Our dinner at Master was something we had planned with Sydney friends many months before the actual trip. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone since I only mentioned recently how meticulous I am about planning things in advance. I'm sure some find this approach to life to be stressful but for me, the earlier I plan something, the longer I have to look forward to it. And this was a dinner I was most definitely looking forward to.
In the weeks leading up to our weekend in Sydney, I kept seeing 'Master Dining' mentioned in all the up and coming restaurant guides online. Excitement grew and it was with utter glee that Marc and I approached the restaurant when the night of the booking finally came around.
Master is located in Surry Hills and is smaller and more hip than I expected. I don't know why but the name conveyed a very serious, fine dining, traditional Chinese restaurant to my mind and the actual restaurant is very much the opposite of those things. We were seated upstairs and because we were the first of our group to arrive, I had some time to soak up the atmosphere.
The decor is dark and almost warehouse-like with exposed bricks painted white and our table made of some kind of dark tiling. As I said earlier, it was anything but a traditional Chinese restaurant setting.
We ordered some drinks and waited for the rest of our friends to arrive. Our friend Sarah from Sydney was the one who recommended the restaurant to us. She is my food guide to Sydney and every place she has told me to try has been a banger. When she got to the restaurant, we let her take charge of the ordering process.
Food at Master is for sharing and the menu is full of quirky yet delicious-sounding plates to choose from. I couldn't wait to see what we were in store for.
Xi-An goat bun
The first dishes to arrive could be considered as light starters. One plate was full of little goat buns, which were so cute to look at. They were a tidy handful each and very tasty. From the appearance I expected them to be dry but the filling was flavoursome and juicy. What a perfect start to our meal!
Scallop silk - with XO sauce
Next, I tried one of Sarah's favourites from Master, the scallop silk. This dish tastes as good as it sounds. It is so light, slippery and delicate and we definitely made the right decision to order two serves.
Strange flavour pork neck
I was very much intrigued by the title of the next dish. 'Strange flavour pork neck' had me desperate to find out what 'strange' meant. The pork here was thinly sliced and very tender and soaked up the delicious sauce. I would describe the flavour as a numbing, sesame, savoury sauce with creaminess and spice. It was strange, yes, but balanced and delicious.
Master fried rice
Our fried rice was served next and I was so excited that I apparently forgot how to use my camera. I apologize for the unfocused photo but this fried rice was amazing. I'm picky with rice because I don't often eat it so it has to be good and in this version, the grains were nicely separated and it was fragrant without seeming oily.
Salt and pepper veal sweetbreads
I'm a bit lost about the next dish because I think 'm looking at a plate of chili chicken and we were discussing chili chicken on the night (mostly the fact that there was more chili than chicken) but I simply cannot find chili chicken on the menu. Did I hallucinate the dish? I can't have because there's photographic evidence. Was it something completely different to chili chicken?? Anyway this was the most average dish of the night because fried chicken is something we've had done well elsewhere so it didn't bring anything new to the table.
Edit: I can confirm that the dish pictured above is in fact, not chicken but crumbed veal sweetbreads, served with lots of chili. I'll casually place the blame on everyone else for misdirecting me by calling the dish 'chicken' but mostly, I blame the veal sweetbreads; why you so taste like chicken?
Eggplant - with zucchini and black garlic
My pick of the lot was the eggplant with black garlic. I can't imagine anyone else choosing a vegetarian dish but I am a huge fan of eggplant, especially when served with Asian flavours. This version had a striking presentation with the vivid green zucchini puree forming a backdrop to the black garlic spots.
Wagyu beef intercostal - with chives, pear and egg yolks
The wagyu beef is a dish that didn't leave a huge impression on me, probably because it was towards the end of our feast and I was getting very full. I'll include the photo here for completeness sake and skip onto the next dish...
Peking style pork jowl - with pancake and condiments
Our last main was a new take on Peking duck with pork instead of duck. I loved the combination of melty pork jowl with the flaky roti-like pancakes. This is a cracker of a dish and I really pushed the limit of my fullness because I liked this so much.
A roasted potato
We didn't have much room for dessert but one item on the menu stood out: 'a roasted potato'. That might seem boring on any other menu but this was listed in the dessert section and we just had to try it. What we were served was an unusual roast potato ice-cream in batter. It was ice-cream with a savoury note and surprisingly tasty. I thought this was a clever twist on deep fried ice-cream.
I absolutely loved our meal at Master Dining. Something that is getting increasingly rare in today's dining scene is to find a restaurant that genuinely has something new and exciting to offer. I feel like I've been there and tried that to most foods but Master's spin on Chinese food is innovative, tasty and definitely new. I would highly recommend a visit.