Instead of sliced fruit, the cocktails at Dainty Dowager are garnished with toasted rice flakes, dried shrimp skin and dehydrated chilli plums. Forget sugar syrup with your spirit: what about an oyster-sauce reduction, or a molasses of soy, hoisin and raisin?
The mastermind behind the cocktail menu is Dwight Alexander, formerly of Bill’s Bar and Bites and Lot 20. He was given free reign to design a cocktail menu on the caveat it paired well with the food menu.
Like Low Key Chow House, the Leederville restaurant by the same owners, the menu is a pan-Asian mix, designed by Filipino chef Alexander Baltazar De Leon, and Malaysian part-owner Owen Chua, who has a Vietnamese wife.
Their respective backgrounds have all influenced the menu, such as Chua’s mother’s signature braised chicken curry, or his mother-in-law’s thit nuong (noodles with gilled meat).
But the true stars of the menu are the tender Chinese roasted meats, including roast duck on the bone, crispy roasted pork and char sui barbecue pork, sourced from a butcher in Chinatown.
Owen and his mother chose almost every single item that decorates Dainty Dowager on a trip to China – from the laser-cut lanterns above the bar, to the carved wood beneath it. It all works beautifully in the sultry, low-lit space with black spray-painted exposed brick.
There’s also a strong wine list, where textural drops from Margaret River and Pemberton sit alongside offerings from Tuscany and Mendoza.