Wok Passion @ Lane Cove

I have to admit I view eateries that cover more than one cuisine type with a healthy dose of scepticism – the old “Jack of all trades, master of none” figure of speech pops up in my cynical head when I see hyphens deployed on restaurant signs.

This kind of thinking pretty much assured that I would never have checked out Wok Passion – www.wokpassion.com.au – but for the fact that I was personally invited by the owners to dine there.

Fellow Malaysians Ching and Maylin, the relatively new owners of the restaurant (originally a Chinese establishment), have spent the last eighteen months or so revamping the menu to include some Malaysian specialties.  I figured it explained why it was now “Chinese-Malaysian” instead of just “Chinese”. I assumed they were trying to retain its existing goodwill whilst expanding its offerings.

A quick glance through the menu shows there’s an element of that – typical Malaysian street fare like Laksa, Roti Canai, Penang Char Kway Teow and Mee Goreng are peppered throughout the 24 pages, alongside traditional Chinese dishes like Chicken & Sweet Corn Soup, Duck Pancakes etc.

Having eaten there however, I’ve realised it’s a bit simplistic to think they are merely trying to cover all bases.

I’m going to ramble a bit to make my next point, so bear with me.

Without trying to dissect the Malaysian culinary landscape too much, I’d like to point out, thanks to its multicultural history –

1)       there are Chinese-influenced Malaysian dishes (think Char Kway Teow), and also Indian-influenced Malaysian dishes (Roti Canai) etc.

2)      There are also Chinese dishes in Malaysia (and Chinese restaurants etc.) – that you wouldn’t mistake for anything but Chinese. They are, nonetheless, Malaysian-influenced Chinese food.

When I first moved to Australia (and subsequently the UK) it was quite a revelation to me that the Chinese food in Chinatown here is quite different to the Chinese food I grew up knowing in Malaysia.

I tend to find the Hong Kong-influenced restaurant dishes in Sydney’s Chinatown a little bland for my taste buds – I have to have copious amounts of soya sauce and sliced chillies with my meal when I eat there.

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Back to Wok Passion – and all but one of the dishes selected by Ching and Maylin were actually Chinese – which confused me originally, since I fully expected them to showcase their Malaysian dishes like Satay and Char Kway Teow. I am very glad they picked these instead, because I realised then, how much I had missed Malaysian-style Chinese food.

I went with my friends Ian and Cindy Chow, and my daughter Becky and her husband Micko, and these were what we had –

Herbal Chicken (you need to order this 3 hours in advance)

Herbal Chicken (you need to order this 3 hours in advance)

I expected the Herbal Chicken to be an acquired taste – as a kid anything “herbal” my mom made meant “medicinal” ie. in the “hold your nose and gulp it down” category – but it was nothing like that at all – it tasted fantastic.

Baked Grouper Fish Head

Baked Grouper Fish Head

Chewing on the Grouper Fish Head might be daunting to the average Australian diner, but if you’re up for it, the ginger & garlic sauce is unforgettable.

Nyonya Steamed Fish

Nyonya Steamed FishThe Nyonya Steamed Fish was topped with a deliciously spicy, gingery sauce and as for the Kai Lan – I would apprentice in their kitchen just to learn how to make it.

Ying Yong Kai Lan (2-style Chinese Broccoli)

Ying Yong Kai Lan (2-style Chinese Broccoli)

Wok Passion’s new chef is apparently a relative of the owners and used to run her own famous restaurant in Malaysia. Like any Chinese restaurant, it specialises in banquet-style dining – ie. communal sharing is the best way to enjoy the experience.

I’ve no doubt their Malaysian offerings are going to taste great but with such a vast menu it’ll take me awhile to get through everything; plus I’m a bit of a creature of habit so I can see myself ordering those same four dishes for quite some time.

I thought the prices were very reasonable compared to Chinatown, and I had no problems getting a parking spot on the street. This is my new favourite (Malaysian-owned) Chinese restaurant in Sydney.   I can’t wait to go back.

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Ps. As I write this, googling the place by name brings up its old website (ie. before the change of hands) and a corresponding “permanently closed” notation in Google Maps – just remember the new URL – www.wokpassion.com.au

Closed Tuesdays

Non-halal (as a non-pork eater I was very grateful none of the dishes they brought out were pork – their specialty is seafood, which suits me perfectly).

 

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