Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Little northern Chinatown in Chatswood

I had no idea that Chatswood had become a little mini northern Chinatown. Almost any Chinese outlet one would find in the city's Chinatown are in Chatswood, plus more with somewhat of a northern bent too - fitting really.

Indeed, there are two New Shanghai Chinese Restaurants in Chatswood in fairly close proximity, which in itself seems a little odd. The fact that they are located in two polar opposites of shopping centres - the luxe Chatswood Chase and not-so-swish Lemon Grove Shopping Centre - is even more strange.

Crab xiao long bao from New Shanghai, Lemon Grove Shopping Centre,
Victoria Street, Chatswood
We find ourselves at the somewhat 'lesser' of the two outlets one hot afternoon for a late lunch. Seated right beside the glass windows to the dumpling kitchen, we have prime view of xiao long bao soup dumplings being filled and pleated, as well as shallot pancake dough being weighed fastidiously and then rollled flat, encasing chopped green shallots.

Service is brusque, even for a Chinese restaurant, but it's not long before food fills the table. The crab xiao long bao have a detectable seafood taste but aren't really so different to the standard pork ones. The dumpling skins hold well and are hard to fault, while the soup is still the best part of the experience.

Pan fried pork dumplings
While an open kitchen encourages clean work areas, which I'm all for, it also means little restaurant tricks that are perhaps best left out of diners' view are, unfortunately, in full view.

I had my fingers tightly crossed that the plate of pan fried dumplings that emerged from the microwave were not headed towards my table. No such luck, and I tried as best I could to eat them without prejudice.

It may well have been all in my head but I struggled with the tough outer skins while taste- and heat-wise they were acceptable. A healthy dousing with both vinegar sauce and chilli oil helped but the overall enjoyment of the dumplings had been marred from the start.

Sichuan style sauce stir fried with pork mince and served with dry noodle
I often find myself deferring to the usual orders at northern Chinese restaurants - it's so hard to resist certain dumplings and for others, Sichuan style noodles with a spicy bean sauce and minced pork. This serving was not too spicy despite its imposing hue, assisted by the refreshing juliennes of cucumber.

Sichuan spicy pork noodles mixed
It's not such a pretty sight when mixed through and messy to eat too, as most good things are. The sauce-coated, just-cooked noodles become extremely slippery and dangerous for any white tops. Indeed, after the meal we even found sauce splatters on the glass of the kitchen window beside us.

Stir fried spinach with garlic
I'm always a little baffled with the price of straight vegetable dishes at casual Chinese eateries. I understand that a plate of spinach could well be three bunches worth, but at about double the price of a plate of dumplings, something doesn't quite add up.

In this instance, there definitely could have been many dollars worth of garlic in the dish as it was absolutely loaded with diced garlic amongst the tender spinach leaves and stems. A good dish for colds and vampire repelling.

Post lunch, walking around probably with a garlic cloud above, it looked like northern Chinatown has integrated seamlessly with Chatswood. The crowds at Asian dessert house Zen Q were proof, nestled into the Westfield at street level and doing brisk trade on the hot afternoon.

Mango shaved ice with  fresh mango, mango jelly and mango ice cream from Zen Q,
Westfield Chatswood
The lengthy menu is abundant in options: ices, puddings, toppings, bread-oriented desserts and even something with tuna salad. The heat called for something cooling and the bowl of mango variations seemed to fit the bill.

The squishy eat-in seating, designed to fit as many bodies into the small space as possible, meant I was basically sitting on top of someone next to me as my mango dessert arrived. The sprinkles took me back to times of frozen party pies and sausage rolls, but at least the mango ice did its job in refreshing.

It wasn't overly sweet either while the mango ice cream was the most subtle of the lot. The small helping of fresh mango cubes was the best component while the slightly chewy mango jellies were fun but few and far between.

Fruit soup with ice cream
I have no idea what this is, let alone a name, but put nicely it looks like a mixed fruit soup. I have other, more graphic descriptions for what I think it looks like, but I've learnt that they're best left out. Fruit salad mixed with ice cream doesn't do it for me at the best of times, let alone in soup form.

We scoff and dash at Zen Q, but not before peering quzzically at couples and groups attacking loaves of bread dressed in everything from fruit to cream to more of those sprinkles. Bread with dessert is a fairly alien concept to me but being the the Chinatown of the north, perhaps next time I cross the Bridge I'll have to do as the Romans do.

New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Zen Q on Urbanspoon


joey@FoodiePop said...

I thought Chatswood has always been very Asian for as long as I can remember. :-) I want to go to ZenQ as well, just to see the size of the desserts. LOL

Dumpling Girl said...

I always wondered why the pan fried dumplings here were so hard, no wonder, if they microwave them. It's a shame you had to see that.

MissPiggy said...

Microwave dumplings - a crime not even committed in my lazy household. The food does look nice from your pictures though...I'm also intrigued by the honey tuna toast at ZenQ (can you try it for me - I need a crash test tummy).

hannah said...

I never have dumplings, but I can say the New Shanghai has awesomesauce duck pancakes. Sad that your experience wasn't as amazing as mine :(

Lucas said...

Microwave?! No way.

And I've notied the proliferation of just-veggie dishes too. They're usually flavorful & nice, but perhaps the main meal cost is to avoid losing money on vegetarians?

sugarpuffi said...

microwaved dumplings?!

Tina said...

Hi joey - I'm not over the Bridge very much at all... :) I need to get out more perhaps

Hi Dumpling Girl - And I wonder if I would have noticed anything at all if I didn't see it.

Hi Miss Piggy - Not sure the tuna has honey... too weird for me!

Hi Hannah - I adore duck pancakes! Next time (probably at the other NS outlet...)

Hi Lucas - Sad to say, it was a reheat job. You make a good point about vegetarians.

Hi sugarpuffi - Yah-huh :S

Flick Your Food said...

omg I cant believe they microwaved them- It definatly a crime againist any Asian restaurant!!
The Mango ice looks refreshing, especially for summer this year
Great post

Tina said...

Hi Flick Your Food - Yep, I might reheat/microwave dumplings at home but I certainly wouldn't expect to pay for that...

soyq said...

Little northern Chinatown in Chatswood thanks for sharing this delicious blog with australian attractions.


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