Thursday, 14 February 2013

Rice Den, Chatswood

If you're a traditionalist looking for authentic Chinese food, I suggest you ignore this part of Archer Street and take a stroll along Victoria Avenue - there are plenty of other Chinese eateries around Chatswood. It is evident that Rice Den targets the more adventurous, with its bare, hanging lightbulbs, wooden stools, and newspaper wallpaper. It does Asian fusion-style, tweaking Aussie favourites (such as Peking duck pancakes and salt and pepper squid), as well as introducing obscure menu items like crocodile meat. Although unconventional, the flavours are mouthwatering and they actually don't stuff up the rice!


The menu is presented in two ways - a wooden clipboard with pretty font, and an iPad displaying their specials for the day. The appetisers looked so mouthwatering that we decided to order a bunch of them tapas style.

Having had a heavy breakfast beforehand, my friend decided not to have rice, which left me with the whole ceramic pot to myself. That small pot was deceptive and managed to store a fair bit of rice - it was a good thing I was pretty hungry and managed to eat it all! The rice was fluffy, soft and cooked perfectly - neither undercooked nor allowed to become gluggy.

Jasmine rice ($2.50)

I'm no stranger to quail eggs (my mum adds them to a certain type of tong sui - Chinese dessert soup) and am familiar with the higher egg yoke to albumen ratio. Many people consider it strange that I have a slight aversion to the yoke, which I attribute to being discouraged from eating them when I was younger. Despite this quirk, I kept an open mind and proceeded to bite into the quail eggs. They were quite enjoyable, encased in a light crisp batter and accompanied by sweet teriyaki sauce drizzled over the top (it was so tasty that we wished that they had given us more sauce). Definitely a must try for people who love their egg yokes!

Tempura quail egg skewers ($8.00)

The chicken satay was moist and had just enough fat to make it tasty but not so much that I was spitting out the majority of the skewers' contents. The satay sauce was sweet and had fairly large chunks of peanut in it. I can't complain.

Satay chicken skewers ($8.00)

I didn't know what to expect from the school prawn stack - I ignorantly imagined large king prawns stacked on top of each other! Alas, school prawns are tiny prawns. They were very tasty. Imagine soft shell crabs, except in the form of prawns. The lime and sweet aioli were refreshing and provided moisture while preserving the crunch of the prawns.

School prawn stack ($12.00)

Having polished off all of the above, we decided that we still had room in our stomachs for dessert! My friend ordered glutinous rice balls with black sesame sauce inside, served in ginger syrup with star anise (and a spoonful of peanuts). I stole one off of her plate. As with a lot of the items I had on this particular lunch outing, I am not a fan of glutinous rice balls. Normally, the skin is too thick and starchy for my liking. Here, the glutinous rice layer was thinner. I'm also a sucker for good black sesame paste, so I was pleasantly surprised by this dessert. The ginger added a hot twist and helped to balance off the starchiness of the rice balls. It is possible that if you were to visit at a future date, it won't be on the menu, as it was listed as one of the specials.

Black sesame glutinous rice balls in ginger syrup ($6.00)

My dessert was deep fried green tea ice cream with raspberry and chocolate syrup. This was my least favourite dish. The outer layer was sugary sponge cake, which my friend really liked but which I wasn't a huge fan of. That in itself wasn't so bad, but I felt that the syrup clashed with the green tea. I love green tea ice cream, though, so it was still a fairly positive end to the meal.

Green tea fried ice-cream ($6.00)

The Rice Den on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Mother Chu's Vegetarian Kitchen, Sydney CBD

Mother Chu's is one of the many places I tried out while working in the city. It is also one of the few places that I will not be visiting again. This entry will only cover one dish. And though normally I would say that one dish is not enough to form a strong opinion about a place, my dislike of this restaurant does not stem from the food, but from my atrocious experience of Mother Chu's as a whole. The food merely supports my view that a repeat visit is not justifiable.

