What comes after China Doll, China Beach and China Lane? China Diner, of course. A huge pan-Asian eatery and bar in Bondi that skews less corporate and more casual than its sister venues.
Kingsley Smith presides over China Diner. The restaurant, he says, “Is still focused around classic Cantonese-style dishes, but with a heavier sway to South East Asian food.” The bar offering has also been a focus. Head bartender Quynh Nguyen has created some exciting drinks, aiming for “Fun, lively cocktails with an Asian influence, with the signature cocktail being the Coconut and Lemongrass Sour,” according to Smith.
Head chef Sebastian Gee, who has done stints at Sailor's Thai, China Doll and China Lane, is responsible for the menu. “Anyone who knows me knows of my love of Asian food, and my drive for flavour,” he says. “I love the use of multiple ingredients, such as the complexity of 20-30 different ingredients making up a curry, or the simplicity of just a few ingredients, like a simple ginger and shallot steamed fish.”
China Diner seats around 200 and is divided into two areas. The section fronting Hall Street houses the long bar which is surrounded by high communal tables and wooden booths. Out the back, things get a bit more formal with white tablecloths, timber floorboards and softer lighting.
The menu veers all over Asia. Small plates like Malaysian-style Marmite chicken wings, dim sum and san choi bao kick things off. Larger plates include sweet and sour pork belly with chilli, caramel and lime; and wok-fried tofu with mushrooms and snowpeas. Cap it off with a deep-fried, vanilla and plum jam ice cream lamington.
Sommelier Sebastian Crowther is in charge of the wine list and has assembled an interesting selection, big on organic and biodynamic wines from smaller vineyards in Australia, New Zealand and Europe.