The huge metropolis and mini CBD on the lower north shore of Sydney that is Chatswood is booming with the construction and extension of the Chatswood Chase Shopping Centre.
This suburb’s 10km close proximity to Sydney CBD has seen real estate prices boom and a flurry of brand new restaurant openings in recent years. There is a pre-dominance of Chinese people from Hong Kong and South East Asia in the local community and this has resulted in a selection of good Asian and Chinese restaurants.
Older restaurants are feeling the heat of competition from newer ones and are upping their game in terms of decor and food offerings.
We have been regulars at New Shanghai over the last couple of years and we take a number in the lunch queue. The crowd is eager as people wait for their seats in the revamped food hall in Chatswood Chase Shopping Centre on this busy Sunday afternoon. It doesn’t help that we have chosen to lunch here at 1.00pm, perhaps the busiest lunch session of the week.
We are given a table after a 40-minute wait during which we have looked at the menu and decided on sticking to our tried and tested favourites.
The xiao long bao comes in a steaming basket containg eight pieces of these delicate dumplings. The recommended way to devour these dumplings is to carefully place one on a chinese spoon, making sure to not burst the delicate skin which contains the pork mince and hot broth inside.
Gently drizzle a little black vinegar and place the entire dumpling in your mouth, whilst being very careful about the hot broth in the dumpling. Having been to quite a few northern chinese restaurants, I believe these xiao long bao are probably the best in Sydney as the skin is always soft and delicate while the mince meat and broth are fragrant and flavoursome.
A bowl of pork and spinach wontons arrives in a hot savoury broth topped with diced shallots. The wonton skin is silky soft and smooth. Each mouthful is wonderfully tasty as it gently slithers down my throat.
By far my favourite dish in this restaurant is the braised beef in noodles soup. The portion is huge by any standard where fresh hand-pulled noodles and choi sum are topped with diced haam choi (salted cabbage) and super tender chunks of beef shin that literally melts in your mouth.
The gelatinous texture of the beef shin adds extra appeal especially when it is dipped into the classic chinese chilli sauce that is mildly spicy with a beautiful salty complexity from its yellow bean paste mixture.
The hearty and flavoursome broth and soft noodles are also one of the best hangover remedies from a big Saturday night out.
Chatswood Chase Shopping Centre is also a great place to walk off the lunch afterwards.
Lower Ground Level, Chatswood Chase Shopping Centre
345, Victoria Avenue, Chatswood 2067
Tel: +612 9412 3358
Monday – Wednesday 11.00am – 9.00pm
Thursday 11.00am – 9.30pm
Friday 11.00am – 9.00pm
Saturday 11.00am – 9.30pm
Sunday 11.00am – 9.00pm
Today is a Chatswood food safari day for us as we loiter around the shops in the afternoon to avoid a second trip here later in the evening as we are meeting friends for dinner at Fook Yuen seafood restaurant.
Fook Yuen seafood restaurant, Chatswood
This local chinese restaurant has been a stayer in Chatswood for many years. It offers a fairly decent yum cha during lunch trade and morphs into fine Cantonese cuisine for dinner.
Like most chinese restaurants, it pays to know the restaurant manager who can recommend special dishes which, at times, are not even on the menu.
We are here tonight with friends who have pre-ordered some special dishes and have brought some beautiful wines to accompany the food.
A complimentary soup of the day arrives to whet our appetite. The hearty soup is gently sweet with soft carrots and pork meat.
This soup is the perfect starter for a cold winter night.
A 2010 West Cape Howe chardonnay is soft and buttery and a beautiful wine to complement a special dumpling with tobiko and broccoli.
The special dumpling is an elegant dish as the bright orange tobiko and green broccoli vie for flying colours.
We are told this is a chef’s special and is only available at certain times depending on availability and freshness of ingredients.
The delicate skin of the dumpling is smooth and silky. Once opened, the innards of prawns, chinese mushroom, scallops and water chestnut ooze out in a thick gooey broth.
The filling is subtle and yet sweet with a slight crunch from the water chestnuts. This tasty dish receives the seal of approval from all of us.
A large plate of tea smoked duck arrives thinly sliced with its glowing deep golden skin and the unmistakable smoky aroma catching our attention.
The duck meat is gently pink and laced with a beautiful and tasty layer of fat.
A basket of chinese steamed buns arrives in time to accompany the duck.
The buns are soft and fairly neutral in flavour, designed to wrap each piece of succulent and tender duck to be eaten in one delicious mouthful.
A 2009 Ballewindi Pinot Noir is the perfect accompaniment for the luscious and smoky duck flavours with its soft tannins and plummy flavours, sending me into a momentary bliss as I closed my eyes to savour the lingering taste on my palate.
A chinese waxed duck with lupcheong, yuencheong and choi sum is another cracker of a dish. The wax duck is slightly salty as it should be but the chinese and liver sausages are sweet in balancing the flavours.
A large bowl of rice arrives to accompany the waxed duck and sausages.
Each grain of rice is al dente and enhanced by a special sweet black sauce drizzle.
The next dish to arrive is a special deep fried prawn and tofu fritters. Each tofu square is gently fried to a delicate crisp and golden brown outside while the tofu and prawn cutlet are soft and yielding inside.
A special sauce gives the crispy fritters some softness and sweet savoury taste.
On the numerous occasions that we have dined at Fook Yuen, this is by far the best meal, mainly because the dishes tonight are delicate in its balance of flavours, bold and yet not overpowering.
A complimentary dessert of sago and coconut milk with chinese baked cookies make a light end to our meal.
Mandarins are in season and makes its way onto our table at the end of our meal.
So dear readers, do you have a favourite chinese dish to share with us?
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday – 9.30am – 5.30pm
Thursday – 9.30am – 9.00pm
Saturday – 9.00am – 5.00pm
Sunday and Public Holidays – 10.00am – 5.00pm
Fook Yuen Seafood Restaurant
7 Help street, Chatwood 2067
Tel: +61 2 9413 2688
263 Red Hill road
Red Hill South
Tel: +61 3 5989 4444