Belly Worship is the new kid on the block in Dominion Road’s Chinatown. Not long ago I was reviewing a Chongqing-style noodle bar in the same spot that has since gone bust. Will Belly Worship stay for the long haul?
It is certainly offering something none of its neighbours are. As my friend Zoe and I approached the bright orange shop, we were greeted by an exceptionally cheerful young woman handing out free bags of caramel popcorn. So far so good. Some serious thought has been put into decking out Belly Worship. I’d describe the design ethos as ‘If Yao Ming (the famous NBA player from the Houston Rockets) had his own restaurant’. The colour scheme is orange and black, with an orange neon sign emblazoning the far wall, exclaiming ‘Belly Worship!’, and another bright neon character proclaiming the food ‘Fast & Tasty’.
And fast and tasty it was, for the most part. The menu, compared to most other Chinese restaurants, is relatively uncomplicated. Their signature dish is the spicy pancake served alongside a variety of fillings with which to stuff them. Offerings include pork belly, duck and mustard yolk shrimp just to name a few. Bao, in their taco-esque, sandwich-like form, are not left off the menu here, and come as a spinach-green tinted variety stuffed with pork belly or teriyaki chicken.
Dumplings in less than authentic flavours (pine kernel, egg and carrot anyone?), salads in recognisable and less recognisable forms, such as on a stick, also make an appearance. Finally there is a selection of family-sized mains fit for sharing (or feeding one Yao Ming). In the spirit of innovation, for $3 one can help themselves to unlimited soft drinks, tea and bar snacks (on our particular evening there was a selection of bhuja mix, sweet and salty yellow peas and corn chips).
Zoe and I plumped for the spicy duck pancake ($13), which came with the house Asian-style slaw and a signature spicy sauce, a teriyaki chicken bao ($7), the vege salad ($8) and from the main menu the sizzling kungfu tofu ($18). They’re not kidding around at Belly Worship when they say the food is fast. Within a few minutes of ordering, most of our dishes arrived to the table en masse. Zoe and I felt a little bewildered by how much our big eyes had ordered. The spicy pancake was one of the highlights: a thin, hot and crispy pancake drizzled in a spicy sauce that had a good kick to it. Although designed to be wrapped around the roasted duck and slaw that was served alongside it, I would happily order a couple more pancakes to eat on their own ($5 each), they’re that good.
The bao, unfortunately, was a let down. The teriyaki chicken was on the overcooked side, and was crying out for some sort of mayonnaise or sauce to provide some cohesion and much needed moisture. As it turns out, the vege salad is the reliable Asian-style slaw that featured in the pancake and the bao too. The sizzling kungfu tofu took a little longer to arrive but when it did, it came with a hiss and a roar, as its name would suggest. Delicate discs of tofu were covered in a flavoursome salted egg yolk. Surrounded by bubbling gravy on a bed of vegetables and fried omelette, this was an example of how tasty a good tofu can be.
Belly Worship is a playful new addition to Dominion Road, offering quick and tasty fare that is also nicer on the eye than most utilitarian Chinese restaurants. I’m looking forward to trying the litchi (also known as lychee) sweet and sour pork on my next visit.