Melburnians have had a long relationship with kitsch, Westernised versions of Chinese food – sweet and sour pork, lemon chicken et al – but there’s also excellent regional cuisine available in our city, from lamian noodles to Uyghur dumplings to fiery hotpot.
Sun Kitchen, though, which opened in Albert Park a few weeks ago, is sticking to two of the iterations Melburnians know best.
“When people think about Chinese food, they often refer to Cantonese dishes,” says Xavier Lim, Sun Kitchen’s vice president of food and beverage. “We hope to bring in a mix of modern Cantonese and Sichuan cuisine.”
With locations in Hong Kong and Macau, Sun Kitchen is making its Australian debut in Melbourne, with executive chef Vince Lu.
A huge bowl of hot oil and stock with oil-poached fish fillets underneath an intimidating layer of whole chillies is still bubbling away when it arrives at the table.
“Three types of dried chilli are used, which are imported from Sichuan,” Lim says. “They all have different flavour profiles, so when they are fried, the oil becomes fragrant. This oil is used to douse the fish fillets, which take on the smoky and peppery flavours. It looks spicier than it actually is.”
The Dongting-style braised pork belly is slow-cooked in a dark soy, giving the meat a soft and gelatinous texture. There’s also hot and sour mung bean noodles and excellent xiao long bao. But the menu is broad. At the other end of the scale you’ll find Wagyu with black truffle, lobster, and an "Imperial Treasure" abalone and sea cucumber claypot that’ll set you back $398.
“And for those who like a bit of comfort, sweet and sour pork is still on the menu,” Lim says.
Taking advantage of the unique lakeside location previously inhabited by Hidden Jade and The Point, the two-level restaurant has one of Melbourne’s most spectacular views. If you dine at the right time, you can expect spectacular sunsets over Albert Park Lake and against the city skyline.
The Sun Kitchen team has renovated the space, giving it a grand entrance, an open kitchen and nine private dining rooms upstairs in addition to the banquet-style dining room on the ground floor. There’s also a cellar lined with temperature-controlled wine cabinets, and a 200-person function area.
The drinks list, like the menu, is expansive. It’s 54 pages and includes a handful of fruity cocktails and local and imported beer. Or, if you’re feeling generous, splurge on six litres of a 2003 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild pauillac for $68,600, or a bottle of 50-year-old Kweichow Moutai that costs just under $10,000.
“Chinese like to show generosity by doing things in excess,” Lim says.
9 Aquatic Drive, Albert Park
(03) 9682 5566
Sun to Thu 11.30am–3pm, 5.30pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 11.30am–3pm, 5.30pm–11pm