It's mid Autumn festival and the newest restaurant XOPP from Chinatown stalwart Golden Century is now open in Darling Square's Exchange building. There you'll find dishes like prawn mantou buns with XO mayonnaise and XO sauce, king prawns with foie gras and toothfish Kung Pao style as well as of course XO pippies!
The name XOPP is a play on pippies with XO sauce, Golden Century's most popular dish and a favourite with hospitality folk who can be found there late at night long after service is complete. XOPP is located on the mezzanine level of the Exchange building (the circular building that looks like it is surrounded by spun toffee).
As expected, it's a large restaurant, seating 160 people in a semi circular configuration. XOPP is run by Billy Wong, the son of Golden Century's owners Linda and Eric Wong. The menu is different from Golden Century's incorporating more modern Australian and European ingredients in the menu.
Ingredients like foie gras and beef short rib feature and there's a small bar menu with snacky bites. Just one thing to note: there is a surcharge on Sundays and public holidays of 10%.
Although the bar menu says that you can order the bar items only at the bar there's no issues ordering these while dining in the main restaurant. I really liked the idea of these deep fried mantou buns filled with prawns mixed with XO mayonnaise and a dab of XO sauce on top. The only issue is that there is a bit too much bun for the prawn filling and they need to either make the buns smaller or be more generous on the prawns.
My sister Blythe ordered fried potato wedges seasoned with salted duck egg yolk because she loves salted yolk dishes. These are tasty and piping hot. The salted egg adds a bit of textural coating to it as well as seasoning. Even my father goes for more of these.
These pork ribs appear on the bar menu in a snack size or the menu proper. They're tasty, well seasoned and moreish little bone-in crispy pork ribs, the red bean curd giving it a pinkish tinge.
Onto the main event! We feel as though we just have to order the XO pippies. You can order them with a choice of deep fried vermicelli noodles or sliced up Chinese donuts and being us we order both and ask for an extra bowl of sauce because we are sauce people. The pippies come in either half kilo or kilo increments and the half kilo is plenty for us considering that we've ordered a lot. They're excellent, the crispy noodles and donuts both suiting the gutsy XO laced sauce and the extra bowl of sauce is very much welcomed.
As for the king prawns, visually they could use a little garnish. Taste wise, they're nothing like how they're described. There's virtually no foie gras flavour or aroma (nor foie gras sauce as was mentioned). It simply tastes like salted egg prawns although they are actually very tasty. Just don't order them expecting to taste foie gras. I find it tricky ordering dishes with truffle and foie gras in Chinese restaurants because they can often be too sparing with these ingredients and yet charge a premium for them.
London based Blythe always orders lamb chops when she's back in Australia. These are Xinjiang style lamb chops with 7 flavours or spices with the predominant flavour being cumin followed by chilli. The five lamb chops are buried underneath a layer of spring onion and chilli. It's not that they aren't good but I have other dishes that require my attention more than this.
My favourite main is the roasted beef short rib. Here it is served resting on the bone but sliced up. The beef is wonderfully tender and comes dressed in a laogonma sauce which is redolent in black beans, chilli and oil. I'm a bit obsessed with Lao Gan Ma sauce or Old Godmother sauce (there's always a jar of this in my fridge as it adds a bit of magic to Chinese dishes). There's also shredded radish on top as well as coriander, salad, chilli and peanuts but the key is the soft texture of the beef that melts in the mouth followed by the fiery bean sauce that follows.
We order the typhoon shelter cauliflower for my Hong Kong born father (the typhoon shelter crab was said to originate at the typhoon shelters). It's stir fried cauliflower with plenty of garlic and mild chilli. You really do need to spoon some of the chilli and garlic to get the full flavour of this dish.
We decided to go for rice noodles with beef tongue and order plain steamed rice for my father and sister. These noodles are nice in concept but there's not a lot of beef tongue and way too much bean sprout for this to be a noodle dish. I'd describe this as a bean sprout dish with some noodle.
Unlike other Chinese restaurants, there's no fruit plate, fortune cookies or cookies for dessert so we decide to order some of their desserts. The bao ice cream sandwiches are served on mini fried mantou buns and are filled with coconut ice cream blanketed with kaya or coconut jam. They're sweet and simple.
On the less sweet side, the bubble tea panna cotta is a layer of tea panna cotta topped with tapioca balls and foam on top. It's not overly sweet which we all like and the light tea flavour of this is a nice way to end the meal.
So tell me Dear Reader, which dish did you like the sound of the most? Are you sauce people?
This meal was independently paid for.
The Darling Exchange Mezzanine Level
1 Little Pier Street Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: +61 (02) 8030 0000
11.30am – 11pm (7 days)