Categories
Chinese

JC Dragon Fusion – Parramatta NSW Restaurant Review

When you think about Asian Fusion cuisine you normally think about Asian inspired meals cooked with a mixture of both Asian and European cooking techniques. JC Dragon Fusion in Parramatta flips any such expectations on their heads and serves Chinese food fused with Chinese, cooked with the traditional Chinese techniques of steaming, boiling, deep frying, and stir frying.

Let’s go back in time to before you had seen the above photo. I want you to close your eye and picture for me “steamed prawn and pork dumplings” ($8.80). Now open your eyes. Is this what you imagined?

While Chinese-literate punters would immediately recognise the 燒賣 on the menu as shaomai, the English listing of this item on the menu leads in and traps members of the Asian Fusion diaspora like myself. As shaomai these are pretty good, in no way better or worse than you would get from your regular yum cha restaurant. As dumplings they are a bit lacking.

The pork ribs with black bean sauce ($8.80) was exactly as you’d picture them, though I felt that they did not have such a strong black bean flavour as the shadows cast by pork ribs with black bean sauce of past.

Ever the intrepid explorer, my girlfriend saw a distant table enjoying an aromatic hot pot with their lobster meal, and asked if we could have the same sans lobster. The traditional free range chicken hot pot ($39.80) is not generally offered on the menu, and I’m pretty sure the owner just made up a price for it on the spot. It features half a raw free range chicken (also known as a chicken who walks in Chinese), which is boiled at the table in an aromatic bak kut teh like broth. I thought that the soup tasted and smelled good, however did not find that the chicken added very much at all. The chicken was a skinny triathelete chook, cut up with lots of bones included inside the chicken, making it quite difficult to get any actual meat. Though a large portion I did feel that spending $40 on this presumably more legitimate bak kut teh did not provide much better a result than $5 bak kut teh packet mix soup. My girlfriend stuck to her guns and said she enjoyed it but I wouldn’t get it again.

VERDICT

JC Dragon Fusion Restaurant’s only claim to fusion may be that it fuses yum cha lunch items and dinner items into an all day menu. I do appreciate the availability of dim sum for dinner, and can therefore recommend paying them a visit if you do too.

4 yums/5 chas

JC Dragon Fusion
Shop 4/115 Church St, Parramatta NSW 2150
(02) 9635 8333

Categories
Chinese

Thumbs Up Hot Pot – Hurstville NSW Restaurant Review

Thumbs Up Hot Pot in Hurstville provides an authentic Chinese hotpot all you can eat experience for the very affordable price of $32 per head.

Ordering is by circling options on a piece of paper. There are English and Chinese translations, however if you are after bok choy that is the only option that is not translated to English.

There are also multiple options for soup, with the option of single or double soup bases or triple, or quadruple choices for an additional fee. We chose the Chongqing Spicy Hot Pot Base and the Bone Broth Base. All hot-potting is done in a large communal hotpot, although if you’re keen to have your own private pot that’s also possible provided you sit by yourself. There were a few solo diners in the restaurant with us.

We had quite an eclectic selection of ingredients, drawn from the tastes of myself and my three colleagues. We definitely circled much more than our stomachs could handle, and the restaurant staff only brought out as much as they thought that we could eat. While we missed out on many of the items that we had ordered, it turned out that they knew us better than we did. We were absolutely full by the end of our meal.

The lamb and beef rolls are quite fatty. Overall the menu had quite base level ingredients, with frozen fish balls and probably not really anything made in house. You get what you paid for, however, and at $32 the price is right.

VERDICT
$32 for all you can eat hot pot is excellent. Thumbs Up Hot Pot reminds me of all those hot pot places on Clayton Road in Clayton VIC where my partner and I would go while she was staying with me. While the quality of ingredients is definitely not premium as some other competitors like YX Mini Hot Pot, I’d definitely recommend Thumbs Up to a price-conscious friend or colleague.

