On a day where the usually spectacular view of Freshwater Beach was replaced by a misty white canvas, the revamped Harbord Diggers was a welcome relief from the storm. A stunning new dining and entertainment hub with a modern fit out; full of gentle timber curves, natural stone walls and diffused, warm light.
Equally as stunning with a personality of its own, WaterDragon openly faces the main bar area, partitioned by raised planters full of lush greenery, which curve and meander along the walkway. Centred around a magnificent round, brass bar lined with neat rows of bottles, the interior of WaterDragon is as opulent as it is warm and inviting, with natural timber tables and chairs in striking contrast to deep azure blue accents.
Cocktails: Matcha Madness Sour ($16.00); Waterdragon Sour ($16.00)
Showcasing a pan-Asian menu, which is modern Chinese at its core, head chef Jason Chan (ex Merivale’s Queen Chow, El Loco and Papi Chulo) cleverly incorporates influences from across Asia: Thailand, Korea and Japan to name a few. The theme continues through to the cocktail list, which is certainly not an afterthought at WaterDragon, with options like the refreshing ‘Sake Mojito’ and tequila based ‘Kung Pow’ with lime and chilli alongside classics all at $16 a pop.
Crowned the first truly delicious matcha cocktail I’ve ever had, the ‘Matcha Madness Sour’ flawlessly blends gin, sake, lemon juice and matcha syrup shaken with ice and served in a martini glass. It’s smooth and strong with a prominent matcha flavour and enough lemon to be refreshing. Also a excellent option, the ‘Waterdragon Sour’ is a strong and fresh concoction of gin, elderflower liqueur and lime, balanced with a touch of sugar.
Chef’s Selection Steam Platter ($30)
WaterDragon specialises in a variety of dumplings, including classic prawn shumai upgraded with the addition of tender sea scallops, har gow with king prawns and pork xiao long bao (soup dumplings). If you’re indescisive or not sure what to order, the Chef’s selection steam platter is an excellent option with prawn har gow, chicken shumai, the vegetarian Buddah’s delight and green scallop, prawn and snow pea dumplings. All are beautifully wrapped with a thin, delicate skin, which is soft yet strong enough to hold together the fillings. Surprisingly, my favourite is the Buddah’s delight, which is delicious, textural and full of flavour.
Dumplings are one of my favourite things to eat and these were truly magnificent! The best part? All. You. Can. Eat dumplings for only $25 per person (yes, you read right) on Tuesday evenings! Almost unbelievable value for some of the freshest, most delicious dumplings on this side of the bridge.
Market Fish Sashimi (Market Price)
One of WaterDragon’s more fusion dishes features cubes of fresh, market fish sashimi, which happened to be kingfish on our visit. Combined ceviche-style with finger lime, pieces of ruby grapefruit, an umeboshi and ginger dressing and jewels of blue scampi caviar (which tied in very nicely with the decor). Fresh, textural and citrusy with a slight bitterness, this was an enjoyable appetiser, however, I found it slightly too sour from all of the citrus together with the umeboshi (pickled plums).
Grilled Stuffed Calamari ($22)
The grilled calamari was cooked to absolute tender perfection, with enough bite to provide textural difference to the soft prawn stuffing. The fragrant truffle and prawn oil, was so robust in seafood flavour and complemented perfectly by the rich, savoury black pepper sauce balanced by a squeeze of charred lemon. My only qualm (and it is a small one) is that due to the strong flavours in the oil and the sheer amount of it on the plate, it does lose its impact after a few bites. The lemon does help to counteract the oily mouthfeel and adds an element of freshness, but this could definitely be served with even half the amount of oil.
Sweet & Sour Coral Trout Wings ($28)
Now, you’ll have to trust me when I say that you need to order this next main! A big bowl of fish wings, which are crispy enough that you can eat the gills, whilst maintaining an abundance of delicate, juicy flesh underneath a moreish sweet and sour sticky glaze. A must-order at WaterDragon!
Kung Pow King Prawns ($42)
Next up — big, juicy King prawns in kung pow sauce, with crunchy roasted peanuts and a kick of spice from dried chillis and Sichuan pepper. With a perfectly harmonious balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy, this is a must-order for any seafood lover!
Crispy Eggplant ($14)
Stir Fried Green Beans ($14)
Technically a side dish, but spectacular enough to steal the show — these little fritters of eggplant coated in a light but audibly crunchy golden batter and drizzled in a sweet, sticky Sichuan style dressing were pure heaven. A symphony of contrasting textures with an incredibly moreish, delicious and well-balanced sauce. I’ll say it again….must-order!!
And, a classic Chinese side dish, which was executed beautifully at WaterDragon — the slightly blistered stir fried green beans tossed with garlic and chilli. Tender yet firm, incredibly flavoursome and not too oily.
Black Pepper Wagyu ($35)
Admittedly, my review of this final dish comes in two parts. Part one at the restaurant, where I’m verging on food coma status and can hardly nibble at the mushrooms let alone tackle the beef. Having never really enjoyed black pepper beef, due to the rubbery, over-tenderised texture common to cheap Chinese takeaway, I put this dish in the “not for me” basket, i.e. “Can I get this takeaway? [I hate wasting food]”.
Part two occurs at my kitchen table the following day as I scoop a few spoonfuls of rice into the same takeaway container and mindlessly heat it up in the microwave. As I take my first bite, I notice the extra jolt of heat has worked to accentuate the rich, peppery flavour of the sauce (or perhaps I didn’t try enough to notice the night before). The tender cubes of wagyu tri tip (MBS 6-7+) had a buttery, almost melt-in-the-mouth texture, which contrasted beautifully with the mixed mushrooms and assorted vegetables.
If you’re a fan of the ever-popular Mr. Wong in Sydney’s CBD, then you’ll adore WaterDragon! To the envy of city-dwellers, this sophisticated modern Asian eatery is one incredible addition to the Northern Beaches food scene. Highlights for me were the dumplings (don’t forget Tuesday’s all you can eat!), the sweet and sour coral trout wings, the crispy eggplant, the black pepper wagyu and of course, the matcha madness sour cocktail! My only regret is not having room to try dessert — I’ll be back for sure!
Thank you Manny for the invitation, Manon who looked after us on the night and the entire team at WaterDragon! Eats with Marie dined as a guest. All opinions, comments and photos are 100% honest and my own.
WaterDragon @ Harbord Diggers
88 Evans St, Freshwater 2096
0449 972 969
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