What do you get when you cross Modern Asian with Bondi hipster? The answer is the fourth venue from Steve Anastasiou of China Doll, China Lane and China Beach.
A joint venture between Anastasiou and fellow hospitality entrepreneur, Kingsley Smith, China Diner holds true to the Asian roots of its sister venues while offering a modern, contemporary addition to the local beach scene.
The 200 seat venue boasts two separate dining sections that, while distinct in style and design, flow seamlessly into each other. Toward the back of the space is the more formal, upscale dining room, similar to what patrons have come to associate with the group’s other venues. At the front is a funkier, more casual space with bar seating and booths for those looking for a more laid back vibe. The menu remains the same throughout. The fit-out was designed by Humphrey & Edwards, the team behind some of Sydney’s most innovative dining interiors.
In the kitchen Head Chef, Sebastian Gee, draws on his extensive travels and his love of exotic cuisine to continually develop and modify the every changing menu. Gee started his culinary career working under Peter Doyle at ‘est’ before heading out on a 10-month backpacking trip (the first of two) around South-East Asia. While there he picked up new techniques, a love for bold Asian flavours, and an adventurous palette. When he returned, he did a stint at Sailor’s Thai before joining the kitchens at both China Doll and China Lane, and finally leading the charge at China Diner.
Growing up in a family of six might have influenced Sebastian’s approach to mealtime, which he sees as an opportunity to create theatre, be playful, and put the emphasis on enjoying a shared experience with others. In his words, “it’s not fun unless you’re wearing the sauce!”
The menu is like a collection of Sebastian’s passport stamps, with offerings from all over Asia. Divided into ‘smalls’, ‘mediums’, ‘bigs’ and ‘sides’, diners can be guided by their appetites and group size when making selections.
The marmite chicken is a popular starter dish that many mistake as being an Australian creation. It is in fact a traditional dish served all over Malaysia that owes its unusual name to Malaysia’s British colonial history and its influence on their food culture.
But despite the massive flavour hit you’ll find in the dishes, China Diner has a strict no-MSG policy, deriving flavour instead from all natural ingredients. All the sauces, curry pastes and dumplings are made in-house and produce is locally sourced.
Perhaps one of the only items not made in house is the bottle of sriracha, a Thai hot sauce made from a paste of chilli peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt that can be found on each table. Although with Chef Gee’s superior seasoning skills, we doubt you’ll need it!