It’s a pared-back menu but the flavours are dialled up high in the Dark Kitchen, says food reviewer Alison Walsh.
It’s a pared-back menu but the flavours are dialled up high in the Dark Kitchen, says food reviewer Alison Walsh.

Forget beige lockdown food, this takeaway rocks

FOOD REVIEW

Comfort food? Back to basics? Are you kidding? scoffs Donna Chang, Brisbane's schmick modern Chinese restaurant. While some other establishments have pared back their lockdown takeaway menus to soothing dishes likely to have broad appeal to a shocked population, DC closed its elegant doors for a few weeks when coronavirus restrictions hit and then returned with all woks blazing.

The takeaway dishes I recently picked up from the George St glamazon are throwing caution to the wind and dialling up the flavours to a 100, rather consistently more than I recall when dining in-house in the good old days.

Big flavours: Donna Chang head chef Jason Margaritis. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
Big flavours: Donna Chang head chef Jason Margaritis. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

How about those pork and garlic chive dumplings with black bean chilli dressing ($19.90)? Phwoar! That sauce is brewed to etch a place in your memory bank that will have you redialling for more as soon as you can face another trip to the City for pickup. Six steamed prawn wontons also paddle in a powerful, delicious aged black vinegar ($19.90). Ma po wok-braised eggplant with chilli bean sauce on steamed silken tofu ($19) is similarly a wonderful Sichuan-inspired spicy creation. It's an opera of oomph, every ingredient playing its part to create a knockout dish. Despite its throwing-down-the-gauntlet name, hot numbing sweet and sour pork belly ($25), is no more numbing than the ma po but it's hardly shy and retiring, the crisp cubes of fatty enjoyment making a tongue-tingling impression.

All fired up: Hot, numbing sweet and sour pork belly. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
All fired up: Hot, numbing sweet and sour pork belly. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

A sweet conclusion to douse the culinary fires comes in the form of creamy coconut sago pudding topped with fresh rockmelon and strawberry salad ($9) but those wanting to stay on the big flavour jag should opt for the dark chocolate mousse with Hennessy XO caramel, accessorised with a baton of sweet fried bread to scoop it up ($13). The steamed mango custard bun ($4) was the only "off note" of the night. By the time we got to it, and admittedly it had been sitting around a while, the thick dough encasing the fruit centre was heavy and unappealing.

Sweeet conclusion: Coconut sago pudding. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
Sweeet conclusion: Coconut sago pudding. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

At the moment Donna Chang's food is on offer under the banner of Dark Kitchen, with the Ghanem Groups's three other enterprises also offering takeaway out of the George St kitchen. As well as Donna Chang's cut-down menu of five entrees and mains, sides and three desserts, there's a selection of shared dishes from Eagle St's Blackbird, Portside's Middle Eastern Byblos and clucky burger, rib and wing joint Lord of the Wings, which has premises at Indooroopilly and Carindale. Diners can mix and match from the four menus or stick to one strand of cuisine.

George Street glamazon: Donna Chang, George St Brisbane. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
George Street glamazon: Donna Chang, George St Brisbane. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

 

The kids try the buttermilk fried chicken burger ($13.90), a paper bag of crisp shoestring fries ($6) and onion rings ($8.90), and all are straight from the stove and travel well.

Also, after my visit, Donna Chang and Byblos reopened last weekend for groups of 10 over two sittings at each for lunch and dinner.

Donna Chang, George St Brisbane. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
Donna Chang, George St Brisbane. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

Takeaway orders are taken by phone, the food was timed to the minute for pick-up,
a couple of parks were available in Elizabeth St right near the door (surely that can't happen too often) and the food survived the trip home with ease. After dinner my complimentary fortune cookie revealed a quote from the well-known Confucian philosopher Jerry Seinfeld: "Sometimes the road less travelled is less travelled for a reason." A pithy petit four to complete a punchy, memorable meal.

 

DARK KITCHEN

Food: 4 and ½ stars

Ease of ordering: 4 stars

Value: 4 stars

Overall: 4 stars

 

Must try

Ma po

 

Pickup from 49 Elizabeth St, Brisbane, 0477 008 252

 

Menu from Donna Chang, Byblos and Lord Of The Wings available Wed-Sun noon-9pm, Blackbird menu available Wed-Fri from 5pm, Sat-Sun from noon. Inner-city delivery available.

ghanemgroup.com.au

 

Originally published as Forget beige lockdown food, this takeaway rocks



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