A food revelation
Six years ago Siev Gour’s car weaved through the winding village road on a visit to China. It was still early morning, he looked out and saw the green hills of Longjing clouded in mist. The tea ceremony during that visit, that meditative experience led to a profound epiphany and eventually to the birth of Pu’er, nine months ago.
Pu’er is Chinoiserie-chic…
Choose from three areas; inside: wooden tables and benches custom made in China or curved wooden stools at the granite counter under swinging cherry blossom lights, outside: it’s uber-classy tables with round ceramic tops decorated with gorgeous willow patterns.
Pu’er is positioned as a contemporary dim sum tea house. Gour is looking for punters who have graduated beyond the hectic Chinatown yum cha carts and oolong tea poured from leaking blue and white ceramic pots. There’s currently fifteen teas to choose from which are listed in order of intensity – Osmanthus Phoenix is the current overseas craze, fresh and sweet aroma of Osmanthus flowers that leaves a mango & peach after-taste. If you prefer greater intensity, try 1995 Loose Leaf Premium Yunnan Pu’er, it’s a thick and dark infusion, earthy with subtle honey finish. Teas comes with matching pots and cups – glass, terracotta or ceramic – to enhance the experience. Gour comes from a bar background and Pu’er also stocks an extensive range of wine, beers and spirits.
Pu’er’s menu, while predominantly Chinese, also displays a modern, pan-Asian influence. The menu is divided into four sections: tea steamed dumplings, street food snacks, light bites for one and share plates.
On a previous visit, noodlies tried and adored Pu’er’s ruby red spicy prawn dumplings (not pictured); chilli marinated prawn and baby bamboo is hidden in a lightly chilli glutinous wrapping. It’s confronting at first when dayglo red dumplings land on the table, but when the shock subsides you’ll admire the precious jewel effect and lively steamed prawns. The chilli is mild, noodlies recommends dunking them in the sriracha side sauce.
When scallop dumplings arrive in all its orange glory, noodlies is ready. These open dumplings are made with a yellow egg glutinous pastry revealing precious white treasures of prawn, scallop and baby bamboo. Take a big bite for full effect, for such small ingots, these dumplings release surprisingly concentrated sea treasure bursts of flavours.
Also in the dumpling section is gyoza – Kansai style, pan fried pork dumplings served with pickle ginger and vinegar. They’re perfectly fried, pan-side crispy dark and smokey while the other side is fleshy and al dente. I didn’t use much of the pickled ginger but loved dipping them in the aged vinegar.
Bo kho baguette is a cheeky twist on Vietnamese banh mi bo kho. Gour uses his mother’s recipe; chunky steak is slow cooked with potato and carrot until it’s tender, yielding a rich, thick sauce. It’s added to a baguette and held together with melted mozzrella. This is an unbelievably satisfying bite, served with delicious chips it’s a east-meets-west melting pot.
And so we head to Korea, Gangnam charcoal chicken is a pretty sight and promises much. I’m ready for a fiery chilli and sour PSY whack but instead it’s a restrained execution of tender, subtle chicken pieces with Jerusalem artichoke confit, dutch carrot and sesame dressing. Compared to the other excellent plates on our table, this dish is well and truly overshadowed.
The eggplant presentation is breathtaking – already an earthy vegetable (though technically it’s a fruit) – here, it could be a view of the ground from above. Utterly beguiling. Break through the soft top soil and you’ll find soft, mushy eggplant flesh that’s full of flavour – I have no idea how they manage such a rich taste.Walter said it best “it’s just like lobster thermidor” in looks, rich taste and depth.
Chocolate brownie sounds straight-forward enough. but it comes out looking spectacular – topped with salted caramel ice cream and a mess of sweet debris. It’s a rich experience that satisfies without sending you over the belly-busting cliff.
It’s a close call, but noodlies’ dessert pick is the red bean doughnut. The sugar coated doughnuts are, well, in a zen row leads to a medium rich condensed milk dipping cup. It’s a very Chinese dessert which Pu’er has made more accessible by being restrained on the amount of red bean used in the filling and dialing down the condensed milk dipping sauce richness.
If you’re expecting cheap-and-cheerful and the bustle of Chinatown yum cha, then this ain’t it. Everything about Pu’er oozes elegant beauty. Pu’er is about an unhurried experience to be enjoyed while your tea infuses, as the wind gently rocks the cherry blossom lights above and as the subtle modern Asian flavours unfolds, layer by layer.
20a Danks St, Waterloo
(02) 8399 1331
Noodlies, Sydney food blog and guest had a wonderful time, courtesy Siev Gour and the lovely folks at Pu’er.