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Chinese

Taste of Nanking (老南京) – Waterloo NSW Restaurant Review

One tried and true formula for naming a Chinese restaurant is rolling the dice on different combinations and permutations of the words “Golden”, “Empress”, “Dragon”, “Jade”, and finishing off with ” Seafood Restaurant”. Another familiar technique is to name a restaurant after one’s hometown and append “Taste of” in front of it. Taste of Shanghai is one famous example. Taste of Nanking is another.

TASTE OF NANKING is located on Gadigal Avenue in Waterloo, a recently developed strip of Asian (mostly Chinese) restaurants and groceries with quite a few gems to find. It is somewhat down the street from U STORE, an expensive but fun Asian grocery store with a wide array of snacks and a good mix of not only Chinese but also Korean and Japanese goods.

Taste of Nanking’s Mixed Noodle with Scallion Sauce and Minced Pork ($13.80) was really good. It is a dry noodle dish with a delicious sauce base and a generous helping of mince. The serving is huge, and I enjoyed the addition of the steamed bok choy which provided a fresh and moist counter to the thick saucy noodle dish. There’s a chilli symbol next to it on the menu, but it has more of a sweet taste than a spicy taste. I can definitely recommend this one.

Crayfish topping on steamed rice (Luxury)

The Crayfish Topping on Steamed Rice dish comes in three different grades – Original, Luxury, and Supreme – denoting the quantity of crayfish topping added. I had the “Luxury”, level with 120 grams of crayfish topping, coming in at $22.80.

My feelings about this dish were a bit mixed. This was my first time having small crayfish like this, and I appreciated the small prawny flavour but wondered what kind of hell it was to have to hand peel these tiny crayfish that I was eating multiple of in each mouthful. Apart from the yummy crayfish, the sauce that swam in was a bit too salty and tasty for me, and in this sense the rice definitely came in handy. The egg was yummy, and the dish did benefit from the addition of extra egg. The preserved vegetables added a sweetness to the otherwise quite salty dish. Again this was quite a large serving and like the mixed noodles we took what we couldn’t finish home. If I had one alteration to suggest I would either only get the Original variation (assuming that with only 90 grams of crayfish topping there would be less salty sauce) or add some additional rice.

Nanking Special Egg

The Nanking Special Eggs ($2) were a little bit special. They are your classic marinated soy/tea eggs, served cold, and really good eaten with the mains.

The Braised Jumbo Meat Ball in Brown Sauce ($6.80) have a maximum order of 1 per customer, which I don’t really think makes sense unless there is a good reason for scarcity – normally more orders mean more income for the restaurant. They are a large ball formed out of minced pork. My partner quite enjoyed their soft internal texture, however I thought that they were a bit too salty to have on their own. They’re not bad, but if you are ordering these balls I’d highly recommend you have them with some rice.

Signature Nanking Soup Dumplings

The Signature Nanking Soup Dumplings (6 for $7.80) were pretty much Xiao Long Bao but without the folds in the pastry. I’m not really sure what else is different – perhaps a difference in the filling, but given the reasonably wide variation of XLB fillings in general I think it still fits in the same spectrum. The soup of Nanjing soup dumplings is also meant to be more prominent, and while these were quite soupy I think again they fall within the same spectrum as the XLBs of Sydney. They are cheap, juicy, and cheerful.

CONCLUSION

Taste of Nanking is not generally well-rated online, but I’m not too sure why. One one star review on Google Reviews was because their air conditioning wasn’t cold enough one Summer day, which I don’t really think is enough to poo-poo an otherwise good meal. Service seems to be another common complaint I thought the guy running front of house was really enthusiastic, although agree that it was a bit odd that we were given one cup to get water from the water cooler between the two of us.

Overall I think the food was good, and any of my gripes about it being too tasty could have been solved by ordering some extra white rice. Portions were huge and the meal was generally quite good value.

4.5/5 – Not for a business lunch or romantic date, but good for a quick casual meal or takeaway.

Taste of Nanking 老南京 Waterloo
1/18 Gadigal Ave, Waterloo NSW 2017
(02) 9313 8450

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Chinese

Dumplings & Beer – Randwick NSW Restaurant Review

Picture this.

You are a doctor working in the intensive care unit of a tertiary hospital in the Eastern Suburbs. Your partner (who didn’t get a job at said intensive care unit though he really wanted one) is celebrating his birthday today, although he’s trying very hard not to celebrate or let anyone know. The options for lunch where you can walk there and be in, out, and back in the unit within thirty minutes are vanishingly slim – and you’ve already been to Cafe Mckenzie fifteen times this year. One of your Eastern Suburbs colleagues recommends Dumplings & Beer for a quick bite. You take the bait.

