If you plug Xing Fu Tang (幸福堂) into Google Translate it will tell you that the first two characters – 幸福 – means happy, and the last character – 堂 – means hall. While technically correct, that’s not the full gist of “幸福”.
幸福 (Xing Fu), to my understanding, is more than just a feeling of happiness. It is a feeling of bliss, of comfort, something than just 快乐.
While a nice thought, my experience at Xing Fu Tang was not actually very 幸福. I got a honey lemon tea with additional rabbit panna cotta on top. It was strange that I didn’t realise it at the time, but the panna cotta sat on top of a plastic film, and was not direct contact with the drink. The drink itself was way too sweet, with no option to select the amount of sugar. While honey is obviously sweet, I did not expect it to be just this sweet.
I just didn’t really like it. I’m sure the drinks where you can specify your sugar load would be better, but I just don’t think I’d ever come back.
If there’s one theme to Din Tai Fung, Taiwanese multinational dim sum chain, is that the food is alright but expensive. This was my second time dining at Din Tai Fung, the first was with a few of my friends from high school (and now medical colleagues) in 2012.
The xiao long baos(8 for $14.90) at Din Tai Fung are pretty standard fare. Though a flagship dish of DTF, they do not stand out apart from the fact that there is nothing wrong with them. They are juicy and tasty, however at 8 for $14.90 are very overpriced. There is nothing about them that sets them apart from other XLBs (my senior intensive care colleague remarked that not everything needs to be abbreviated – but I think this is a common abbreviation), and they are no better than Taste of Shanghai‘s, which are 8 for $12.
The spicy seafood dumplings/wontons (6 for $14.90) were really quite good. They were stuffed full of seafood flavours, and the spicy soup/dipping sauce that they came in was quite nice as well. Expensive, but a recommendation from me.
The shrimp and pork dumplings (6 for $13.90), steamed, were pretty good but again expensive. I wouldn’t consider them as special as the spicy seafood dumplings, so would not recommend these if the choice is between the two.
The pork and prawn shao mai (4 for $12.90) were missable. Similar comments to the above. Don’t think I need to repeat myself.
The green beans with minced pork ($17.90) are standard Chinese restaurant fare. You would certainly expect a much larger serving for this price though. Get them if you like it, but green beans are not what Din Tai Fung is known for.
It’s nice to eat food named after a dead Chinese guy for once. Even though General Tso may be more or less long forgotten, the chicken that has nothing else to do with him apart from bearing his name lives on. DTF’s General Tso’s Chicken ($18.90) is the second GTC I’ve ever had, the first being in Box Hill, Victoria, in 2015. Though not traditional Chinese food, I actually quite enjoyed it. I liked the spicy sweetness, and fried chicken of any sort is generally a winner. I can recommend this dish as long as you’re not someone who gets offended by the simple concept of Westernised Chinese food (how come when it’s diner food it’s not called “fusion”?).
The pork chop noodle soup ($15.90) and the fried rice chicken fillet ($17.90) could almost be described in the same breath. While the pork chop was more salt and pepper, and the chicken fillet had more of a classic Taiwanese fried chicken taste, the two were essentially the same – slabs of meat, battered deep friend, seasoned, and cut into slices. Neither were bad, however again the price comes into play – why spend $18 on fried rice and Taiwanese fried chicken when you can get a larger piece of chicken for $10.50 across the road at Hot Star on Liverpool St? The carbs in these dishes were nothing to sing praise about.
I actually really enjoyed the prawn pancake ($9.90). It reminded me of the deep fried bean curd with prawn filling inside. Very nice prawn flavour, and the sweet chilli sauce was the perfect choice of accompaniment.
The Jasmine tea served in paper cups ($5 for the table), was a good buy for a party of 4, and actually much cheaper than most yum cha places. I imagine they’re only served in paper cups to minimise contact with our gross intensive care germs during COVID-19 , however that doesn’t really make sense to me as they’re handling all the other crockery and cutlery anyway.
VERDICT While the food at Din Tai Fung tastes and looks completely adequate, it competes with alternatives that are not only completely adequate tasting but also two thirds of the price. We paid $142.10 between four for the above pictured dishes, which I think is a bit too much for a dim sum meal that wasn’t that special.
Takeaway service at Frango’s is instantaneous. Stacks upon stacks of charcoaled chicken are on display in the window, ready to be cut into quarters, lathered with chilli sauce, and popped into foil-lined paper bags.
This review needs to be read in consideration of the following two facts:
Chicken was eaten after a huge meal at Fich at Petersham
Chicken travelled for around 40 minutes in the boot of my car as we then went to Hakiki’s before home.
