The dining room on the third floor of Mama Mulan – owner Kim Jin’s first Shandong-style restaurant in Sydney – is opening tomorrow in Chatswood. The space looks similar to a bunker, filled with desert-like texture and tone, with dimly lit, French-style limewashed walls ceding the spotlight to soft, fleshy suede drapes. Geometric light fixtures hang like antlers from the ceiling. Classic Thonet chairs comfortably seat 180 diners before marble tables. It’s big but not at the expense of cosiness.

Creative director Paul Papadopoulos of DS17 (also behind Ble Kouzina, Nour, and Lotus took care of the design.

“We wanted the space to be clean and simple but the key was to create an identity for it,” says Papadopoulos. “We took inspiration from Kim’s native province [in China] to create a space that was homely and warm.”

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With a pan-Chinese menu that focuses on the seafood-heavy tradition of Shandong cuisine (otherwise known as Lu), it’s no surprise to find that head chef Marble Ng (formerly of Lotus) spends a lot of time in the spoils of the fish market.

Lobster comes with a mouth-numbing Szechuan peppercorn sauce, while the plump sweetness of fresh mud crab finds a worthy companion in spring onion, ginger and shallots. This dish is best enjoyed “typhoon style” – flash fried in fermented-bean sauce with scallions and a liberal downpour of chilli and garlic.

Dumplings and noodles are all rolled and hand-pulled in-house. For lunch, fried noodles come with prawns, mussels and calamari or with black-pepper Wagyu beef. Classics like prawn pot stickers and steamed pork xiao long bao are available, too. Pork belly is braised with cinnamon, star anise and chilli, and crispy-duck pancakes are a Shandong staple.

On drinks, David Stewart (ex-Sofitel) has composed a clever and reasonably priced wine list broken into categories such as “aromatic and odoriferous” or the more subdued “light and elegant.”
“Being wine lovers ourselves, we wanted to provide our guests with quality wines from all over the world that complement Chinese cuisine,” says Jin.

For the whites, there’s a 2015 marsanne-rousanne-viognier blend from Lark Hill in Canberra beside a sancerre from Loire Valley’s Pascal Reverdy. For the deeper hues, there’s a biodynamic 2013 Didier Montchovet coteaux Burgundy.

Nostalgic deep-fried ice-cream seems like the right way to finish dinner at Mama Mulan. Chris and Dylan Duong (no relation) of Duo Duo provide the goods here. How does panko-crumbed vanilla ice-cream and salted caramel-butterscotch popcorn sound?

Mama Mulan
Level 1, 88 Archer Street, Chatswood
(02) 9157 1488

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on June 6, 2018. Menu items may have changed since publication.

Daily 11.30am–3pm

Mon to Sat 5.30pm–10pm
Sun 5.30pm–9pm