Harbourside dining in Sydney is having a brilliant run at the moment. There’s a Korean fine diner helmed by a Michelin-credentialled chef, a revamped nostalgia-soaked boozer and, now, a new format from the dumpling-savvy Lotus Group (Lotus, Lotus Dumpling Bar, The Gardens by Lotus).
Pearl is the group’s elevated Circular Quay restaurant bringing high-end Cantonese dishes together with an abundance of native Australian ingredients. “In Chinese cuisine, there’s a lot of different subcategories,” Lotus Group founder Michael Jiang tells Broadsheet. “In my view, Cantonese food is the most delicate and elegant. It requires a level of detail and finesse to prepare and present the food. [Pearl] is more elegant and fine-tuned than our other venues.”
Jiang has long wanted to bring the modern cuisine of Guangzhou and Hong Kong to Sydney, inspired by institutions such as Golden Century and Flower Drum. With Flower Drum far away in Melbourne and Golden Century closed, the restaurateur saw an opportunity. Once the venture was locked in, the group’s culinary director Cheung Shui Yip and executive chef Steve Wu crafted a menu focused on the three central elements of Cantonese fare: dim sum, barbeque and seafood.
Save 20% when you buy two or more Broadsheet books. Order now to make sure they arrive in time for Christmas.SHOP NOW
Dim sum includes Darwin mud crab xiao long bao, where crab meat joins a house-made pork-skin jelly stuffed into delicate wrappers, the filling turning to a slurp of umami-rich soup when steamed. The delicate parcels are served alongside crystal prawn dumplings, pan-fried bean-curd rolls, Wagyu dumplings, and king-prawn toast.
Jiang offers his picks of the barbeque menu: the roasted “squab” – unfledged pigeon – smoked in paperbark; and the dry-aged, double-roasted Peking duck, which is served tableside with pancakes and condiments. The squab fuses the flavours and localities of both Guangzhou and Australia, the Cantonese cooking technique joining the local flavour of the paperbark.
Pearl is named after the Pearl River, the waterway flowing from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. Given this fact and the restaurant’s setting by Sydney Harbour, the seafood section is a natural focus. Pearl meat from Western Australia’s Cygnet Bay is wok-fried with snow peas and oyster mushrooms, and Tasmanian red lobster is doused in a signature XO, the aromatic sauce bringing a slow-cooked combination of dried and steamed prawns and scallops, oil, chilli, garlic and onion.
A table on the 30-seat balcony offers prime position, backdropping your feast with views of the iconic bridge. Designed as an indoor-outdoor space – weather permitting – Pearl has blue hues throughout flowing from the banquettes through to the large bar in the centre of the room.
There’s a mix of semi-private and private dining rooms too. For groups of four or more, the 10-dish banquet menu – at $128 per person – is a standout, and includes duck pancakes, Tasmanian lobster and mud crab xiao long bao.
“The whole team worked very hard on a lot of details: design, food, beverage, service,” Jiang says. “Everything has had so much time and effort put into it. We’re very proud.”
Tue to Fri midday–2.30pm, 5.30pm–9pm