Right now is the beginning of one of those long, sometimes even taxing afternoons between when I finish work and when friends do. I want to get this blog rolling but lose steam in the afternoons. I need to re-realize my creative peak!
I spent about 2 hours at Border’s reading from Pauline Nguyen’s “Secrets of the Red Lantern” – which chronicles Luke Nguyen-and-family’s emotionally moving exodus from Communist Vietnam through fiercely inhumane conditions in Thai refugee camps, while trying to deal fairly with Immigration officials in the effort to earn a free life in the West. In amongst the nearly tear-jerking pages are recipes of comfort foods that ease the emotional blitz of it all.
Although it’s left me feeling slightly sad, and with a massive craving for Pho (!), I need to tell you all about yesterday’s meal at Chefs Gallery, Sydney!
I read about Chefs Gallery first through A Table For Two’s blog and had been eager to try it out since. The opportunity presented itself beautifully yesterday; and with a food-happy friend, together we took the LONGEST TRAIN TRIP OF MY LIFE to Town Hall. Now I know why I bought a car.
We’re parched and exhausted from the train ride, but luckily Chefs Gallery is about 60 metres from the station. Located at 501 George St., just around the corner from the KFC, it greets us like a big foodie fishbowl.
We step inside the sleek, air-conditioned chinese restaurant, large and roomy with bronze chinese artefacts (?) in museum-like displays. A cheery girl greets us and asks how many.
“Two please. And can we sit at the bench?!”
She leads us to two chairs facing the massive aquarium of a kitchen directly in front of the guys making noodles and dumplings. Immediately a somewhat unenthused shout of “ni hao.” blasts us. Despite the lack of genuine emotion, the service is incredible. The chorus of busboy-dressed servers rush around making sure your water glass never empties, politely removing bowls and replacing utensils as dishes arrive.
Feeling slightly awkward (as the chefs are so close through the window), an awkwardness I’m pretty sure they share, we flip through the menu quickly choosing our food (we’re starved!).
To start off we have the Pork Belly Roll ($8.90) as an appetiser to share. The rolls are chilled and juicy, with a nice crunch from the fresh cucumber and carrot wrapped inside, and the no-oil vinaigrette is tasty – salty and just a touch of chilli warming the lips. The rolls aren’t spectacular, and if I knew then how full I would be at the end of the meal we wouldn’t have bought them.
We’re here for the noodles anyway.
This place is all about their noodles – made fresh right in front of you. I love watching the noodle guy as he expertly and aggressively slaps the massive rope of dough on the bench, pulling it, twisting it, chopping it. He stretches is back and against itself again and again until fine, thin noodles are produced (I’m amazed the strands don’t break), then lets them twist gracefully onto the plate and scale where he weighs and cuts them, then drops them into the boiler.
Zha Jiang Noodles ($12.90) were my pick because of their resemblance to one of my favorite dishes at Kor-Chinese “Yangtze River” restaurant in Eastwood (you must go there). The fresh noodles are served with finely minced pork, dried bean curd and soya bean sauce, topped with finely juillianed cucumber. Although the noodles are king, the whole dish is definitely better in Eastwood.
The Wok-fried Noodles with Shredded Pork and Black Fungus ($13.90) are freaking amazing! This dish is killer for us and if you trek to the Gallery I would recommend you don’t miss this one. The noodles’ texture is so nice and perfect for slurping, the sauce salty but fresh tasting – homely and without the MSG flavour (though I am unsure if they use MSG or not).
Of course, the winner at Chefs Gallery (aside from noodles) seems to be the so-kawaii desserts – like the Steamed Sesame “Piggy-face” Buns ($5.90, 2 piece), which claims to be “as sumptuous for the eyes as it is for the taste buds.” That, friend, is not a lie.
And we even get the pleasure of seeing the piggies being made by hand in front of us!
When they arrive at our table, the server proudly lifts the lid of the bamboo steaming basket to show off the two little piggies, staring up at us as they sit on their little silk blanket like they’re ready for a picnic. Little do they probably know – it’s them we’ll be eating! Mwahahaha.
Anyways, obviously this dessert is a play on Chinese pork buns – little piggies made out of the same bun dough and stuffed with a gushy black sesame paste. Although the whole experience is mildly disturbing, the piggies are soooo moreish! The bun is neutral but tasty and perfectly steamed while the piping hot sesame liguid inside delights your tongue both with texture and a ridiculously addictive flavour, only slightly sweet and just salty enough to leave you craving.
They’re SO good in fact, we order a second basket!
The second lot is just as good as the first and our tummies are PACKED.
Overall the bill is much smaller than expected as this restaurant delivers amazing value. We leave very happy and full back out to the sunny Sydney streets.
For shocking-good value for its location and tasty noodles I will definitely be going back to Chefs Gallery many more times.
501 George St.
Sydney, NSW 2000