Chefs Gallery, Sydney
During my 10 days in Sydney last November, I realised one thing I love about dining in Sydney: cooking is really put on show.
There's so much more to great dining than eating.
Whether it's Northern Italian, Thai desserts, Malaysian roti, Chinese dumplings or Argentinean barbecue or fresh noodles, it's all prepared with incredible skill and precision in front of you. There are no secrets, just hard work and concentration in bustling open kitchens filled with steam and fire and hot spitting oil, the freshest vegetables and succulent meats. And the people. Never forget the people.
It's the last Saturday of my Sydney holiday and date night for Jac and me.
The restaurateur behind Chef's Gallery is the man who brought global dumpling sensation Din Tai Fung to World Square in Sydney. Chefs Gallery's philosophy is written in calligraphy on the restaurant walls: "The skills of the chef are equally as important as the quality of the ingredients." The glassed-in kitchen is the chefs gallery where these skills are put on display for whoever wants to watch. Even before you enter the restaurant, the glowing letters shouting "CHEFS GALLERY" in the front window make you look.
If Din Tai Fung is dumpling masterpiece theatre, Chef's Gallery is noodle porn, stretched and pulled to order for your viewing (and then eating) pleasure. The chefs work with fluid, effortless movements to transform lumps of dough into thick ropes that they twist, pull and swing, stretching them into thin, impressively uniform strings to be thrown into a hot wok or bathed in broth.
The noodles are weighed on flour-covered scales before they are passed onto the next station for cooking. Then the next round of noodle pulling begins.
There is more than noodle making to watch - there's the wok station, steamer station and bun making. A counter seat is highly recommended.
Jac's keen to try the tataki wagyu beef with sichuan-style spicy dressing (AU$15.90). Tender slices of pink beef are served on fresh mint leaves and topped with hot dressing.
We get handmade noodles wok-fried with mushrooms and beansprouts in premium soya sauce (AU$12.90). The noodles taste so fresh - pulled, stretched and tossed in a wok just minutes ago; the carrots and bean sprouts still crisp yet no longer raw, and juicy sliced Chinese black mushrooms. It's so simple yet so perfect.
The wok-fried green beans with minced pork (AU$14.90) are crinkled and crisp from high heat. The tiny specks of salty pork are impossibly fine. I could eat the whole plate of beans by myself.
I'm fascinated by the braised chicken drumsticks with mandarin peel served with Chinese buns (AU$13.90).
The braised chicken is succulent but so blazingly spicy it makes my nose run and I'm at peril of rendering my tastebuds useless by continuing. The chewy buns are no match for the heat.
This is my kind of date night.
The dessert menu is quite extensive, with different flavours of ice cream, exquisite steamed buns, stylish dumplings and silken tofu pudding, but we're too full. There'll be a next time.
It's not the cheapest Chinese but there's a queue and the place is packed. Like Din Tai Fung, like Mamak, like Porteño, Chefs Gallery provides a dining experience that feeds watchers as well as eaters. Don't get me wrong - enthralling watching would never make up for mediocre eating (nothing will save bad food); but when both are fantastic, it's a beautiful, glorious thing. Do you relish watching as much as eating?
Regent Place Arcade
501 George St
Sydney NSW 2000
While you're in Regent Place, don't forget the pillowy soft chiffon cakes at Azuma Patisserie
I went to Sydney with my sister Juji and her fiancé Jay in November 2011. Jac joined us for the final weekend of the trip. See the list of posts so far, in reading order. We're getting closer to the end of the series, but there's still more to come.
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