Date night has a new destination: Jin’s Teahouse.
Plain brown frontage with a sunken roof tile-topped door opens out into a tranquil, décor-rich setting, its walls lined by wooden screens.
Low-hanging paper lanterns give the interior space a soft orange glow.
Contrasting golden lighting highlights the attention to detail used across other parts of the movie set-like restaurant. There's a recessed hexagonal bookshelf, whose shape mimics the logo modelled on a Chinese window screen, and an elaborate pagoda-inspired roofline to the centrally located bar.
The cocktails that this attractive bar puts out are also surprising. Spicy Lovers ($16.80) warms up a collection of Jose Cuervo Reposado Tequila, Midori, lime, falernum and orange bitters using a chilli flake rim that gives it a lovely tickle. Served on a light-up coaster, the (actually yellow) drink's well-balanced blend even converted a melon-flavoured cocktail hater like me.
Swirled at the table in a glass decanter, Smoking Kills ($15.80), is poured into your up lit glass in a sinking cloud. It drinks like a Australian bushfire with some unusual tea-like tannic acidity created using gin, Shiraz, dry vermouth, caramel, citrus and hopped bitters.
Along with all the date night bells and whistles, there’s also a feel-good dimension to dining at Jin’s Teahouse. Located very close to Sydney University, this restaurant is really feeling the impact of Australian travel restrictions relating to the corona virus, which are preventing Chinese-Australian students from returning to their classes after visiting relatives for Chinese New Year. The students are lured in by the menu of contemporary Hong Kong-inspired dishes, that kicks off with a page of well-handled dim sum.
We begin with Pork Pot Stickers ($8.50/4 pieces) where pale dumpling tops hide crisp, golden crusts below. Inside, lean pork mince, carrot and zucchini is a good match for the accompanying smoky, house-made chilli sauce.
Jin’s Mixed Dumpling Platter ($12/6 pieces) gives you the opportunity to try translucent mushroom crystal dumplings featuring shiitake and wood ear fungus, and spinach-coloured prawn and snap pea dumplings. Both are well-handled, though, if you want my recommendation, just hit up the standout: rainbow xiao long bao. Presented here in orange and purple, they’re a Shanghainese dumpling speciality made by a Shanghainese chef, and the rich porky soup they spurt in your mouth is particularly wonderful.
For something a bit keai (可爱), the Corn-Shaped Custard Buns ($9/3 pieces) taste of sweetcorn and are creamy and texturally fun to eat. I smashed mine with the house-made chilli, and they were all the better for it.
I enjoyed my dim sum with a pot of Tieguanyin 3-Years ($9) a variety of Chinese oolong tea that originated in Fujian province.
Delicate and enjoyable, this green tea is the same one used to create Jin’s Tea Fragrant Prawns ($29) and is thus a good match for the beautifully presented dish.
My dining companion dived into the smoking glass cube of high quality, crunchy, tea-flavoured prawns with a Harbin Beer ($9) refresher, that also worked out nicely.
For a more obvious beverage match, the Laphroaig 10 Chicken ($14) is an Australian-palate friendly riff on Shanghai drunken chicken. This artful example of fusion cuisine adds the ten-year-old peaty whisky and bay leaves, star anise and soy to the poaching liquid, and serves it warm, acknowledging the Aussies who baulk at cold poached chicken, particularly if it appears pink inside (the soy takes care of that).
Another exemplar of great fusion, Creamy Pumpkin ($16) revises salted egg yolk into something super-accessible. Sticking a salty egg crust on batons of lightly fried pumpkin, this dish is served in cast iron in a style reminiscent of Korean tteokbokki (rice cakes) with oozing melted cheese. While it’s kind of a stretch to list this one as a vegetable, I’d return to Jin’s Teahouse to eat it again with a beer!
The salty-cheesy pumpkin sticks go gangbusters with the pot of yellow curry sauce that arrives on another stylish platter with our Beef Short Rib ($24). Presented next to the clean bone, the tender rib meat has been battered lightly and fried, to give the lightly spicy, Malay-style yellow curry sauce something to cling to.
Topped with glistening orange roe and cleanly picked crab meat, Jin’s King Crab Fried Rice ($22) is a worthy fried rice upgrade, good enough to enjoy as a dish in and of itself. A whole lot of thought, care, and attention to detail has gone into creating this restaurant: date night Newtown just got much more interesting!
111 King Street, Newtown
Ph: (02) 9519 5888