Sydneysiders have a favourite Chinese restaurant right at the Circular Quay waterfront. Neptune Palace has been a bastion for Chinese (Cantonese seafood) and Malaysian cuisines for generations of Sydneysiders and tourists alike.
You might not expect to find refined Malay cooking in the CBD but it’s been there for some time. Neptune Palace is a little hidden away and hard to find, made more difficult after the renovations and the tacky neon signs taken away. It starts on Level 1 of the Gateway Building and you get there up an escalator from a doorway off Pitt Street.
After you look through the really long and comprehensive menu, you are in a dilemma – do I order Malay classics like the chicken kapitan or Malaysian Chinese variations of Cantonese classics. Many of the items were creations from the days of Chef John Poh at the helm of the kitchen in the late 90s.
Poh became known while working at Kampung Malaysian Restaurant in the Royal Garden Hotel in 1993 and word about him spread when he transferred to the splashy Neptune Palace shortly afterwards.
1/ scallops with ginger and shallots
They ran out of pipis, so we have to settle for scallops with ginger and shallots. It is a simple dish made outstanding with plump,. succulent Australian scallops. I have always loved Australian scallops for their size and sweetness. And they are not very expensive to have in this country.
2/ venison with honey and black pepper
Their venison with honey and black pepper is unlike the style made popular in Hong Kong, with a slightly edgier taste of black pepper. The venison has been treated with soda bicarbonate to give that artificially soft texture. I have not had this taste since having a dinner with relatives in an old restaurant in KL.
3/ glacier 51 toothfish steamed with ginger and shallot
Every fish has a story, but few rival that of Glacier 51 Toothfish. Isolated deep in the sub-Antarctic a staggering 4,109 km from mainland Australia lies one of the most inhospitable islands in the world – Heard Island. On the southern tip of this spectacular geographical feature, the breathtaking Glacier 51 (Fiftyone Glacier) pours into the surrounding treacherous icy waters, creating the ideal environment for the highly prized Glacier 51 Toothfish found patrolling the underwater volcanic crevices 2,000 metres below sea level.
With a high fat and Omega 3 content, glacier 51 toothfish steamed with ginger and shallot is like the wagyu of fish. Its snow-white flesh and broad scalloping flakes display a clean and sweet flavour and exhibits an elegant balance of flavour and texture
4/ prawn cutlets fritter
The prawn cutlets fritter tasted just like how my mom would make it. Take a whole sea prawn and dust it with KFC-style batter and deep-fried. The prawn is “steamed” in the process of deep frying just like tempura. They have controlled the temperature and timing to produce a juicy and tender finish.
5/ broccoli in crabmeat sauce
Another local produce that has gained international favour, broccoli in crabmeat sauce is done in the classic Cantonese way – blanched broccoli is smothered with a savoury sauce made from crab meat, egg white and thickened with cornstarch.
5/ chicken kapitan
The chicken kapitan is made from chicken with fresh chilli and coconut sauce that resembled a satay sauce, except that it is more watery. It is topped with crackers that provided the crunch as well as soak up the delicious sauce.
6/ salted fish chicken fried rice
The simple yet difficult to execute salted fish chicken fried rice was one of the two fillers we have ordered. Bits of chicken and salted fish dotted the fried rice that is not oily, but also lacked wokhei.
I have not taken photo of the stir fry beef kway teow as it was so delicious, it disappeared before I can get to it.
Kueh ketayap are small pancakes filled with shredded coconut infused with a rich, treacly syrup of palm sugar. The pancake skin is made with pandan flavouring and is artificially green to my dismay.
The second dessert is a deep fried vanilla ice cream is served with palm sugar syrup. IT is plain vanilla ice cream, and nothing else. Everyone enjoyed the cold ice cream with the hot crispy skin.
And at the end of the meal, the “customary” fortune cookies for everyone. “I am a believer in luck and I find that the more I work the more I have of it.” Cheesy.
I have eaten here multiple times. The food is excellent, but is more expensive than Chinatown and comparable lower quality to a few restaurants there after the renovation. I suspected that some of the stewards of the palace have retired, hence the obvious drop in quality.
But the location is fantastic and close to everything. In comparison, it is cheaper than most restaurants for a big group in the Circular Quay area. The service staff are very experienced and have been there as far back as I can remembered. They are not pushy and often give very good recommendations catering to the palates of my Australian guests. Recommended for a group dinner, it can get crowded on concert nights and when the cruise ship comes into harbour.
Gateway Building – Level 1
Cnr Pitt and Alfred Sts (entrance off Pitt St)
Circular Quay, Sydney
Tel : +61 (02) 9241 3338
Date Visited : Aug 2019