Lotus Dumpling Bar Summer Hill review

Wine bottles are integral to the decor at Lotus Dumpling Bar in Summer Hill.
Wine bottles are integral to the decor at Lotus Dumpling Bar in Summer Hill. Photo: Louise Kennerley

26 Lackey St Summer Hill, NSW 2130

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Opening hours Lunch Fri-Sun noon-3pm; dinner Wed-Sun 5pm-10pm
Features Bar, Accepts bookings, Licensed
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 02 7253 5898

It's truffle season, and the little critters are turning up all over the place. Petersham's Sweet Belem is baking its famous Portuguese tarts with truffled custard, Barangaroo's a'Mare is shaving black truffles over tagliolini and pecorino, and Surry Hills' Soul Deli is doing Korean rice porridge with truffled chicken.

Here at the new Lotus Dumpling Bar in Summer Hill, there are special "truffle season" dumplings of sweet bug meat and prawn imbued with ground truffle and topped with a little shaved truffle ($22 for four).

They're terrific, from the glutinous rice skins to the soft crunch of water chestnut inside. Ain't it grand when two things you like very much – dumplings and truffles – collide in one?

Bug, prawn and truffle dumplings.
Bug, prawn and truffle dumplings.  Photo: Louise Kennerley

It's also a sign of how seriously the Lotus Group is taking its new outpost in Summer Hill, having already expanded across the city and inner east.

With its bare ash tables, monochrome tiled floor and mirrored walls, the fitout is crisp, smart and comfortable. Wine is integral to the decor, with bottles on display behind the service desk and lining a shelf running down the long room to the back-lit, well-stocked bar.

The detail runs right down to the fact that the long jade green banquette seating is at the same height as the chairs. It's a miracle. Usually, the chairs are bought by one person and the banquette built by another, with the inevitable result that those on one side have to tower over those on the other.

XO scallops with Chinese dipping doughnuts.
XO scallops with Chinese dipping doughnuts. Photo: Louise Kennerley

While the truffle dumplings won't last beyond September, there are plenty of others, masterminded by the group's original dim sum chef, Lucy Luo.

Pork soup dumplings, or xiao long bao ($16), are textbook; and the signature steamed jade prawn dumplings ($16) are a colourful take on har gau.

The more northern-style pork and chive dumplings are bland, but bird's nest pot-stickers ($21) come in their classic form, steamed and then fried into a lacework of crispness formed by a batter poured over the dumplings as they brown their bottoms in the pan.

Dan dan noodles with pork mince and dry chilli oil.
Dan dan noodles with pork mince and dry chilli oil. Photo: Louise Kennerley

Fried spring rolls and shallot cakes are crisp and dry; and if they say there's chilli, they mean it. Dan dan noodles covered in a slurry of spicily complex mince ($19) makes a great lunchtime dish, just as a crisp and dry Nick Spencer rosé ($14) makes a great lunchtime wine.

What I like most about this kitchen is that it could easily take things down a notch to more stereotypically suburban Chinese, and it doesn't. Instead, head chef Chris Tsao elevatesthe simplest dishes into something considered and crafted.

So XO scallops on the shell come with a little crisp youtiao Chinese doughnut ($14), and slow-cooked beef short ribs ($49) are doused in aged vinegar sauce. Even a mushroom fried rice ($24), bursting with king, shimeji and oyster mushrooms, adds to the better-than-it-has-to-be vibe.

Tea-smoked duck breast.
Tea-smoked duck breast.  Photo: Louise Kennerley

Instead of twice-cooked duck, there's the elegance of meticulously sliced tea-smoked Aylesbury duck breast ($42), the skin glossy and the meat blush-pink, smoky and tender, ready to wrap in a steamer-load of handmade, paper-thin pancakes with hoi sin, spring onions and cucumber. It's a treat.

There's a smoky char on blistered, twice-cooked green beans tossed with a rubble of pork mince ($22) with just enough chilli to make it interesting.

Dessert is ice-cream or ice-cream, or a nice pot of jasmine or Sun Moon Lake black tea ($5) for those who don't ice-cream.

Twice-cooked green beans with pork mince.
Twice-cooked green beans with pork mince. Photo: Louise Kennerley

Service is helpful and thoughtful, with only one or two on L-plates, but overall it's the professional package of the smart space, wine offerings and kitchen craft of this contemporary suburban Chinese that make a strong case for going.

They know how to do the classics, but also know how to make them newly interesting. And then they do that little bit extra, which makes the place as rare a find as, well, a truffle.

The low-down 

Lotus Dumpling Bar Summer Hill

Vibe The local Chinese just got classy

Go-to dish Jade prawn dumplings, $18

Drinks A dozen beers, bespoke cocktails (Summer Hill Sour, Ly-Chi martini), and a strong wine list that's hooked on riesling