"MissChu's dead; she was my ego and she let me down," Nahji Chu says of her eponymous Vietnamese rice paper roll tuckshops, which went into voluntary administration in late 2014.
"It's not about my ego anymore, I'm concentrating on the food and wine."
And is she what – Cha Li Boi, a modern yum cha and cocktail hall, will open on Tuesday, May 9, at Bondi Junction. Chu has snapped up the Oriental Jewel's sprawling 750sqm site above East Leagues Club, with 285 seats and a private dining room.
"The old site here was really traditional and so gratuitously Chinese, so I thought we should do something quite unusual that no one has done before, and go for yum cha that is clean, modern, with no MSG and a heavy accent on vegan and gluten-free," Chu says.
The menu, designed by Billy Kwong alum John Leong, includes the Man Bun, a vegan slider loaded with tempura okra, enoki and silken tofu, DIY Peking duck pancakes, ants falling off trees, and egg fried wild rice.
Dip into the dim sum menu for Pac Man-shaped har gau, "cray cray" crayfish and scampi, or "ling by bell" scallop and ling-fish-filled dumplings, as well as a giant pork and crab xiao long bao served with a straw to slurp up the soup, and a Shot Wallaby (wrapped with saltbush and native green) served in a shooter of soup.
"It's high-end food but with fun names, serious but not too serious," Chu says. "We're working with Marty Boetz to source produce from the Hawkesbury, and a lot of our produce is from his farm."
A bubble tea machine will shake up the cocktail menu, adding lychee pearls to MissChu's famous coconut slushie, and tea cola pearls to the Leagues Island Iced Tea, a vodka, rum and tequila-fuelled nod to the leagues club below. Taittinger will be available by the glass, or if you opt for the Wedding Banquet (staff will group parties of strangers together to form tables of 10), a magnum of Whispering Angel rosá makes for a solid ice-breaker.
For the Bondi babes, you can also pair your gluten-free "rooted" vegan dumplings with pure gingseng slimming ballerina tea, or an endless pot of Golden Monkey Chinese black tea for the table.