The last week of work for the year always seem to pass by the slowest. Despite the weather alternating from a scorching 38 degrees earlier last week to dropping by 20 degrees and drizzling rain, neither conditions are ideal for shopping – not that I can stomach the frenzied Christmas crowds and the humid air of desperation as people frantically look for the perfect gift or the last roll of wrapping paper that isn’t overly gaudy. I’m quietly thankful that I have a gym upstairs of my office, meaning that I can still squeeze in some physical exercise during my lunch hour without having to brave the throng of people milling around Town Hall.
I’m quite pleased with the location of my (relatively) new office, being near World Square, Sydney. I had previously been in a more business-financial area near Wynyard Station with my last workplace and other than Hunter Connection, I really didn’t have many options for lunch. Now I’m swamped with options including Thai Town, Korea Town, the Spanish Quarter, Chinatown, and ramen shops galore – and if anything, it makes deciding where to eat even more difficult!
I was quite pleased when I received an invitation to try Chefs Gallery new menu in the first couple of weeks of being at my new job as it was conveniently close by. I haven’t been back to Taiwan for some time, and I’ve started to miss the aromas of the family-run noodle bars with rickety tables and chairs, the caramelised char of crispy-bottomed pan-fried dumplings, the oily plastic pouring jars of soy sauce, vinegar and chilli oil. Chefs Gallery is certainly a more refined version of all of that, and considering the last time I visited was back in 2013, it was perhaps time to refresh my memory of the menu as well as their new food offerings. Funnily enough, when I last came I had not even tried any of the noodle dishes – and hand-made noodles are their specialty. Time to rectify that mistake!
Enter via the front door along Bathurst Street to the restaurant, and it’s a single large room with windows to the open kitchen to the right, where you can see the chefs at work. One gentleman is effortlessly stretching the dough by hand and “cutting” them with his fingers into noodles; it’s amazing to watch the ease with which he works.
I’d been advised that there had been a few recent additions to the menu, so I was keen to try some of those as well as a noodle dish. The beer of choice going around the venue seemed to be the TsingTao beer, which Night Owl ordered one of; I kept to water so that it wouldn’t interrupt with any of the flavours.
The first dish to arrive is the Shredded Peking duck with cucumber, and hoisin sauce rolled inside a flaky Chinese roll ($18.90). Big chunks of cucumber and deliciously creamy-fleshed roast duck; I could have done with a little more hoisin sauce as it leaned slightly to the dry side, and the roti was not as flaky and crisp as I remember it being overseas – being more like a thin pancake in texture. It’s more like a traditional Peking duck pancake.
The Macanese-style mini burgers filled with pork fillet, pork floss, lettuce and a sweet chilli mayo dressing arrived in three little sliders of goodness. The buns were a little denser than your usual hamburger bun – which made me think that they may have been more of the traditional steamed “mantou” Chinese buns. The pork floss added an interesting texture to the tender pork fillet and crunch of shredded lettuce, and it was generously drizzled with sweet chilli mayo. There was a strange little pile of alfalfa sprouts laying to the side of the plate – as a garnish, I’m assuming.
The last savoury dish I had wanted to try was another of Chefs Gallery’s signatures, being Prawn and pork wontons with handmade noodles served with minced chicken and chopped lettuce in a Shanghainese-style spicy sauce. I actually make my own version of this (sans the wontons) and have had it many times overseas in Taipei, where the spicy chilli bean sauce is known as “dou-ban jian”. It was quite spicy but that didn’t deter me; the noodles were deliciously springy and elastic – unevenly rolled which made them all the moreish.
For sweets, how could we overlook the Chefs Gallery famous Steamed Sesame “Piggy Face” Buns? They are “almost” too cute to eat, and once pierced, the black sesame paste comes running out in the most tantalisingly gooey way. They are fluffy and cute – the perfect way to end a spicy meal!
Regent Place, 12/501 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9267 8877