When I visited around lunch time, it was around three quarters full. It took around 10 minutes for a waitress to serve us, during which our gestures for attention were dismissed. It didn't help that, upon the entry of a woman with a massive pram, they decided to seat her deep inside the restaurant (manoeuvring her through the tiny gaps between tables) rather than at an area where it would be easier for her to situate herself.

When we finally placed our orders, we waited for at least another half hour for our fairly standard meals to arrive. I ordered a wonton noodle soup, which, at any other Chinese take-away shop, would have arrived within ten minutes.

The food itself tasted alright - not bad, but not fantastic either. They did the soup and noodles pretty well (especially considering they would not have been able to use meat-based stock). The vegetarian wontons were slightly sweet - there might have been pumpkin inside. There were also carrots, sliced raw mushrooms, chopped bits of cabbage, and what might have been kai lan scattered throughout.

Wonton noodle soup ($8.80)

Thus ends my rant. Based on the slow kitchen, poor service and mediocre food, I will not be recommending this place to anyone on their lunch break.

Mother Chu's Vegetarian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

C'est Bon, Rozelle

Despite meaning "It is good", C'est Bon is just alright. Sandwiched between two green grocers, it reminded me of a recent trip to Paris, where the vibrant colours of fresh produce sprang out invitingly.

 There is limited seating indoors, but their lower takeaway prices provide further incentive to box up the goodies. I sheepishly don't recall their pricing, but their small pastries and tarts are within the $3 to $6 range.

Their pear and almond tart is well-balanced. It isn't too sweet but is dense from the almond meal. The pastry is crisp and buttery - definitely recommend it!

Pear and almond tart
 I also tried their lime brulee. The brulee contained only a hint of lime, and it was so faint that I almost missed it. The pastry was nice but I was disappointed that the texture of the whole tart was soft. "Brulee" means burnt, and I expected some crunchy caramelised sugar at the top, but this was severely lacking.

Lime brulee
The green tea was alright - strong enough to combat all that sugar.

Green tea ($4.00)
So my verdict? I will probably give it another go and sample a few more things on my next visit, but I can't say for sure that it's a must to visit.

C'est Bon on Urbanspoon

Hangry, Rozelle

Rozelle is renowned for being near the Balmain branch of Adriano Zumbo. However, this suburb has a greater claim to fame than this piece of commercial notoriety. It boasts a number of vintage shops, a florist called Potteround (which does amazing wedding flower arrangements), quaint furniture stores, charming cafes, an organic supermarket, an artisan chocolate shop called Belle Fleur, and a public school that plays host to the weekend-secondhand-Rozelle Markets.

One of these charming brunch places is Hangry, a Middle-Eastern establishment with pretty good food, massive portions, great coffee and French art.

Flat white

Before leaving us to peruse our menu, one of the waitresses took down our coffee orders.

The coffee was pretty tasty - I was tempted to order a second cup, but knowing my reactions to caffeine, I thought it more prudent to limit myself to ladylike sips.

It was just as well that I didn't fill up on fluids.

I ordered the "Fattit al Hommos", which was a clay pot dish containing a multitude of chickpeas, spiced beef, yoghurt, toasted pine nuts, crispy pita bread and a dash of what tasted like curry powder (the type my mum puts in Indian curry). Traditionally, it is often served with a spoonful of cumin mixed in, but I don't recall tasting any cumin.

I loved the crunch of the pine nuts and pita bread amidst the mince and yoghurt. The yoghurt was not too overpowering - it was light, creamy and offset the saltiness of the beef (although, at times, I felt that it was too salty). There were perhaps too many chickpeas, as legumes are very substantial and filling.

Fattit al Hommos ($14.50)
My friend ordered the manouche wrap, which contained large green olives, labna (cheese), cucumber and fresh tomatoes. It was tasty, and as you can see, the one wrap was more like 2 separate wraps. There were too many olives after a while, though, which made the wraps salty.

Wrap (ranges from $10 - $13)

As you can now tell, Hangry is all about strong Middle Eastern flavours and food of huge proportions. For the price especially, the food is fantastic, and they have takeaway boxes in the event that you can't finish the whole meal right there and then.

Hangry on Urbanspoon