My husband and I recently attended the opening of a new luxury Chinese restaurant named Waitan in Haymarket. The opening event was a very glitzy affair, with hired Lamborghinis parked out in front of the restaurant with beautiful, identically dressed Chinese models (because nothing classes up an event more than identically dressed ladies, amirite??) There was even a photographer with a massive, fancy camera who asked to snap a shot of my husband and I (which I am still yet to see, haha) on their red carpet. I posed awkwardly (I hadn’t dressed up all that much) while she snapped away and finally we entered the darkly lit restaurant.
I was immediately struck by the gorgeous interior design, which apparently cost $10 million to fix up, and I can believe it! Waitan just screams luxury from practically every angle. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever been in with gorgeous plush carpets, stunning wooden tables and Chinese-style chairs decorated with a comfy Chinese brocaded silky-looking cushions. Free memberships were also available on opening night so I signed up (you get 10% off your bill, a free birthday cake on your birthday and a few other bits and pieces). On leaving, all guests were handed a goodie bag that included a voucher for a return visit so, with my birthday just around the corner, I thought “why not take advantage of the voucher and see how Waitan is for dinner?”
One thing I knew we had to order was the Peking duck. Waitan have a special Peking duck oven with bricks imported specially from China, so you would hope that their Peking duck is pretty special! I had sampled some of the Peking duck pancakes on the opening night and they were pretty good — definitely worth another try!
Hainanese chicken, sous vide, light soy. Half bird $27, whole bird $45 (we ordered the half bird)
Hainanese chicken dipping sauces (dark soy, chilli and a ginger/shallot sauce)
Cooking Hainanese chicken with sous vide is a brilliant idea and it resulted in a perfectly moist bird. This was definitely one of the most popular dishes of the evening and was well matched with the accompanying sauces and the chicken rice.
Chicken rice ($3.50 per serve)
This was a great accompaniment to all the savoury dishes and was wonderfully fragrant with that beautiful chicken flavour that you get from cooking the rice with chicken stock. It was only 50c more per serve compared to regular steamed rice so I think it’s definitely worth trying out for something different!
Wagyu beef hor fun rice noodles, bean shoots and shallots $27
Unfortunately the beef rice noodle dish was pretty disappointing. It was really missing that fabulous wok hei (wok breath – that smoky flavour that you get when cooking with a wok) that I crave when eating a rice noodle dish such as this. And while it was salted and a little on the oily side for me, it was also missing flavour that I think a good hit of garlic or ginger would have easily provided. In fact the noodles were so flavourless, one of my dining companions took to mixing in some of the ginger/shallot sauce from the Hainanese chicken dish which he remarked improved it a little.
Wok fried chinese broccoli, mushrooms, and ginger $18
The vegetable dish had some great silky textures in there from the mushrooms but I must admit that the accompanying sauce was also a bit flavourless and tasted strangely of nothing. It was kind of like nothing-gravy?
Stir fried jumbo quail with spicy black bean, $33
I didn’t taste this dish but everyone agreed it was the most disappointing dish of the evening. It was also the most expensive and the smallest at $33 per serve and we couldn’t quite understand what was ‘jumbo’ about the size of this dish. Everyone also remarked that it was ‘barely spicy’ and there wasn’t much meat on the wings.
Traditional Peking duck three courses, crispy duck skin with sugar, house made pancakes and baos. Half bird $47, whole bird $88
This is the first course of Peking duck skin with sugar for dipping. I can only describe this dish by saying… wow. It was absolutely incredible. The skin slices were so wonderfully crispy and redolent with duck flavour. Each slice of skin dipped in the sugar simultaneously shattered into an explosion of flavour and quickly melted into your mouth. Everyone absolutely loved this first course of Peking duck. I think it is definitely a must order when dining at Waitan – it was definitely some of the best Peking duck I have ever had!
Second and third course – the Peking duck pancakes and boas to fill with crispy duck pieces, cucumber, shallot and sauce
This is the first time I’ve ever been served pancakes and boas for Peking duck, but it was definitely fun to have a different way to enjoy it!
All the Peking duck trimmings.
The Peking duck pancakes were definitely enjoyable, but that first course just blew us all out of the water! Definitely enjoyed the duck with crispy skin still attached more than the meat without.
I must say I was very impressed with the birthday cake, and they even wrote my name on the plate in chocolate, very cute! The cake itself was like a chocolate sponge filled with a creamy chocolatey filling.
Our top food picks of the evening were definitely the Peking duck and the Hainanese chicken. You can really taste that Peking duck oven! The duck skin served with sugar for dipping was gorgeously fatty and exploded in your mouth with that beautiful duck fat flavour. I’m practically drooling just thinking about it!
Service was friendly and there definitely seemed to be an abundance of waiters, but I must mention that I felt slightly uncomfortable when being served the Peking duck dish. I noticed that one of the more senior waiters was really chewing out his colleague about how she was holding the dish while it was served to us. I think that Waitan has a certain type of luxurious style to it, but there is a slightly pretentious feel to it that was a bit uncomfortable (which is a feeling I’ve not had at other similar establishments).
The acoustics made it a little difficult to chat to each other while we were dining but this did settle down when the adjacent large table of (rather noisy) guests left. Lighting was ‘super romantic’ aka a food blogger’s nightmare! However it did suit the atmosphere of the restaurant.
I certainly enjoyed my evening at Waitan and highly recommend a visit for the Peking duck. A shame that most of the other dishes we tried did not match up to the magnificence of this dish, especially considering their prices. I don’t expect I’ll be making the trek into the city just for this one again any time soon.