Noodlies, Sydney food blog arrives back from Cambodia and Thailand to find a spanking new copy of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Everyday Eats 2012. This is my first year as a contributor for this publication, reviewing quite a number of restaurants in the Cabramatta area – I’m particularly proud of the review on Diem Hen, Canley Heights, check it out if you can. While I’m pretty familiar with the eats in my home turf, I flick through SMH’s Every Eats 2012 to check out places in the Artarmon/St Leonards area, near work.
The Taipei Chef review is pretty glowing: “Don’t let the minimalist decor fool you: Taipei Chef packs a punch… soft-shell crab… dumplings… kong bao q eggs… The secret might be out; this local gem fills quickly on weeknights and with BYO it’s a place you’ll want to keep coming back to“.
And they’re right, after my first visit early March, I’ve been back another two times. Taipei Chef is near work, the decor is typically humble, but it does serve up some unusual dishes and the staff are very sweet – it’s a combination that usually turns me into a helplessly devoted, loyal customer.
Everyday Eats 2012 raves about the prawn dumplings. I’m a pork fan myself and I’m not disappointed. I love steamed dumplings with soft shells that squirt mince juice, but let’s be clear, these aren’t those. The shell is strong almost al dente with piping hot pork mince filling that’s on the drier side. It’s a pleasant change from the delicious, but ubiquitous soft-shelled dumplings found at other Chinese eateries like Chefs Gallery, Din Tai Fung and New Shanghai. The absence of the squirty, flavoursome sauce forces the taste buds to focus on the firm, tasty marinated mince. The sauce is different too, it’s milder and sweet and I reckon might be lightly flavoured with salted plum?. It’s certainly different from the chilli oil that’s served at other restaurants, though if you’re a traditionalist like me, just ask for soy and chilli sauce.
Crispy chicken is different at Taipei Chef too. It’s not the salty Vietnamese execution that you might find at Tan Viet, or the lightly flavoured Chinese version that’s ready to be dipped in salt and pepper as found in, say, Shanghai Stories 1938. Here, the chicken is smoked in tea leaves embedding a sweet, smoky tea flavour that’s especially noticeable in the crispy skin. There’s no accompanying sauce, again, ask for salt and pepper if you must.
I’m less impressed with the pork belly. Variations of this dish are found in other cultures like Chinese, Vietnamese and Malaysian. This version is neither here or there, not overt with fish sauce flavours as in Vietnamese caramelised pork. For me, the dish needs more flavour to cut through the fatty meat, otherwise it could be hard going.
Overall, Taipei Chef is a remarkable find, delivering a different interpretation of many standards. Noodlies is an emphatic fan, thanks to SMH’s Everyday Eats 2012 for the heads up.
Everyday Eats 2012 is available as a printed guide and iPhone app. Noodlies is a reviewer for Everyday Eats 2012.
1A Broughton Rd, Artarmon
Check out other Sydney food blog reviews of Taipei Chef:
The dumplings look good. I think I know what you mean by the al dente. Keen to try it out for myself.