Categories
Chinese

Mr Stonebowl – Burwood NSW Restaurant Review

My first experience with Mr Stonebowl was at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when I ordered some dinner from their Hurstville restaurant that took around two hours to deliver and ended up being quite disappointing. My second experience, on the first day of reopening in October 2021, was much better, though not without its faults.

Our ordering was largely guided by my esteemed colleague JZHW, a Burwood local and Mr Stonebowl evangelist.

The garlic prawn with stir fried rice in squid ink ($19.80), a “must-order” per both JZHW and the staff at Mr Stonebowl, was a pretty reasonable dish. It was a large pot of dark-coloured rice covered in a creamy sauce and topped with some battered and deep fried garlic prawns. This configuration of white sauce atop rice was fusion in a sense reminiscent of Hong Kong cafe style cuisine, though no cultural inspirations have been explicity mentioned by the restaurant. Overall a large, economical, and good (if heavy) dish.

The chicken feet and bean silk in homemade sauce ($8.60) wasn’t really very good. This dish was the first indication that steamed yum cha style dishes aren’t really this restaurant’s specialty. While feng zhua (鳯爪) is typically steamed to the point where the meat and skin is falling off the bone and easily eaten off, these little chicken feet still had all of the connective tissues clinging to the bone. Unfortunately this made for a difficult to eat and less flavourful dish. A few extra minutes in the steamer would’ve made a lot of difference, and honestly this is an amateur mistake to make. I wouldn’t order this again.

The stew beef tendon with crispy quail eggs ($17.80) was alright. I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavour, but I do like myself a bit of beef tendon in pho, in instant noodles, and just in general. The decision to slightly fry the quail eggs to make them crispy and dry on the outside was a strange one.

The special soup with fish fillet, prawn, razor clam, and quail eggs ($18.20) was surprisingly spicy, but had quite a good flavour. The nature of the fish fillets wasn’t clear but our JZHW’s Vietnamese partner thinks it was basa.

The pork ribs in Beijing style sweet and sour sauce ($17.80) were not, as I thought they would have been, Zhenjiang pork ribs. Instead they were your pretty standard sweet and sour sauce pork ribs with cubed pineapple in tow. They were pretty good to be honest, but not really traditional Chinese food. This would all be much easier if I could read Chinese.

The pork and chive dumplings ($8.80) were a standout. Very good, very authentic, and very cheap. I could recommend these to anyone.

The shumai ($8.50), conversely, were quite bad. They were very loose inside, packed with vegetables rather than the classic pork or prawn meat. Thematically they were more similar to the Australian “dim sim”, a fried mess of minced cabbage and mystery meat. I wouldn’t recommend these.

The prawn dumplings (xia jiao) ($8.50) were alright. They were plump and tasty, though I felt like again they could’ve been steamed for longer. The wrappers were just a bit too chewy in my opinion.

The Singapore style barramundi ($20.80) was, in my opinion, better than that at related restaurant Mr Stonepot in Eastwood. While I think the fish was probably leaner or smaller and the dish a dollar more expensive, I thought the sauce tasted better here.

OVERALL THOUGHTS
I think that Mr Stonebowl does live up to its reputation for providing reasonable quality Chinese food at an attractive price. The four of us had initially set out for hotpot, but after finding we looking at paying around $80 pp for the only hot pot available in Burwood on the first night of eased COVID-19 restrictions we chose to dine here instead at the relative bargain basement price of $33 per person. There are certainly things I’d avoid at Mr Stonebowl, which generally includes anything steamed, but the rest of the food seems pretty reasonable.

Mr Stonebowl Burwood
GF 122, 122-126 Burwood Rd, Burwood NSW 2134
(02) 9745 1388

Diners – WKS, JW, JZHW +1

Categories
Chinese

Din Tai Fung – World Square Sydney CBD NSW Restaurant Review

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.

Din Tai Fung World Square
Shop 11.04, Level 1/644 George St, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9261 0219

Categories
Café Chinese

Zensation Tea House – Waterloo NSW Dim Sum Restaurant Review

Zensation Tea House is a nice little two person operation in Waterloo. It is a mix between a teahouse, dim sum restaurant, and tea shop. The interior is decorated in a very cosy manner with all sorts of different tea related decorations and displays. There are a number of different seating options available, and a few different booths in different styles.

The attention to service from the middle aged Chinese man and woman and the toy poodle Goldie made our experience a real treat. We could tell that the lady was manning both the restaurant and the store by herself to start, but she fielded all her customers deftly and with a very kind manner.

We were given a bowl of sunflower seeds to eat while we waited. This was some kind of next level targeted nostalgia bomb as my grandmother and mother would eat these nonstop. (Still alive, teeth not so good now).

The food served was on par on quality with a regular yum cha restaurant. What was special was that they allow you to mix and match your dim sum for the same price. We were able to order 18 pieces of assorted dim sum for only $42, which is quite special. It’s really nice that as we dine as a couple we were able to get 2 each of a bunch of different things, compared to if we had gone to a normal yum cha place and had to get 3-4 of each thing we ordered. This meant that we were able to have much more variety! It would even be very feasible to go alone and get one of each type of dim sum for a cheap price.

A deeper dive into selected dim sum. Most were very good. The har gao was good. The siu mai, both chicken and pork/prawn varieties were good, the chive and prawn was good. The lo mai gai was good. The custard bun was good. The only complaint I have would be about the scallop and prawn dumplings which felt a bit flour-y, and the vegetarian dumplings which were mostly just not to my taste. All in all though very authentic.

Goldie, the shop dog, was not for eating. I got to pet him.

Water was filtered and chilled. We didn’t go for a tea session as we were in a bit of a rush and didn’t have time to stay. Tea was around $9-12 per head for unlimited refills, so we thought we would save this somewhat pricey pleasure for a different time.

I can really recommend Zensation Tea House in Waterloo, both as a nice date, a prolonged tea drinking session, and also for a solo diner keen to have an assortment of dumplings rather than just 4 of 3 types.

5 goldies/5 (peg approved)

Zensation Tea House
Shop 160/806 Bourke St, Waterloo NSW 2017
0418 291 197