5/5

Thumbs Up Hot Pot Hurstville
164 Forest Rd, Hurstville NSW 2220
0415 338 539

Categories
Japanese

Gyusha – Chippendale NSW Restaurant Review

Chippendale’s Gyusha is a mixed-service restaurant and meat-focused grocery store. Their restaurant business offers a selection of meats for yakiniku and shabu-shabu, as well as a less core selection of sushi and sashimi.

Gyusha’s yakiniku meats can be ordered as part of teishoku sets or on their own. It was only a few dollars extra to add a lot of extra accompaniments to our order of chicken thigh, and so we ended up going with a chicken yakiniku set ($18.80), which along with its core offering of chicken thigh marinated in soy and spicy sauces (150g each, 300g total) came with a bowl of miso soup, some agedashi tofu, pickles, rice, tamago, edamame, and a small garden salad.

The chicken thigh meat was marinated well , but not too overmarinated. My pick was the soy marinated chicken as it had less sugar on it to burn. The rest of the teishoku set was actually quite delightful, and we loved the variety and fun flavours on offer to us at such a cheap price.

If I had one complaint about the yakiniku experience it’s that our grill wasn’t changed during our time, and it did get quite encrusted with burnt marinade towards the end.

The shabu-shabu hot pot with 300 grams of sliced wagyu beef also came with its own set of accompaniments – thought not as complete as the chicken yakiniku set. This set was without miso soup or agedashi tofu, which was a shame as the miso soup bowl ended up being the bowl we had that was really suitable for eating the shabu shabu. The flavours were light and good, and there was plenty of mushroom and vegetables (and just a little bit of tofu) to go with our meat. Additional meat for the shabu shabu could’ve been added on at the same price as yakiniku, and indeed the meat was interchangeable as we did grill some of the shabu shabu meat.

VERDICT
We had quite a nice time at Gyusha. Their teishoku set menus are quite aggressively priced and provide a really nice array of different flavours. The yakiniku and shabu shabu components of the meal consisted of high quality meat at a reasonable price. I thought it was odd that the guy kept calling me “young man”.

I can definitely recommend giving Gyusha a try.

A4.5

Gyusha
Shop 7/6 Central Park Ave, Chippendale NSW 2008
(02) 9304 0451

Categories
Japanese

Lantern by Wagaya – Sydney CBD Japanese Restaurant Review

The third convening of the Intensive Care Japanese Cuisine Research Society occurred on the 25th of October 2020 at Lantern by Wagaya in the Sydney CBD. The location, a mixed-purpose karaoke bar and Japanese restaurant run by Chinese people was chosen as it was one of the few venues that could accommodate us late in the evening. Our original plan was to choose a place that would be suitable to host our colleagues finishing work at 8:30PM, and while the kitchen at Lantern closes at 9PM, the venue itself is open until 2AM.

Ordering was via a touchscreen tablet system. There was an extensive alcohol menu which we did not really partake in. This same company runs Sushi Hotaru in the Galeries, which is as far more sushi focused venture.

The wagyu beef skewers (2 for $13) were miniature and expensive. One of my colleagues said that he enjoyed the tender texture of the meat, but I couldn’t really tell that it was wagyu. Nothing to write home about.

The agedashi soft shell crab with tofu ($11.30) was a good size for the price and venue, however I felt like the flavour was lacking. The crab did not feel fresh to me, and I wouldn’t recommend getting this one.

The salt garlic fried chicken (karaage) ($10.50) was also a good size, however I did not enjoy it either. My colleague who enjoyed the wagyu skewers was quite keen on this and wanted to order more, but personally I did not think it had a fresh taste to it either. I would go so far as to say that it didn’t taste or feel like it was freshly fried, but I wonder what shenanigans would have to be going on behind the scenes for that to be the case.

I feel like a broken record but I don’t think the takoyaki ($7.90) was special either.

I actually thought the homemade dumplings (5 for $8.80) were quite good. Probably a reflection of the staff’s Chinese background.

Chicken yakitori was, similar to the wagyu skewers, small and expensive. I did enjoy their taste however, and thought that the chicken was tender and cooked well. I guess it is something that’s hard to do too badly.

