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Lotus [Sydney]

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Lotus has always had a good reputation for attracting good new talent to the kitchen, previous chefs have included Genevieve Copland and Lauren Murdoch and now Dan Hong. For someone in his mid twenties Dab has an impressive resume with stints at Longrain, Tetsuya's, Marque, Bentley Bar & Grill and recently New York’s WD50 (courtesy of the Josephine Pignolet award for Sydney’s best young chef). So our expectations were high...

We book the table. As this is a Merivale restaurant (a classy food/bar empire in Sydney) the call goes through to central reservations which is fast and efficient. We then get a call from the restaurant which goes along the lines of:
- Hi, we understand you want to eat here here lets see if we can fit you in.
- (us confused) But we have a reservation for 8:00pm
- Sorry can’t do that, we could possibly fit you in at 9:00
- But we have a confirmed reservation
- Sigh, they shouldn’t do that, oh it’s xxxx, she is new, we only do tables at 7:30 or 9:00.
- But we have a reservation for 8:00
- OK come in at 8:30 and we will see what we can do.

Not a great start, if the call had started with an apology for a mix up and then asked us if 9:00 was OK we would have bee happy. But this clearly isn’t their style. And obviously when we arrive we wait in the bar until 9:20 before we are seated despite there being free tables when we arrive. OK I know it was predictable.

The bar however is great, really good staff, and an interesting range of cocktails, I don’t usually get tempted but these were good enough for me to try one.

We get seated: and it looks like they are down a couple of staff as the waiters are running around like headless chooks. Orders are eventually taken, the specials board hadn’t been updated so we tried to order a few things that had run out (cue quick rethink) and after the third attempt we get a waiter who knows the wine list. We receive the bread ration, one thin slice of sour-dough (Infinity?), nice but no more is offered as we wait for the first course.

These are mixed. My slow cooked “pork belly, green garlic, shitake, tarragon and pork crackling” ($19) is really good the crackling is puffed up and is light and airy, the flavours all combine well, a highly accomplished dish. My partners “lightly smoked ocean trout tartare with basil, lemon grass and tomato tea” ($20) is less successful, with a flavour component that clashed with the other ingredients, we think it is tarragon.

The situation is reversed for mains. My dish isn’t good. Both plates are red hot as though the dishes have been waiting around under heat lamps and my doesn’t look like it has just been plated. “pan-fried jewfish with chorizo, cuttlefish, and cuttlefish ink sauce” ($29). The components are OK but lack and vibrancy and freshness, the chorizo is sub-par, the cuttlefish chewy cuttlefish, the fish a bit dry and none of them really work together as the ink dressing does nothing to bind the flavours, but instead dominates. Not a nice dish at all. On the other hand my partners “steamed snapper with Japanese mushrooms, king prawns and ginger broth” ($34) was superb, with wonderful flavours meshing very well, and as it was a broth it hadn’t suffered under the heat lamps. We also ordered “shoestring fries” ($8) but these were frozen and worse than the fries you get at McDonald’s, a real anachronism.
The bar bill was $51 for two glasses of wine and a cocktail. We chose a $55 bottle of Pinot from the bottom end of the list (it is a high priced list). Overall the bill came to $216.

Would we return? Probably not. Dan Hong is very talented and when he gets it right he is great and the good dishes are world class. If it wasn’t for the service and FOH attitude I would be happy to give it another go; the initial phone call from the restaurant should have been a warning. But look out for Dan I think he is will be a future star chef in Sydney.

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