Dumplings & Beer’s website – ©2020 Dumplings & Beer.

Dumplings & Beer’s website goes into great lengths to describe Alex Ly and Rose Ly-Schmidt’s parents, both of whom were Asian, but apart from that do not seem to have any other other qualifications relevant to the dumpling industry. Sure, dad seemed eat a lot and mum made dumplings for dinner parties, but so does every other Chinese person’s parents. This kind of story doesn’t lend your restaurant any additional authenticity. If anything, it makes me wonder what isn’t being said. What is it about you yourself that makes this restaurant special?

After a few long paragraphs of shit talk I must admit that the Duck Wraps (3 for $11.50) were actually quite good. To be fair, it’s quite hard to screw up wrapping some roast duck, cucumber, shallot and hoisin sauce in a thin pancake. My only complaint would be the pancake itself. I’ve had better.

The Panfried Pork & Cabbage Dumplings (5 for $9.90) is where it all started to go wrong. Just look at them. The wrappers were absolutely not the right kind for anything that a normal Chinese person would dare to call a dumpling. The wrappers were in fact very thick and bready, almost as if they had been made from self raising flour. The fillings were just fine – it’s hard to mess up the combination of just two ingredients, however I think the presence of these dumplings and the absence of the classic pork (+/- prawn) and chive dumplings on the menu speaks volumes about the restaurant’s target audience – a group that’s probably less discerning about what Chinese food they eat.

The Xiao Long Bao (4 for $9.90) just weren’t very good. Two of the four came with their wrappers stuck to the paper so that they broke when handled, and at $2.50 a pop they were quite expensive.

The Bean Curd Roll (2 for $8) weren’t great but they’ll do. Just about twice the price as what you’d get at a good yum cha restaurant.

The Steamed Scallops, Pork and Chives Dumplings (4 for $9.90) were more of a shao mai than a dumpling. I actually thought these were quite good, large, and reasonably priced compared to the rest of the food on offer.

The Crackling Pork Belly Sliders (2 for $10.50). The meat was warm and the skin crispy. They came with a very sensible amount of sauce, and were not oversauced as sometimes tends to happen at places like this. These bao were completely inoffensive, and we actually ended up getting a serve for takeaway for one of my partner’s colleagues.

VERDICT

I love dumplings, but not the ones on offer at Dumplings & Beer. To be fair, I don’t think I’m the kind of customer Dumplings & Beer targets – the kind that actual authentic Chinese food might offend.

I’m not coming back to a dumpling restaurant where the dumplings aren’t even as good as what I can make myself.

2/5. Try elsewhere.

Dumplings & Beer Randwick
NewMarket Shop 9 162, 164 Barker St, Randwick NSW 2031
(02) 9310 0030

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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
Chinese

Po Po 面婆婆 – Hurstville NSW Chinese Restaurant Review

Po Po is a small and authentic Northern Chinese diner in Hurstville. It’s been on my hitlist for some time now, and we finally were in the area and able to hit it up for some dumplings and noodles.

I really enjoyed the friendly, homely service, as well as the delicious dumplings and beef brisket noodle soup. We got all of our dumplings boiled as that is my favourite way to have them, and I feel that boiled dumplings are really the best test of the chef’s skill and expertise.

The pork and chive dumplings were good!

Pork and chive and prawn dumplings – also good

Unfortunately the xiao long bao were not very good. I wouldn’t recommend them.

The beef brisket noodle soup we found to be quite flavourful and delicious. There were big chunks of beef, and the flavour of the soup was neither too strong or too weak. I can recommend this dish.

I wish you could see how happy my girlfriend is in this photo, guys. This is why I do it.

Eating at Po Po really felt like eating in an authentic Chinese diner. There were plenty of other groups, mostly older Chinese couples, eating at the same time as us, and this is a group which seems an excellent barometer for cheap and filling food. One funny thing we saw was a Caucasian gentleman come into this obviously Chinese store and ask for pork rolls (which they did not have), and then ask for pho (which they also did not have). He ultimately, after much patience from the owner, settled on some pork buns. I hope he enjoyed them, although I guess he may be disappointed if he was looking forward to some Vietnamese food.

I can recommend this place.

PO PO Hurstville 面婆婆
238 Forest Rd, Hurstville NSW 2220
(02) 9580 6218