Once in a while a restaurant comes around that totally blows me out of the water.  Tonight this happened.

My friend Kurt has been raving about China Doll being his favourite restaurant for years, and though I’ve taken it on board, I’ve never acted upon it.  Tonight, Mikey & I finally did.

The restaurant is in Woolloomooloo in Sydney, on the wharf in a picturesque surrounding.  There are a number of nice looking restaurants all lined up along the wharf, somewhat reminiscent of Opera Quays.

Upon being seated, the waitress asked if we’d dined here before.  She then proceeded to explain to us that they recommend sharing all the dishes to get a broad taste of what is available.  This idea worked very well.

Before I continue, I do have to apologise for the quality of these photos.  I don’t like taking cameras to restaurants, so I’ve been using my iPhone which, to put it kindly, has very poor low light abilities.

We started off with the chilli salt squid and the sashimi of Hiramasa kingfish & ocean trout with blackened chilli dressing.

Fantastic is all I can say.

Both were absolutely divine, and I doubt could be improved upon.  The chilli salt squid was cooked to perfection, Mikey did find one piece that was a little bit chewy, but when eating squid to only find one piece a little chewy is really quite amazing.

The sashimi was prepared to spectacularly.  The blackened chilli dressing was a very nice, refreshing, almost zesty flavor enhancer, and a welcome change to the standard (but still quite nice) soy & wasabi mix.

For our mains, we had the tea smoked free range Thirlmere duck with tamarind and plum, and the crispy pork belly with chilli caramel & nam pla phrik.

The duck was honestly the nicest duck I have ever had.  Prior to tonight, Red Lantern’sduck had taken the cake, but this was just in a different ball park altogether.  It fell off the bone, had a smoky taste and the sweetness of the tamarind and plum offset the gamey flavour brilliantly.

The pork belly was fantastic as well.  It was crispy as promised, but not too crispy that it was a pain to eat.  It came with a citrusy dipping sauce, and the caramel based sauce it was cooked in was lovely.

I must say though, that ordering two dishes that are generally high in fat took its toll, and we weren’t able to finish the more than generous servings between us.

After quite a wait to digest what we’d eaten so far, we decided to try to share a dessert.  We ordered the banana pudding with cardamom and chocolate sorbet.  This was lovely, but we were so full we couldn’t even finish it.

With our meal we had a very nice bottle of 2006 Margan Shiraz from the Hunter Valley in NSW, Australia, and with dessert a glass of McWilliams Botrytis Semillon, also from NSW which was one of the nicest dessert wines I’ve had.

This was an amazing evening, and a restaurant that truly belongs amongst Sydney’s finest.

The damage: $250 for the two of us, including drinks

Nick’s rating: ***** (five out of five stars)