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

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