With these caveats in mind, I still found the chicken at Frango’s disappointing. I have heard a lot of good things about Frango’s over the past few years, however never had an opportunity to try until now. My reference point for charcoal chicken in Sydney is El Jannah, compared to which Frango’s chicken is decidedly dry. Frango’s chicken has a light mushroomy taste, and what seemed to be a generous basting of chilli sauce turned out to be utterly inadequate – any sense of chilli flavour was difficult to find. I will admit to adding some Nando’s peri peri sauce at home, while my partner ate her chicken with some Pilpel garlic sauce.
Oddly enough Frango’s greek salad had red capsicum and celery inside. It was fine, nothing to write home about.
Frango’s is listed in a wide array of top-lists for charcoal chicken in Sydney, however I didn’t think Frango’s lived up to the hype. If I may be so bold, I would even say that when it comes to Portuguese chicken I have enjoyed chain restaurants Oporto, Nando’s, and Ogalo more. A bit of a let down.
This was my first time ever eating in Petersham. I didn’t realise how close Vietnam was to Portugal.
The fish taco ($8) was not as good as I had expected. Online reviews that I had read before coming were overwhelmingly positive, however all mentioned that there was a sliver of fish skin within the taco to give the taco some cripsiness. Unfortunately this fish skin did not make an appearance in that taco that I had, which was basically just a piece of battered ling with some salsa and tartare sauce wrapped in a tortilla. While I must admit the taco was quite good, it was definitely not mindblowing, nor was it a standout in comparison to the rest of the meal. My meal was in fact quite battered ling heavy, and I would not recommend this taco if you’re also getting fish and chips, or a burger – it’s just not different enough.
Fich’s potato scallops (or potato cakes, depending on where you’re from) are $3 each and also much lauded. My colleague and I each enjoyed one, and they were indeed pretty good – formed to be much thicker than your classic potato scallop. I think my partner – a big fan of potato, oil, and salt – would like these, however as she does not like seafood I don’t think there’s much else on the menu that would suit her palate.
The fich popcorn ($16), little pieces of fish battered, fried, and coated in maple and sriracha sauce were not bad. The mouthfeel was quite similar to popcorn chicken, and it would’ve even been a bit hard to tell that they were fish at all ( at least while they were still hot). The sauce was only a bit too flavourful, but tolerable. I wonder if I could sneak this past my girlfriend as “chicken”.
The double fich burger with fries ($25) was a large and expensive endeavour. The taste and construction of the burger was basically as a big mac but with thick battered ling fish patties instead of beef. The fries, often described online as some of the best in Sydney, were good but unfortunately did not live up to the hype (I actually think those at Kepos St Kitchen are better, and that’s just out of the chips I have had recently.)
FICH. Not bad. Quite expensive. Apparently Portuguese for “file”. Don’t know why they’d call it that then. 3.5/5.
Our favourite Lebanese restaurant in Sydney has to be Jasmin1, but living in South East Sydney it’s quite rare for us to make it out to Auburn. Al Aseel is a surprisingly upscale Lebanese restaurant in Alexandria, and while it is more expensive, is a fitting substitute.
We went for a late lunch, and did not have to wait. I am told that there is a long queue for dinner and it’s best to try and book ahead.
Special mention needs to be made of the decor and layout of the restaurant. Al Aseel is located in the same complex as South Dowling Sandwiches and Pholosphy, and there is adequate guest parking. It is a far more upscale establishment than Jasmin1, featuring a very extensive bar and a large dining area. The dining tables themselves are huge for just two people, which is a mark of the restaurant’s commitment to a slightly finer dining experience.
The Mansaf Rice ($9) was very nutty! It was good value for a reasonably sized bowl of rice, nuts, and a small amount of mince. It had a mild, nutty flavour, but more than the flavour I felt the nuts really helped to make the texture interesting. Went great with the excess garlic and lemon sauce from the garlic and lemon chicken.
The Meat and Onion Samobusek (4 for $14) was pretty standard. The pastry was good but not great, the filling was quite good but a bit salty.
If online reviews are to believed, Al Aseel’s Lemon & Garlic Chicken ($26) are their “unmissable” “flagship” dish. I had expected something truly extraodinary and out of the box, but what I found for $26 was actually a bit pedestrian. Their lemon and garlic chicken is simply tawouk absolutely drowned in a lake’s worth of garlic sauce and lemon juice. That’s not to say that it’s bad – it’s actually very good – just not what I was expecting. The chicken is in particular cooked very well, tender, and the sauces very flavourful.
It is the curse of all Lebanese restaurants in Sydney to be compared with Jasmin1. While I enjoyed the food at Al Aseel, I definitely felt that it was more of an upscale establishment, in terms of decor, the fitout, but also in terms of the price. While $49 at Jasmin1 can feed a small army, the same is not true of Al Aseel. Having said that, I do see myself coming back to Al Aseel more, just based on the proximity alone.