Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Art on the plates at Chefs Gallery

Chefs Gallery happens to be the closest eating place one night when we're running from Darling Harbour with makeshift biodegradable umbrellas in a day of four seasons. It's sheer relief when we're offered bench seats - in fact, any seat out of the rain would have done us.

Hot and sour soup with silken tofu pudding from
Chefs Gallery, Bathurst Street, Sydney
Soup is the ultimate comfort for me when I look like a drowned rat, and the large serve of hot and sour soup here goes down well, if not hot and sourly. The white, silken tofu is divine in its delicate, slippery texture and the chopped prawns are an unexpected treat.

But the deeply flavoured soup is the star of this show; immediately sour with a later slow burn, the myriad of julienned ingredients within (including black fungus, bean curd and pork, I think) is endlessly fulfilling and entertaining.

Noodles made by hand
On entertainment, seated at the bench we have prime view of of the kithcen 'gallery' and much noodle and dumpling action. One chef stretches and pulls white and spinach green dough the entire night, making noodles to exact order. He makes it look so easy, and fun even, that I'm almost tempted to try it at home. Almost.

Zha jiang noodles
We sample his handiwork in the way of zha jiang noodles, dry noodles (ie, without soup) with a chunky soya bean sauce of minced pork and dried bean curd. The sauce is sweet and salty, with every mouthful of the slightly chewy, sometimes randomly sized noodles rewarding with bean curd and pork treasures. The nest of finely shredded cucumber on top adds a fresh touch to the otherwise hearty noodle dish.

Prawn guo tie
My dumpling obsession forces me to order the guo tie, which are unlike any other dumplings I've tried. The elongated parcels are actually round pastry wrappers with their tops folded in to resemble long rolls almost. The familiar pastry is pan fried for a crunchy brown bottom while the top retains a slight chewiness I adore.

These prawn guo tie are quite jam-packed with prawn pieces, particularly prawn-y tasting ones with a strong shellfish flavour. The dumpling are fabulous with the vinegar sauce and just a touch of the roasted chilli oil, which actually has quite a kick unlike some others.

Pork jian bao ji
As for the pan fried pork buns, I was expecting something I'd had before - although what came out was a slightly different version. The perfectly smooth buns, almost shiny in their whiteness, sat on a crisp edible doily of likely a thin batter, as seen with dumplings at Melbourne's HuTong Dumpling.

Pork pan fried buns - very filling
The eye-pleasing plate of buns, speckled with white and black sesame seeds and sliced shallots, offered six bouncy buns, each twisted closed at the bottom then pan fried to a golden crunch.

The pork innards rattled about inside a little and there was no soupy insides as with others. Also, the dough was noticeably softer and smoother than the other buns, but just as filling.

Decorating the piggy face buns
As we ate, the chefs behind the glass fronted kitchen worked tirelessly - in this case, decorating Chefs Gallery's famed piggy face buns. We'd missed the pink ears and snouts going on the buns but saw chefs applying two black sesame seeds to every bun with a skewer for the pigs' eyes.

The attention to detail was insane, not just for the desserts either. Everything is presented so well, it's really like being in an art gallery of sorts.

Green tea ice cream with red bean paste and sweet potato balls
Despite the painstaking work we'd seen go into the piggy face buns, one too many pork buns meant buns were not going to be part of dessert. Instead, we opted for ice cream, eventually settling on green tea out of neccessity more than anything.

The generous scoop of green tea ice cream was just the thing to end the meal, with its sweetness offset by the unsweetened red bean paste in such a harmonious combination. The flaked almonds added crunch and a rich roasted flavour while the sweet potato balls, looking much like potato gems, were mildly sweet, glutinous and just a tad oily in a crisp batter.

At the end of the night, the chefs/artists retired in the kitchen with a dramatic lowering of black shades over the kitchen's glass frontage. The courteous and ever obliging waitstaff sent us out with smiles - but we were already all smiles with our full tummies and intentions for more artful dishes next time.

Chefs Gallery on Urbanspoon


Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

I love watching noodle tv but what I really want is that edible doily! I want to savour it slowly. lol

Tina said...

Hi Helen - It really is some pretty food :)

joey@FoodiePop said...

Awww, no piggy buns. LOL

You must be the first not to order these cuties!

Tina said...

Hi Joey - After the pna fried pork buns, I couldn't take any more carbs; photogenic or not!


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