Deep in the business district of the CBD, the bankers and traders must feel that all roads lead to China – and not just financially anymore. If they wish to continue down a culinary path after working hours, just around the corner, and down an alleyway, is China Lane, the new sister restaurant of China Doll and China Beach in Manly.
Underneath an art installation nest of bird cages in Angel Lane, China Lane is a mix of suits, trendy young things checking out the CBD's newest laneway escape, and daters. If you've seen any of director Wong Kar-wai's movies, you'll get the idea – moody lighting, a modern sense of decor mixed with '50s Hong Kong glamour, and general snappiness.
Head chef Ben Haywood has served under Heston Blumenthal at Fat Duck and also was sous chef at China Doll in Woolloomooloo, so don't expect traditional Chinese fare. While there are similarities to Doll's mains, there's many a signature dish here. Japanese sashimi rubs up against Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai on the menu, showing Haywood's dexterity with Pan Asian cuisine.
It seems obligatory at every mod-Asian joint to have a twist on the pork bun. At China Lane, it's no different, if a little more deconstructed. Pulled pork, mayo and crisp shallots are piled upon a flattened steamed bao ($16 for two). It's lovely, if surprisingly cold – an open-topped convertible version of the standard.
Pig's ears also seem to be making a comeback. Here, they're crisped and carmelised, served with lemongrass ($8), and delicious. Salads are dramatic, and given suitably explosive names like Bang Bang chicken salad ($16), or Chinese bacon with kipfler potato and the ominous sounding “son-in-law” egg ($14), a Thai standard of the deep-fried, hard boiled variety in tamarind sauce.
The grilled dory with coconut sambal ($19) is a light treat, and a good compliment to the lamb and chili hot pot ($30) or the pick of the bunch, the soy-braised pork belly ($30).
The kitchen and staff show an extreme amount of generosity to customers. Desserts come with an additional offering of sweeteners this evening, such as the chocolate replica of a mahjong piece. The exquisite pistachio and lemongrass parfait ($14) with pandan syrup is an aesthetic treasure, and more impressive than the blood orange and black sticky rice pudding.
China Lane is another laneway bonus for the corporate end of the CBD, and means business.