Thursday, November 8, 2012

How a restaurant got it all kwong
Visiting Billy Kwong restaurant on Sunday 4 November, with misguided excitement. Kylie Kwong, head chef is apparently a celebrity chef. I know her from adverts promoting her appearances on Masterchef. I expected quality food and excellent dinging experience. How kwong was I.

Jamie Oliver is famous for his heavy-handed use of olive oil in his cooking. Each meal starting with a good splash of olive oil in the pan, extra oil added during the cooking and finally a drizzle of olive oil over the food after he has plated up. By the taste Kylie Kwong uses a similar formula for the use of vinegar. She could appear on the upcoming remake of Prisoner and play the part of Vinegar Tits.

I had vegetarian vinegar dumplings followed by vinegar noodles with vinegar vegetables and vinegar wantons. I declined the offer of dessert a pear dish with what I can only assume was a vinegar sauce.

This meant that differed in appearance and texture but were identical in flavor.
As I said I did not see any episodes of Masterchef. When she was guest presenter/mentor/judge, did the mystery box only contain vinegar?

According to the menu, the extensive use of vinegar is not the only unexpected ingredient. She favours the use of salt bush, wherever other chefs may use spinach or rocket. The saltiness compliments the bitterness of the vinegar.

Strike one.

In addition to the taste of the food, my dining experience was worsened by the dining room itself. First thing you notice in entering the restaurant is that there is no separation between the kitchen and the dining room which means it is noisy. The second is that both areas are small and over crowded, which only increases the noise.

Due to the overcrowding many of the tables are very small. I was sat at a table about the size of an A3 piece of paper. With drinks, cutlery and small eating bowls there was no real room for the actual food, thus creating a difficult Tetris-like challenge for waiters and customers alike.

As if to prove the difficulty of this puzzle a waiter spilt a wine on the table next to me when trying to squeeze three plates of food onto the table. I am not sure if the restaurant has pets or if it is just a building up of cooking odors in the carpet from the kitchen that is in the dining room but when the wine soaked into the carpet it released a smell. A smell that I can only describe as “wet dog”. The pooch lingered in the air for the rest of my meal.

The close proximity of tables also provided challenges. After replacing their wine, the waiter tried to befriend the customers by having an in depth discussion with them about the farming of salt bush and the unique flavor it adds to the Asian cuisine when marinated in vinegar. Lovely…for them.

The waiter’s arse, having nowhere to go, rested on the edge of my table for 5 minutes.
A small restaurant must also create storage issues. This may explain why the area under the window bench on which I sat was also the maintenance shed. The bench was, however as deep as the items it attempted to store. This left me wrapping one leg around a mop bucket and the other foot resting on a tool box.

Strike two.

Part way through my meal my waiter disappeared, along with any more service to my table. Tony Abbot would blame this on the carbon tax. For 30 minutes I was not approached with an offer of a drink or desert or the bill. I was tempted to get out the tool box and try and join the tables together so that they could fit food AND beverages.

To be fair I did now have enough room on my table for everything that I was being served.

Credit must be given to given to the only male waiter at the restaurant this night. Firstly he stayed for the duration of the meal service, secondly knowing that the menu and room were not going to help him at all worked hard to keep everyone relaxed and comfortable. One waiter does not make good service.

Strike three. You’re out.

Definitely no immunity pin for Kylie Kwong, in fact you will now have to face an elimination challenge.

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