“Don’t worry, I won’t be serving you this dish,” said a grey-haired photographer as we enter Good Luck Pinbone. We interact because she's blocking the restaurant door, photographing the aforementioned dish against the grungy red carpet floor.
I sympathise; it’s a hard restaurant to make food photography look good, what with half obscured east-facing, late afternoon light that’s blocked completely each time a bus offloads at the bus stop outside. That's every few minutes - it is Anzac Parade in Kensington after all, and accordingly, they’ve spared every expense. Summoning suburban Aussie-Chinese restaurants of yore, they’ve slapped some garish pink and peach paint onto chipped plaster walls, and turned the blue Japanese tō-style roof of the previous tenant - Sushi Tengoku - Chinese pagoda red.
Yes, the crazy kids Mike Eggert and Jemma Whiteman, who first introduced us to the liver parfait-topped chocolate crackle, have returned with a take on modern Chinese. Our meal starts quite well with Chilli Cucumber Pickle ($6) - it's bright, crunchy and full of red-hot chilli zing.
My Polish dining companion has never met a pickle he hasn’t liked, so we throw in Pickled Radish, Turnip and Carrot ($6) too. They’re another crunchy, palate-stimulating pleasure, topped with a scattering of toasted sesame seeds as a nod to Chinese.
Raw Prawn ($18) is served on buttered rounds of bread; a cute gesture to prawn toast and reminiscent of the fish roe fairy bread this kitchen team served in their previous Pinbone incarnation. It's kept on theme with a light drizzle of Sichuan oil - though not enough to numb your palate - and a pleasurable, soft, creamy eat.
I’m less enamoured with Smoked Eel Toast ($14). While I like the wet, crunchy celtuce, this feels like a British dish. The only loose connection to modern Chinese I can find seems to be that the Chinese eat both celtuce (they call it wosun) and eel.
Stepping onto Malay-Chinese territory, the Eggplant Sambal ($18) is a much better dish. Caramelised eggplant and toothsome black fungus intertwine with coriander and other greens, in a garlic-heavy, spicy sambal mix that’s a pleasure to eat.
I can’t say the same about Chrysanthemum Greens ($17) - the intensely floral, slightly bitter greens jangled awkwardly against an underlying macadamia custard, which was sloppy torture to pick up with chopsticks.
No such problems with the Stir-Fried Potato ($17) adorned with an uncustomary egg yolk, though the strands of potato were slightly too toothsome for me. It's good for filling out corners but really wanted something to punch against, like the spicy Sichuan you might have been expecting. Perhaps it's just one to order against a saucy main?
At risk of sounding like Durack, this restaurant is bloody noisy. Worse yet, there’s no liquor license, so you can’t dampen the impact by ordering more booze.
There’s simply no way a Lychee Mango Soda ($6) or Peach Iced Tea ($6) is going to make this earsplitting room sound any better, even if they do come with kitsch paper fruit pom-pom straws. Now you can BYO ($5/head), but you might want to think about that before you get all the way to a suburb like Kensington. Throw in no bookings, high prices, and reasonably uncomfortable mustard-coloured chairs, and I’m ready to take my too-old, too-deaf, too-sober arse back to Surry Hills.
Good Luck Pinbone
121 Anzac Parade, Kensington
Ph: none provided