Walk through an art gallery-like space to find the secret entrance. Your choice of broth bubbles away on a solo stove, and circulating on the train are 35 ingredients (including Wagyu beef, abalone and black-truffle prawn balls), plus sushi and sashimi.
From the window outside Chef David’s new Kew outpost, all you can see is a stark grey foyer with glowing neon typography and an illuminated pile of rocks in metal cages. It almost looks like an art gallery.
But step past a curtain made of chains and you’ll be escorted through a secret door into a vibrant corridor with a sushi train and bar on one side and a wall of flashing LED imagery on the other. It’s not what you’d expect from a traditional hotpot joint. But then again, neither was the fit-out at the first Chef David, which eschewed the traditional reds and golds of David’s Hotpot for a flashy, futuristic look.
“The city [spot] is more young and more about music and beer. Here it’s more about the wine, cocktails, premium meats and seafood,” owner Liam Zhou tells Broadsheet.
Sichuan hotpot is once again the headliner at the newest Chef David. But there’s also a focus on fresh seafood and sashimi, as well as sushi and other dishes from the Chinese province. “It’s a modern Sichuan restaurant, but also gives you the chance to taste Asian flavours from Sichuan and all over – Thailand, Japan, Vietnam,” says Zhou.
Sixty seats are scattered between the conveyor belt, private function rooms and group tables, where you’ll be able to get larger, shared pots. But for now, most customers are dining in front of the train. Until the à la carte service arrives on May 18, you have to go for the $90-a-head set-menu offering.
There are two parts to the set meal. First, you’re served a tasting menu with your choice of five dishes. Options include lobster sashimi; torched M9 Wagyu with a touch of house-made black-truffle paste; Tasmanian uni (sea urchin roe) on a deep-fried nori sheet; and lobster bisque with prawn and squid.
Then the plates are cleared and out comes a solo pot with your pick of broth. There’s the signature spicy broth from the Sichuan capital of Chengdu; a Hong Kong-style seafood one; sour tomato and oxtail; chicken and fish maw (dried swim bladders); a rich, ramen-like tonkotsu broth; and a coconutty laksa, among others.
Grab any (or all) of the 35 ingredients circulating on the conveyer belt and go to town – it’s an all-you-can-cook affair. Specialties include tender Wagyu strips, abalone and scallop (both in their shells), black-truffle prawn balls, fresh tofu, mushroom bundles and more. Cooking times are signposted so you know exactly when they’re ready to fish out.
There are also ready-to-eat dishes on the train. Choose from small plates of sushi and sashimi, sweet-and-sour pork ribs, scallops pan-seared in garlicky butter, Peking duck, spicy cold noodles and fresh oysters topped with roe.
As part of the package, your first glass of cab sav is on the house, followed by bottomless soft drinks. There’s also a mostly Australian wine list, cocktails symbolising the elements (including a refreshing mix of Chinese Moutai liquor, sweet rum, pineapple juice and Sichuan pepper), sake by the glass or bottle, Asahi on tap and local canned brews.
When à la carte dining arrives, expect a tighter selection of dishes from the tasting menu as well as hotpot ingredients from the train brought straight to your table.
Chef David Kew
Shop 1 140 Cotham Road, Kew
(03) 8548 7881
Tue to Sat 5:30pm–10:30pm