum! breakfast dumplings! i still prefer chinese noodle restaurant (it's like coming home) but really don't mind sea bay for a cbd-ish dumpling stop. and the pork pastry really is fantastic. i'm a big big fan.

Howard: that sounds like a good plan... there's so many out in chinatown. i might have to do a dumpling excursion :)

chocolatesuze: nonono. they're attacking your yaks, not the other way 'round :) (i did have a big ol' laugh when i read that though... made me look a little mental)

Simon: i got my spelling off the packet we have at home. totally not an illegal importation. *nods*

FFichiban: i have a lovely way of making nice things sound not-so-nice huh? oops :) and i think so. i saw them on the menu. but if i'm into skewers, i can't go past kiroran. they're the BEST!

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

Yak attacks should feature in more theories! :P Have you tried Uighur cuisine? It's delicious and full of carbs and meat and fat but really good. Probably one step up on the carb meter than Northern Shanghai Chinese cuisine.

shez said...

Lorraine: i have! can't go past the lamb skewers at kiroran. there's jsut something wonderful about the rustic, earthy cuisine that i love.

Post a Comment