Some restaurants, you leave, with the greatest intentions of revisiting soon. That was how I felt after dining at LL Wine & Dine in August last year. But somehow, eight months passed before I finally had the chance to savour their exquisite dishes again.
It turns out that earlier this year in February, the owners - brothers Matt, Chris and Tim Barge - and chefs including head chef Jin Kung, embarked on a gastronomic trip to Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong for culinary inspiration. These new flavours and cooking techniques are the basis of some new additions to the Modern Asian menu.
Since my last visit, the restaurant has also taken over the neighbouring space. Although it has doubled in size, the ambiance is still very much dim and intimate with a luxurious oriental appeal.
I decide to leave the ordering up to the kitchen. You know, just to add an element of surprise throughout the meal.
We are served two cocktails and Zen and I instantly take ownership of one of each. It was a coincidence that one of them was watermelon-based (Zen loves his watermelon juice!) and the other featured kaffir lime (one of my fave aromas!).
So there's the Ecstasy ($16) with fresh watermelon and coriander root muddled with vanilla & chilli infused vodka; and the Botanical Fling ($18), a concoction of Hendricks Gin, St Germain Elderflower, kaffir lime and lemon shaken and double strained in a chilled martini glass.
First up are steamed lobster bisque soup dumplings filled with prawn and scallop served with soy and red vinegar sauce, fresh ginger and spring onions (four for $12 or eight for $24). They aren't bursting with soup, like xiao long bao, but the shellfish flavours are so wonderfully delicate.
Next we are served the confit crispy skin five spice duck breast with homemade pancakes, cucumber, spring onions, taro chips and plum & orange sauce ($29).
The confit duck is crispy but a little too flaky and dry. I think I'd much prefer the smoky version they served last year. However the pancakes are still light and fluffy and overall, this rendition of Peking duck is simply irresistible... Especially the taro chips!
You know how I'm usually not a big lamb eater... Well, these roasted lamb cutlets (four for $29) are quite something! They're crusted with Massaman curry and lime leaf crumbs and served with the slimmest shavings of cucumber and an intriguing mint jelly.
We're given cutlery to use, but lamb this scrumptious is meant to be eaten with hands.
This is a dish I never would have picked, had I been ordering for myself... Yet it is the highlight of the meal so far and I love it to bits!
Then we have the last savoury dish - Singaporean jumbo king prawn curry with capsicum, broccoli and sugar snaps ($38). This was inspired by the Singaporean crab curry and feature extra large super meaty U6-sized prawns! It is served with a you tiao (deep-fried bread fritter) which would've been better if it had been fried fresh on the spot, but is still great for mopping up the sauce.
On the side is steamed rice ($3) and gai lan (Chinese broccoli, $8) with vegetarian oyster sauce and sesame oil.
All eyes turn to the dessert platter for two ($22) as it makes its way to our table. My blurry photo doesn't do this platter justice, but I was eager to dig right in!
My favourite item on the platter are the doughnut balls. They're filled with a coconut custard, encrusted with ginger and sugar and served with the most fragrant pineapple sorbet. There's also the cinnamon and honey pannacotta with caramel ice-cream and cinnamon sugar swirls, and hot Belgian dark chocolate pudding with fresh strawberries and hazelnut ice-cream.
LL Wine & Dine is such a beautiful space. They serve a magnificent fare of Modern Asian dishes which intrigue and delight. It was great to be back.
LL Wine and Dine
42 Llankelly Place, Potts Point NSW
Phone: (02) 9356 8393
JENIUS & partner dined as guests of LL Wine & Dine