Slotting into the space left by Tim Ho Wan Canton! Canton! is a sister restaurant to Mr. Fatt Rice & Roast for The Jewel Pantry dining group. It’s well placed for a pre- or post-cinema bite, or it will be when Gladys Berejiklian’s interminably long light rail construction is finally complete (don’t hold your breath). We recently shimmied under the Coates Hire barricades to cross the empty expanse of George Street and climbed a flight of stairs to the first-floor dining room.
It’s like stepping into an interwar period Chinese movie set with dark wood and exposed bricks brightened up with hanging red lanterns and a row of booths that summon wooden opium beds.
Their partially screened intimacy is hard to resist, so we arrange ourselves in the stiff wooden surrounds and enjoy peeking through the latticework to the busy underground thoroughfare to Town Hall Station.
It’s a far cry from Tim Ho Wan’s over-lit blonde wood canteen, though some things, like the Baked BBQ Pork Buns ($12.80/3), have remained largely unchanged through the transition.
The only difference I can detect is a little more sugar in their crisp, golden exteriors.
To a thematic soundtrack of 1930s original jazz, we barely get to know our wines before all of our meal arrives en masse. Plucked from a short, mostly under fifty-buck a bottle list, the Domaine de Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussillon Villages ($11/glass) is a likeable enough mix of grenache blanc, grenache gris and macabeu, with a slight petrochemical edge. The Domaine Le Petit Marand ‘Vin de Pays Charentais’ Cuvee Elise Chardonnay ($25/glass) is a nicely integrated but overpriced Chardonnay, with good oak and enough brightness to suit roast meats.
Drawn from a theatrical glass booth set in the centre of the restaurant, the Hong Kong-style roast meats are the star attractions of the Cantonese dinner menu.
The Combination Char Siew and Roast Duck Platter ($24.80) presents tender slices of honey-glazed char siew pork and crisp skinned moist duck. Both are delicious, either on their own, or dragged through the accompanying plum sauce, though next time I’d order more of both meats.
We punctuate our roast meat consumption with a somewhat disappointing dish of Wok-Fried Asparagus ($19.80). For the price, this was quite a small serve of crisp green asparagus spears tossed through a paltry amount of XO sauce.
The asparagus tastes better when I toss in what remains of the spoonful of chilli sauce and the one of soy sauce that accompanied our Phoenix Eyes ($12.80/3) dumplings. With jade green skins, these succulent prawn dim sum are topped with slices of black garlic for a quirky Vegemite-like twist on the Southern Chinese original.
Keep Canton! Canton! in mind for date night dinner and a movie - the only proviso being, that on the night we dined, we were rushed because the kitchen shuts up shop at 9pm. Just like the ongoing light rail saga, we have Gladys Berejiklian to thank for fewer late-night eateries, too.
Shop GD04, 580 George Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 8120 9888