Every so often, Sydney’s dining scene comes up with a restaurant that is a little different. Spice Temple is a move away from traditional Cantonese fine dining. Instead, its menu is inspired by flavours that is Sichuan, Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Xinjiang and Yunnan.
As I walk down the dimly lit spiral staircase of Spice Temple tonight with two women, I feel like I am being escorted into a mysterious dungeon rather than a holy temple.
While waiting for the three of us to arrive, my friend Simon is already toying with propaganda, a concoction of apple, ginger, rye whisky and citrus.
This place is oozing with nuances of exoticism. Think miniskirts, stilettos, leather pants and you’ll be at ease with the typical dress code tonight.
A sultry-looking woman in the form of a menu greets us at our table tonight. Notwithstanding a mole on her left cheek, other provocative features conjure images of a seductive temptress.
The lighting is so dim, we can hardly see each other let alone read the menu.
But her steely stare is enticing me to open her as I contemplate what I would be eating tonight.
Nevertheless, we are told by our waiter that dishes on the menu are meant to be shared among diners and best accompanied by steamed rice in the spirit of communal chinese dining.
Tingling prawns arrive with delicate shards of pickled cucumber, shallots, ginger and a generous sprinkling of Sichuan pepper. No sooner can I taste the fresh and succulent prawns do I start to feel the numbing sensation on my tongue from the spicy Sichuan pepper.
Tea smoked duck comes with an intoxicating, smoky aroma, drizzled with chinese mustard sauce and accompanied with pickled cabbage. I sink my teeth into each succulent piece of thinly-sliced duck meat laced with a soft and delicate layer of smoky-flavoured fat. It is a sinfully tasty mouthful.
Chicken wings is deep fried and arrive with its fair share of red chilli. Each piece is crispy golden brown and slightly spicy on the outside, succulent and juicy on the inside.
A plate of crispy quail is gently salty with a sprinkling of sea salt and diced shallots. We dig into these delicious chunks of filigree with our hands and end up licking our fingers in yummy concurrence.
A plate of steamed king abalone mushrooms can almost pass as slices of prized abalone with its meaty texture.
The walls of Spice Temple are adorned with pictures of beautiful Asian ladies staring at us as we dine.
A plate of Hunan style crisp pork belly is accompanied by snake beans with a mixture of fresh and dried chillies. By this time, we are all feeling the heat sensation from the dishes we have ordered thus far. The pork belly is succulent and the crunchy beans a good textural contrast.
A fish drowned in heaven facing chillies and Sichuan peppercorns is literally what the sultry temptress described. As this huge bowl settles on our table, all we see is a sea of fiery red chillies.
Our waiter unravels the chillies floating in the large bowl, we start to get a glimpse of some leather jackets (a type fish popular in Australia). We found this dish slightly lacking in flavour but definitely not lacking in spice.
We find a stir-fried grass-fed beef fillet with Sichuan black bean and Pixian chilli paste to be overly salty and no less spicy although the beef and crunchy shallots are a good combination that illustrates the essence of chinese stir-fry cooking.
We end our meal with some delightful desserts and a brown sugar, banana and white chocolate Swiss roll is subtly sweet and gentle with white chocolate flakes.
An icy cold tangelo granita is wonderful in cooling down spiced up taste buds.
The peanut and caramelised chocolate parfait is definitely the standout dessert with its crunchy nuts and rich chocolate.
The Qing dynasty is a concoction of espresso, tequilla, hazelnut and chilli.
The dining room at Spice Temple might as well have been our bedroom since it was so dimly lit. But sleeping was the last thing on my mind as another temptress looked me in the eye and urged me to come back again.
So dear readers, what do you think of Spice Temple?
10 Bligh street
Lunch Mondays to Fridays
Dinner Mondays to Saturdays
Tel : +612 8078 1888