Peng You China Kitchen & Bar
This is dining as a social experience, with less of the hustle of yum cha, and more the laidback vibe of tapas.
We have all been out to a favourite Chinese restaurant, with that one person who just doesn't want to share. Instead they order their own serve of lemon chicken which they proceed to eat by themselves without offering any to anyone. Do not take this person to Peng You.
Peng You, meaning 'friends', is all about dining as a social experience, but think less of the hustle and bustle of yum cha, and more of the laidback vibe of a tapas bar. In fact, Peng You offers a selection of share plates under the 'tapas' heading.
The food is designed to encourage a fun, hands-on and communal vibe. If your plates are going back to the kitchen with wedges of unsqueezed lime and uneaten herbs then you're partly missing the point. Each element of each dish is designed to impart optimum flavour. Even the spring rolls are meant to be wrapped in the accompanying leaves of lettuce before being eaten.
In recent times Chinese food in Australia seems to have developed a somewhat unfair reputation, something Peng You's manager David Hung aims to rectify by focusing on fresh ingredients and traditional techniques. Southern Chinese cooking is the focus here; however, Peng You also takes its cues from Japan (gyoza, available in various flavours as a plate of four for $6, or 8 for $10), Malaysia (rich Malay-style curry roast duck with eggplant, $26) and Taiwan (Taiwanese street-style fried chicken with lettuce, deep fried basil and fresh basil and lemon — a crispy summer starter at $11).
It is always good form to go for a restaurant's speciality dishes; in this case, the Peng You exclusive slow-cooked pork trotter ($26) is a must-try. The pork meat is flavoursome and the skin wonderfully gelatinous. House special roasts include the Hong Kong style roast Duck (half a bird for $30, whole for $58).
The drinks menu isn't too shabby either; Peng You has their own cabernet, pinot gris, lager and cider, as well as jugs of Asian-inspired cocktails. The atmosphere does lend itself to the imbibing of a drink or two. Located in the new Gasworks Plaza, the spacious bi-level restaurant plays with old and new visions of China, with elaborate, almost trompe l'oeil wallpaper (wait till you see it), brick walls, modern industrial finishes and warm lighting, courtesy of the hanging red lanterns. There's a lot to see, with almost each patch of wall sporting a different finish.