Like a game of Pokemon Go but with far better rewards at the end of a journey, Mama Mulan is on everyone’s lips. From the concierge at the hotel, the guy walking down the road, in the main square concourse at Chatswood, people are heads down at their phones, then eyes up, “Hey, it’s up here, follow me!”.
There’s a lot that isn’t your standard Chinese, starting with the design thanks to DS17 (Nour Restaurant, Alpha Restaurant, Beta Bar). It’s a den of soft grey concrete curves, arches, wooden doors leading to private rooms and stunning lodge style chandeliers that look like chemical structures. It feels more mod oz than Shandong.
Then there’s the food. Whilst our favourites are here, head chef Marble Ng (ex. Lotus, Chef’s Gallery) isn’t afraid to break a few taboos. Let’s start with the Peking Duck pancakes – purists might go quackers but what a great twist to munch down onto crispy skin duck with a thick matchstick of rock melon and slither of red onion (it really works).
Whilst lunchtimes focus on dumplings, soups and hand-pulled noodles, the star of dinner must be the pot stickers. Light as feather crispy golden logs filled with pork and cabbage, or if you can get them, the prawns. Salt and pepper soft shell crab is so fresh and juicy you might need to reach over to the other table and see if you can borrow a thoughtfully provided plastic glove to diners tackling a whole crab.
Mains of Kung Pao chicken and coral trout with lemon grass and ginger might move back to the traditional camp, but you can see creative flair busting out with the Mama Mulan signature fried rice, with generous chunks of wagyu beef tossed in XO sauce. The other bonus is a perfect sphere of ice cream, deep fried to a perfect level of caramel naughtiness, crowned with popcorn which creates envy in anyone refusing desert.
A stunning central bar, oversized paintings and service with a smile bring together a big new force in Chinese dining which makes the adventure in getting there just as fun as the journey the menu takes you on.
Level 1, The Concourse, Chatswood NSW 2067
(Above the Willoughby City Library)