With the new upgrade of Chatswood Chase Shopping Centre and refurbishment of The Concourse over the last few years, Chatswood has morphed into a thriving CBD and metropolis in Sydney’s lower north shore.
This suburb has become a choice residential and commercial hub where shopping, cafes, restaurants, cinemas and a host of other attractions abound.
The food scene in Chatswood has exploded in recent years and there seems to be a restaurant for just about any major cuisine.
Located on the busy strip of Victoria Avenue a few doors from The Concourse, Star Capital Seafood Restaurant is Sydney’s newest fine Cantonese restaurant to open its doors on 23 July 2013.
Spanking new with elaborate chandeliers and private dining rooms, this 240-seater is going to provide more competition to Chatswood’s two other big Cantonese restaurants – Fook Yuen Seafood Restaurant and Kam Fook Seafood Restaurant to the glee of the dining public.
We are here on its first Saturday night of dinner service and there is already a busy crowd of predominantly Chinese diners tucking into the usual spectrum of Cantonese food that includes roast duck, roast pork and all kinds of fresh seafood from the fish tanks.
“It’s good that we check it out when it’s new coz they will try harder, wouldn’t they?” one of our friends quips.
“Depends on whether they get their act together though. The kitchen may not be fully run-in and there could be teething problems” I thought to myself.
After a short 10-minute wait, we are seated in the centre of the dining room.
The crockery is obviously brand new and a little more elegant than most Chinese restaurants in town with gold trim edges.
The table setting includes two pairs of chopsticks for each diner – one pair for personal use and the second pair for picking up food from the main dishes since Chinese food is always shared among all diners.
Our order of stir fried snake beans with mince pork arrives even before the usual complimentary soup that Chinese restaurants offer as a first course. There is obviously some teething issues with service as we later find out the dish was meant for another table instead.
Nevertheless, the snake beans are cook to the right crunchy texture and this dish goes well with steamed Jasmine rice.
Eventually, a large bowl of complimentary pork rib soup arrives. The soup is under-seasoned and therefore the flavour is subtle although we are not sure if this is intentional.
The Chinese roast duck is succulent and when I see a rich, dark brown gleam on the skin, I know it’s a good sign.
It is difficult to not like roast duck Chinese style. Personally, I prefer dipping the duck into fresh red chillies in soy sauce rather than the usual sticky sweet plum sauce that comes with this dish.
The duck is comparable to most of the good ones which I have tried in Sydney.
The pipies in XO sauce with a vermicelli base needs a lot more refinement.
I taste a few pipies which are quite raw although under-cook pipies are more palatable than chewy and rubbery over-cooked ones since they were alive minutes ago. The sauce lacks the fragrance of wok breath and the vermicelli is soggy as opposed to being a crisp and crunchy piece of round vermicelli cake to soak up the rich XO sauce.
Crispy skin chicken is another standard Cantonese dish served on the bone. It is tasty with a slight drizzle of the accompanying Worchestershire sauce and salt and pepper mix.
A Sichuan style pork belly does not resemble anything like chunky pieces of wobbly belly slow-braised in a claypot that we expected.
Instead, thin slices of pork belly are stir-fried with Chinese cabbage and capsicum slices in a sauce that resembles the taste of sweet and sour pork. This dish is not hitting the right notes for most of us tonight.
One of my all-time favourite comfort dish is salted fish and chicken fried rice. Cooked well, this dish is tasty with small and crunchy bits of salted fish.
A good Chinese restaurant cannot afford to screw up a staple dish like this and tonight, it is hitting the right notes with me. Although the fried rice is usually studded with green peas which I like, this restaurant uses finely diced asparagus instead.
For dessert, we are served the complimentary red bean soup.
Stock standard just like any other Chinese restaurant although it is a little bland and not too sweet. Again, we are not sure if this level of sweetness is intentional.
Complimentary Chinese cookies with the warm red bean soup is the usual dessert marriage.
I always wonder if Chinese restaurants can ever be a bit more creative with their dessert menu and if ever new sweet stuff comes along, dessert lovers should really rejoice. However, it could be a very long wait.
Complimentary orange and watermelon slices are refreshing but as predictable and boring as they can ever be in a Chinese restaurant.
Overall, the food tonight is good but nothing to shout about although it’s still very early days. I was expecting to see some innovative and new dishes on the menu since it is a brand new Chinese restaurant in a competitive food hub like Chatswood.
But introducing new flavours that may not be well received by a traditional following could present too big a risk for Chinese restaurateurs.
The tried and tested flavours of traditional Chinese cooking will always be comforting but also a convenient and limiting factor as far as kitchen creativity is concerned.
The restaurant is at its infancy so I would wait until they run-in the kitchen brigade before ordering any form of expensive live seafood. Service tonight is a bit haphazard at best. Charging us for an extra half duck which we did not order may be accidental but checking your bill in a new restaurant should also be common sense.
So what’s new and attractive about Sydney’s newest fine Cantonese restaurant?
Two pairs of chopsticks is a nice touch but cumbersome and meaningless if your dining companions forget their etiquette to switch chopsticks and use their own personal pair throughout the meal. Frankly, a serving spoon for each dish is a lot more practical and would do me just fine.
Apart from chopsticks and new chandeliers, it’s looking like just another Chinese restaurant.
So dear readers, which fine Cantonese restaurant in Sydney do you like and what dish would you recommend?
Star Capital Seafood Restaurant
399 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9412 3888
Opening hours: 7 days from 10 am to 11 pm