Lotus, Barangaroo

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.