It's 2am, it's Chinatown, you're bleary-eyed and hungry at the weekend ... you have no doubt ended up in front of a glass wall of crabs and prawns at the Golden Century. This stalwart of Chinese dining has been rattling the pots and pans for decades so the Star, in not much of a gamble, invited the owners to become part of the casino's food mafia.
It's not a gamble due to a built-in clientele and a reputation of authentic cooking, with some Hong Kong oomph in the interior design, courtesy of young guns Paring Onions. A great wall of 89,000 chopsticks and upended tea cups as lighting are quirky and clever without screaming obviousness, and the bank of fish tanks greets diners on arrival.
The owners are sensitive to what to expect from a Chinese restaurant – communal round, white table-clothed seating, private rooms with head-swimming carpets, noisy, chatty ambience – but there's also smaller, private "sun rooms" looking on to Pyrmont that offer more intimacy.
The menu, to be honest, has been imported wholesale from the Golden Century, so there's familiarity in unfamiliar surroundings, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Starters run the palate amok with san choy bow (two serves for $10) and sauced eggplant cubes ($7), before very traditional serves of Peking duck ($40 for four half serves, $73 for eight), which come as a shock due to the lack of fusion confusion imported by Sydney's newer upstarts.
Seafood is the zinger here, especially the pippis, abalone and crab. On this occasion, the recommended dish is the braised mud crab with diced pork and vermicelli hot pot (price varied on weight, average $70) – messy but satisfying.
Forget desserts, that's not on The Century's agenda. There's no concessions to tricky modern cuisine, on the menu at least. It's a family affair, and to their credit the prices are incredibly reasonable for the Starry location. Especially at 2am.
Images: Trent van der Jagt.