A Day At The Australian Open With Sun Kitchen & Guojiao 1573

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MELBOURNE | I was invited to the Australian Open by Sun Kitchen and Guojiao 1573 this year to see some tennis, and to check out the Sun Kitchen pop-up that’s open for lunch and dinner throughout the tournament. I was also there to learn more about Guojiao 1573. I’m a fan of Sun Kitchen’s permanent restaurant in Albert Park, so was definitely keen to visit the pop-up.

If you’re like most Australians who have been watching the tennis this year, myself included, you’re probably wondering what in the world Guojiao 1573 is. It’s a type of baiju, made by Luzhou Laojiao in China’s Southern Sichuan province. The 1573 in the name comes from the company’s foundation date – it’s the oldest continually operating distillery in China. As for baiju, it’s a white spirit usually distilled from fermented sorghum.

My first taste, both literally and figuratively, of Guojiao 1573 was at the Sun Kitchen pop-up. Despite the colour, if you’re wanting to compare it to a spirit that you’re familiar with, whisky is the closest comparison in terms of complexity and mouthfeel. When I tried it straight I could certainly appreciate the whisky comparisons. The aroma is strong, but not harsh, with slight sweetness and peach fruity notes. It was actually the sweetness and smoothness that surprised me the most, especially given that the stuff clocks in at 52% ABV.

Many of the dishes and cocktails at the pop-up use Guojiao 1573 as an ingredient. I was treated to the “Grand Slam” tasting menu. There’s also an “Australian Open” tasting menu and an a la carte menu available.

The meal starts with the light and refreshing Guojiao 1573 infused drunken abalone with jellyfish and ginger. The Guojiao 1573 adds a somewhat earthy element to each bite. It goes well with the Midori, mint, lime, and Luzhou Laojiao cocktail that was served with it. Think mojito with a melon twist.

The next dish is a real highlight – melt in you mouth seared wagyu tataki with sichuan sauce. It’s paired with Guojiao 1573 to cut through the richness of the wagyu. The delicate two toned lobster dumplings in prawn consommé with crispy noodles are another highlight. The broth is fantastic, and you’ll want to make sure you slurp up every last bit of it.

Rounding out this part of the meal is the Chinese spiced duck breast, sliced thin and lightly smoked. Next up is a duo on one plate, showcasing the Sichuan and Cantonese flavours that Sun Kitchen is known for. The Kung Pao venison with peanuts is a real highlight, while the Sichuan spiced lamb ribs are also delicious.

Rounding it all off is the Guojiao 1573 gumdrop jelly with pineapple compote and osmanthas flower. A very light desert with a nice balance between the pineapple and Guojiao 1573 flavours.

If you want something a bit more casual, there’s also a Sun Kitchen dumpling pop-up and Guojiao 1573 bar next door. At the bar, you can try an assortment of cocktails, two of which I tried after my lunch over at the Guojiao 1573 lounge (which isn’t open to the public – the lounge that is, the bar is open for all). I opted for the sweet blueberry cocktail, inspired by the blue of the Australian Open tennis courts, and the yellow passionfruit one, a slightly sweet, tangy affair which I thoroughly enjoyed.

To top it off, I was given a can of premixed can of Guojiao 1573 with ginger beer and lime, which I was able to take into Margaret Court Arena with me to enjoy while I watched some tennis.

The Sun Kitchen pop-up is great dining experience that I can happily recommend if you’re at the tennis. The food is tasty, and the use of Guojiao 1573 in several of the dishes, cocktails, and of course straight, gives diners the opportunity to try something new.

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Paul
Paul founded The City Lane back in 2009 as a place to share photos of his travels around Europe with friends and family. The City Lane might have changed quite a lot since those early days but one thing that’s remained constant is Paul’s passion for food, travel and culture, and a desire to photograph and write about his experiences.Paul has a strong inquisitive nature that drives him to look beneath the surface in order to discover what really makes a city and its people tick, and what better way to do this than over a good meal or drink, with a city’s locals, at places that people who live in that city actually frequent. Paul is also a co-host of The Brunswick Beer Collective, a podcast that may or may not actually be about beer.

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