“Let me show you the basement,” says Linyi Yuan, Plump Duck’s sous-chef. He slides open a thick door to reveal 400 ducks hanging in a cool mist. It’s quite a sight but nothing compared to the entire Peking duck process here.
Plump Duck takes Peking duck about as seriously as a restaurant can. After they’re hung for two months (that creates the perfect skin texture, Yuan says) they’re flash cooked in boiling water, marinated, air-dried and roasted in a traditional hung-oven. “We want to deliver a clear message that this is what we focus on – our signature,” says Yuan.
It isn’t the first restaurant in Sydney to focus solely on Peking duck but their ideas of how to serve it are new. The first course, crispy skin, is served with sugar – a very old (and now uncommon) tradition, intended to offset the fat in the skin. The next course (traditionally duck pancakes with hoisin) is served with extra sides of mustard, pickles and Spanish onion. “I was searching for ingredients locals will like. One night it was midnight. A chef and me couldn't think so we got a drive-through burger and I think 'why not pickles'? The combination is actually amazing,” Yuan says.
That’s not the only innovation. One of the reasons head chef Shu Chen Lee left his post at The Eight (another Chinese restaurant) was so he could express his ideas of “new Chinese food”. “We don't want people to keep having the same old style of Chinese food. We want some new styles, new ingredients and new presentation,” says Yuan.
Lee’s proudest creation is the crunchy-skinned Patagonian toothfish with crisp sweet-potato strands and a tropical fruit sauce, which is a lot subtler than it sounds. Other dishes, such as the truffle fried rice, or French-chestnut and prawn curry with mantou (steamed buns), take Chinese dishes and add European flavours or techniques. Yuan says they’ve also got plans to introduce a wine pairing for each dish (mostly Australian and New Zealand drops).
Despite their aims to reinvigorate perceptions of Chinese dining, the restaurant hasn’t undergone a major redesign process since ditching its old identity as Tang Hui. The elaborate Chinese interior by DS17 remains, including the massive ornate doors, statues and black-and-red colour scheme.
Shop 10.41, World Square, 680 George Street, Sydney
(02) 8081 0888
Sun to Wed 12pm–3pm, 5.30pm–11pm
Thu to Sat 12pm–3pm, 5.30pm–12am