The first rule of Andly Private Kitchen, it would seem, is you don’t talk about Andly Private Kitchen, lest you jeopardise your chances of scoring a booking at this cosy yet graceful Chinese restaurant hiding in plain sight in West Leederville.
Andly Private Kitchen opened in mid-2015. If Google and the restaurant’s Facebook page are anything to go by, the restaurant has its admirers, but not as many as one might expect of a restaurant that’s just turned two and serves the type of gently creative Chinese cooking Andly does.
The restaurant is named after its chef and owner, Li Yuekuan, or more accurately, his English nickname. Born in the province of Anhui in China’s east, Yuekuan – or Andly, if you prefer – began cooking at 17 and travelled around the country learning the finer points of China’s regional cuisines. After working throughout China and Thailand, Yuekuan moved to Perth where he opened the restaurant bearing his name at the bottom of an inner-city apartment block (fun fact: the building also doubles as the canvas for artist Kyle-Hughes-Odgers’ famous The Giant’s View mural that’s visible from the Mitchell Freeway).
“When he [Yuekuan] was young, he never spent time with his friends, but instead read cookbooks, studied ingredients and learned from other chefs,” says Olivia De Almeida, the restaurant’s co-owner.
Although Yuekuan is uncomfortable communicating in English, he seems very much at home when interpreting the flavours of his homeland. Rather than a la carte ordering, dinner at Andly is set-menu only. Reservations are essential, not because of the room’s size – having said that, empty seats were still thin on the ground when we dine, even on a chilly Monday night – but because Yuekuan tailors a menu for each table. Dinner starts at $65 per person for four courses and goes upwards from there with quality and scarcity of ingredients dictating each guest’s buy-in.
When Broadsheet visits, dinner kicks off with cool, lightly pickled beans gently humming with green Sichuan peppercorns before moving onto winners such as twice-cooked lamb shank spiced with cumin (a distinctly northern Chinese trait) and served Peking Duck-style with featherweight crepes and excellent house-made condiments. It’s high-definition, satisfying stuff, as is a platter of stir-fried yabbies tossed through a mala – the Sichuan term for hot and numbing – sauce and our man’s signature Wagyu, pork and chive dumplings. Lazy Susan suburban Chinese this ain’t, nor is it priced to be.
Yuekuan – talking through De Almeida – says he enjoys taking traditional Chinese flavours and sharpening and refining them for guests. A similar approach informs the restaurant’s aesthetic and the use of calligraphy brushes, bird cages and vases to beautify the room. Coupled with genteel service, it’s an ideal backdrop for one of the more polished Chinese meals on offer in the city.