CHI by Lotus is located at Barangaroo and is part of the Lotus restaurant group. CHI has a modern Chinese menu with a range of dumplings as well as skewers that are exclusive to this Lotus location. With a large outdoor section it is decked out wtih red and white lanterns, neon lights and a row of Maneki Nejo waving cats.
Miss America tasked me with finding a restaurant with good food and outdoor tables for his birthday and knowing that he, Queen Viv and Mr NQN all love dumplings, we decided on CHI by Lotus. We've lucked out this evening as far as the rain is concerned.
There's a large table of around 20 people right near us and this is causing a bit of a wait trying to get service. Like most restaurants around the world, there seem to be some staff shortages and it takes around 20 minutes to get to order but the staff are super lovely and friendly when we do get a hold of them. Everyone leaves me to order the food while they figure out what to drink and once the order is in, we get to relax a bit more and the kitchen is fast.
I got some recommendations from our lovely waitress. Our first nibble are the daikon pickles that are batons of lightly crunchy daikon with a moreish sweet, vinegar chilli flavour to them.
I ordered three types of dumplings because they're always a hit with the four of us. These jade prawn dumplings come four to a serve and are delicious with fresh prawns inside and a pretty green and white skin.
The Xiao Long Bao have quite a bit of soup inside and are very tasty and Miss America's favourite dumpling. You do have to ask for the condiments on the side and once you do they'll bring the chilli sauce, vinegar and soy sauce.
I wasn't sure if chilli phobic Queen Viv would like these but she really enjoys them. They're not overly spicy and have a delicious pork and prawn filling and come four to a serve. One thing to note is that usually wontons come in larger numbers per serve than other dumplings because they are simpler to make and shape.
The vegetable san choy bao is tasty with crispy deep fried lotus chips, corn, bean sprouts and beans and we added prawns to it. They're served on a baby cos lettuce leaf so they're on the smaller side rather than the big bowls of iceberg lettuce but the filling is very tasty and texturally interesting and there's more filling than can fill the lettuce leaf.
Out of the skewers I definitely preferred the pork belly with a simple seasoning of sesame oil and salt. The pork belly absolutely melted in the mouth and I could have easily had another they were so tasty.
Alas the wagyu beef for all of us were the only dish of the night that didn't hit the mark. All of our skewers were very chewy and not that you'd hope for with wagyu beef.
Our drinks come out around halfway through our meal because staff are very busy with the large party table. My Mandarin Spritz with Lyre’s Italian Orange, Seedlip Spice 94, mandarin and soda is warm from sitting on the bar for so long and when I mention this to them they just explain it like "the glass was warm as it came out of the dishwasher" without offering to replace it but Mr NQN's Golden Temple with Lyre’s Dry London, orgeat, lime, soda and a huge cube of ice is great.
Everyone's favourite dish of the night is undoubtedly the lamb shoulder. Usually at restaurants lamb shoulder is around $100 for a whole one but here they're offering a half one which is a great idea and even for the four of us it's enough for our main to share with some left over especially with the entrees. It has a sweet Sichuan glaze that isn't very spicy and an Asian herb salad that really balances it well. The marinade really tempers the lamb flavour that some people don't like (I'm looking at Mr NQN when I say this). I also recommend getting the steamed baos on the side which will give you a decadent lamb sandwich with herbs.
I love char siu and I was happy that you could buy it by the weight and 100grams or 3.5ozs is just enough to try it. It comes with lime on the side which I don't recommend adding as it is quite jarring element if you want to taste the flavours of classic char siu.
There are two types of fried rice, one with char siu and a version with egg and pickled olive leaf which we opted for. This vegetarian fried rice is very tasty and goes well with some of the sauce from the lamb shoulder.
We also really enjoy the green beans with chilli and breadcrumbs as a side dish. The beans have a perfect lightly crisp texture to them and they go well with the lamb and rice.
We were all quite full but just wanted to share one bite of dessert to share. I also promised Miss America I wouldn't let the restaurant know that it was his birthday as he finds the idea of being sung Happy Birthday to be a mortifying experience so the dessert is unadorned. The seasonal pancake changes regularly but today's is a lychee pancake that is a bright red in colour. Inside is whipped cream and lychee popping pearls. It's a fabulous dessert and a clever riff on the classic mango pancake with lychee pearls bursting in the mouth with every bite.
So tell me Dear Reader, what is your favourite ever dumpling? And do you like it when people sing Happy Birthday to you at a restaurant?
CHI By Lotus
Shop 2, 100 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo NSW 2000
Tuesday Dinner 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Wednesday Lunch 12:00pm – 3:00pm Dinner 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Thursday – Saturday Lunch 12:00pm – 3:00pm Dinner 5:00pm – 12:00am
02 7227 6290