The end of year Christmas dinner at my workplace is a big deal. All employees (and their partners) are invited and expected to celebrate the year with a multi-course meal. And for 2016, it was held at Lotus on Wulugul Walk in Barangaroo.
As we arrive just before sunset, the sun is glaringly bright and just at eye level as it makes its way behind the horizon. But we manage with sunglasses.
I love that I can enjoy my workplace dinners without pressure to consume alcohol, but getting soft drink from the wait-er/resses is much more difficult than getting alcohol, which is almost constantly topped up.
First up is oysters with lemon aspen sorbet, butterfly pea flower tea and finger lime ($18.00). Here, the non-oyster components were tasty and refreshing, but not enough to mask the intense fishiness of raw oysters — I prefer them cooked.
Next up is crystal ice plant salad with cucumber, enoki mushroom and black vinegar ($16.00). Crystal ice plant is a succulent covered with large, glistening bladder cells from whence it receives its name. These bladder cells reserve water and are likely why the plant has such a juicy crunch.
The crispy calamari with native salt and pepper ($21.00) is a crowd pleaser with crispy batter covering tender calamari flesh. The green salt (or is that seaweed?) adds flavour as does the vinegared dipping sauce.
For the vegetarians is the salt and pepper tofu with dukka and sesame ($17.00). The tofu has a crispy skin, but no flavour of its own, relying solely on the dukka, which smells like a pleasantly mild and sweet curry.
And the final entree is BBQ duck with mandarin pancakes and sweet miso (half duck) ($39.00). This was a slight disappointment with the duck being a tad dry, while the could’ve also been crispier, and the usual tangy plum sauce would’ve brightened the flavours more so than the miso.
After a long break to let the entrees settle, we start the mains with steamed barramundi fillet with ginger and shallots ($36.00). The texture fish was deliciously succulent, flakey and smooth.
Crispy chicken with spiced soy sauce and chilli oil ($29.00) follows, although again, the chicken has lost some of its juiciness. The sauce is flavourful, although there is none of the promised heat.
The chicken is followed by wok-fried beef fillet with asparagus, barilla, corn and black pepper ($32.00). The beef is tender and the asparagus is crisp and the corn is fresh. The dish packs a pleasant heat.
And of course, pork is taken care of with Shanghai Mama’s red braised pork belly ($32.00). The crackling was an absolute cracker, but the fat to meat ratio was about three-quarters fat, which made the texture of the meat less distinguishable and enjoyable.
Vegetables are part of a balanced diet, so this is steamed broccoli and cauliflower with soy and black vinegar ($18.00).
And to end the mains, we have hot and spicy king prawns with dried chilli and Sichuan green peppercorn ($36.00). While the prawns were a bit overcooked and dry, this dish delivered on the hot and spicy — the kind that leaves a numbing burn long after you’ve finished eating it, although with a pleasant spice characteristic of Sichuan peppercorn — for a memorable end to the mains.
For dessert, we have petit ‘twos’. The speckled macaron ($3.00) was filled with salted duck egg ganache, but saltiness wasn’t something I picked up on, while the cherry truffle ($3.00) with spiced cherry liquor puree coated in Valrhona Manjari chocolate, left a gentle warmth in your mouth — like that from chilli rather than cinnamon — along with a punchy sour cherry note.
Overall, Lotus serves up decent modern Chinese cuisine. All the dishes were tasty, but none really stood out as being spectacularly delicious. Generally, the portion sizes were very small compared to the prices they demanded and the flavours of each dish, with many of the meat dishes being a tad dry. Compared to Christmas dinners of previous years, this one pales in comparison to our visit to China Doll in Woolloomooloo from 2013.
Lotus is at Shop 8/9, Wulugul Walk, Barangaroo NSW 2000.