The Salmon Chazuke ($8.50) was one of the stars of the meal. It consisted of a bowl of rice, topped with salmon, soaked in hot tea, and came strongly recommended from my senior colleague who had seen something similar in the TV show “Tokyo Midnight Diner”. I really enjoyed the warmth and wholesome feeling that this bowl gave me. It is great value, and a must try at Lantern.

The aburi salmon nigiri ($11.50) was good and priced reasonably. The portions were large, and the flavour was not muddled by excess sauce, which is a problem many restaurants face. A recommendation.

I could’ve lived without the dragon roll ($14), which was eel sushi topped with lotus root. It was my first ever fried lotus root and not that memorable.

I enjoyed the seared kingfish handroll ($4.50). One of my colleagues ordered a chilli cod roe and tuna hand roll ($4.50) – reportedly middling, and the other the soft shell crab hand roll ($4.80) – unreported.

Our first big ticket item was the assorted daily sashimi ($40.80). Unfortunately it only came with 3 pieces of the fish and egg, so I can only do a partial review from personal experience. I enjoyed the salmon – I thought the quality was quite good. The octopus had a nice sweetness to it, as did the scallop. The oyster was served natural, however both myself and my intrepid colleague added in our own lemon sauce vinaigrette. The tamago was soft and passable not not a specialty. My partner did not enjoy the tuna sashimi however I cannot say on personal experience. I do not know about the scampi and was too afraid to even ask about it as I did not want to get a sympathetic allergic reaction.

The large beef sukiyaki with extra beef ($34.50) was an unexpected hit with the boys. We were treated to a large bowl of tofu, mushrooms and vegetables, and 12 slices of beef in total which we cooked ourselves. The taste was good, however I would recommend asking for some rice to go with it. I would also recommend loading up on extra beef, especially if you’re not going to get a mountain of other dishes that we got. Every $5 gets you 4 slices of beef.

Overall we spent $225 between the four of us on the food listed above, as well as an additional ume chazuke ($8) and a yuzu sparkling jelly sake 180mL ($9.80). I thought that most of the entree-style food was a bit middling, but the sukiyaki, sashimi, and chazuke were good. I was initially keen to get a booth for more privacy, however they were offered at $6/person/hour, which was too much for us, especially as we had no intention of doing karaoke. The restaurant was pretty empty though, and it didn’t really make a difference in the end.

While I had a good time with my friends and colleagues, the good time did not stem from the food itself, but rather the company. I would think twice before bringing colleagues back to Lantern by Wagaya.

2.5/5 carrots.

Lantern by Wagaya
591 George St, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9283 8828

Categories
Chinese

Haidilao – Chatswood NSW Restaurant Review

Haidilao’s food isn’t really all that special to nearby competitor Memory Tongue. The meats are good quality, and there are plenty of soup bases and sauces to choose from. It fits firmly one tier below Market City’s The Dolar Shop both in price and the availability of truly premium cuts of meat, however on equal standing with other more upper echelon offerings.

I appreciated the communal style hot pot divided into portions based on soup base, as well as the electronic tablet-based ordering system. While the electronic ordering system helps to bridge language barriers and reduce the need for imagination with its photos of each menu item, I found that in this particular situation it did not achieve the third desired effect of minimising human contact with the wait staff.

I must preface this by saying that I have absolutely no complaints about our host, who was polite, courteous, and friendly. What I did not enjoy was the overbearing, helicopter style service, which made me feel watched and uncomfortable. Our waiter’s impeccable attention to detail was more of a hindrance than a help. His hawk eyes would not allow us to pour our own prune juice. He was extremely capable of keeping track of when we were sipping prune juice and would top up our glasses after almost every swig. There is a very thick line between good service and being too up in one’s face, and I think that despite any good intentions he may have had this crosses it.

The food was good, but in the interest of keeping my choppers on the helipad I probably won’t be coming back. Some people probably like it. I didn’t.

Haidilao
Shop 607/1 Anderson St, Chatswood NSW 2067
(02) 9411 2006