It’s always a great feeling when you see a bustling line outside a restaurant and you think: “I’ve got a reservation!” But then you realise that the person who took your booking spelled your name wrong, so then you look all silly standing out the front spelling your name out again and re-confirming your number.
I was at Chefs Gallery (should the S have an apostrophe?) on a busy Friday evening to have dinner with Fashion Obsessed Girl. Knowing my Chinese food well (der), I’ve been interested for some time in seeing how Chefs Gallery does the classics and what they do differently. I also had an Entertainment Book voucher to spare, so when she suggested trying out the restaurant, I agreed readily and picked up the phone to book.
Booking aside, it probably wouldn’t have been so long of a wait had you just rocked up – the maitre’d was telling people it would be about a 15-30 minute wait, which isn’t too bad. But I was lead in after clearing up my name and led to a table for two along the wall facing the huge open kitchen.
The noise level in the restaurant was very loud, and the interior very modern, with a few large traditional Chinese paintings lavishly framed on the walls and a distinct Asian influence in the furnishings. No sticky floors and tables like your dodgy Chinese local here! There was a bar around the edge of the windows of the open kitchen; I imagine if you were dining alone you would be seated there, which I think would be really interesting to see the chefs at work close up.
We had a look through the menus, but of course with the both of us being foodies, we had studied the menu online (their website has a beautiful song by the way!). There was however, a seasonal menu as well which I hadn’t spotted and I pointed out a dish which I thought Fashion Obsessed Girl would quite like, having learned what tastes she enjoys, but we’ll get to that one later We started with a glass of wine each, the Clairault Cab Merlot for her and the Semillon Sauv Blanc version for myself ($8.50 each).
The first dish arrived fairly quickly (or maybe we just lost track of the time staring at the dishes of the people around us!), and it was the Steamed Dim Sim Platter served with a salad ($14.90).
The shui mai and the prawn dumplings were the standard I’ve had at many good-quality yum cha restaurants, with the Australian-caught prawns having a deliciously firm texture. The mixed vegetable dumpling was a little different to the ones I’ve had at standard yum cha (where it’s single vegetable – spinach, chives, etc). It was extremely fresh, with the finely chopped vegetable mix being only very lightly cooked so it still maintained a fair bit of crunch when bitten into. The pastries (or skins, as I call them – I tend to associate pastry with shortcrust or puff!) on the dim sims all being very delicate and not gluey in the slightest. I didn’t really touch the picked cucumber salad in the middle, but Fashion Obsessed Girl enjoyed it immensely.
I do think though, that she enjoyed our next dish more. Looking at the seasonal menu, I had laughed upon seeing the Mapo Tofu ($18.90), which was labelled as ‘numbingly spicy’ with its Sichuan pepper. I pointed it out to Fashion Obsessed Girl, as she loves anything that has tofu and anything that has spice, and she agreed. We both found it amusing that we were warned by the waitress when we ordered it that it was ‘really hot!’ and told her that we could probably deal with it.
When mum makes this at home we eat it over rice, but we couldn’t be bothered to order rice in this instance. The dish was flavoursome and warm, the silken tofu perfectly cooked and the pork mince tender. I could taste the undercurrent of rich black bean sauce in the gravy, and while the dish was spicy, it wasn’t unbearably so – even for me, a person who generally avoids overly-spicy foods as I find that it interferes with my palate’s ability to identify other flavours.
For our last savoury dish, we had ordered the Pan-fried Scallops for two ($24.90) as the both of us love scallops dearly.
The seared scallops arrived, each topped with a garlic vinaigrette dressing and sitting on a small bed of alfalfa sprouts. Upon my first bite, I noted that the scallops were a little more under-cooked than is the norm (not that either of us minded), but the thing that hit me first was the GARLIC.
Now my family have often joked that I must have a bit of Greek in my blood as I love garlic. I cook with garlic in everything. One of my favourite smells in the world is garlic frying in a pan. Half of the time my hands still smell like the garlic I chopped for my last meal (stainless steel does wonders in removing the odour, by the way). But this garlic was the level of phwoarrrr times 10. It took me two Listerine fresh strips to somewhat dull the heady after-taste, but it still lingered even the next morning (having brushed my teeth twice).
While we were about three-quarters full, we opted for dessert rather than for another main. I pointed out the Tofu Cheesecake with Strawberry Coulis and Fruit Salad ($12.90) to the tofu-lover, and she went for it.
Definitely a much lighter option than its traditional cream cheese counterpart, the sweetened creamy tofu encased a light chiffon-cake-like sponge. The strawberry coulis was quite jammy, and the shot glass of fruit salad contained cut strawberries and some lychees.
On the other hand, I felt more like something that would ‘melt away’, and so I went for the Green Tea Ice Cream with Sweet Potato Balls and Red Bean ($8.90). I tend not to get ice cream when I’m in a restaurant as you can buy a tub of it for the same price, but I was interested in what these sweet potato balls were.
The curl of ice cream was topped with toasted flaked almonds and accompanied by two of the sweet potato balls, sitting in a warm red bean soup. The green tea ice cream was pretty standard, with the toasted almonds being a lovely addition. Red bean always goes well with green tea, but what I loved was the sweet potato balls. Fried until it was slightly crispy on the outside, you bit in and it was soft, hot sweet potato mash – absolutely divine! A lovely way to end the meal.
While a lot pricier for some of the foods that I’m used to getting on the street overseas, we are in Sydney after all. The quality is very good and you’re eating it in a refined, modern setting. Also, despite the incredible-garlickiness of those scallops, both Fashion Obsessed Girl and myself were craving it the next day!
That’s all from me for this week, folks! Have a lovely Easter and enjoy your weekend. Until next week xx
Shop 12 Ground Level Regent Place Shopping Centre
501 George Street Sydney NSW 2000
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