Friday 16 August 2013

Land Down Under: China Kitchen Sunnybank Hills

For years my folks frequented a Chinese restaurant in Toowong called The Bamboo Shoot. The decor was tired and the menu was pretty standard but the food was very good. It's now known as China Kitchen and apparently has had a total make-over. When they found out that Jack, the owner, had opened a second restaurant in an unprepossessing building in Sunnybank Plains they wandered over there to check it out. They've been heading back there ever since. It is, as the Michelin guide says, "worth a detour".

The menu is short and doesn't really pander to Anglo-Saxon squeamishness. I don't know anything about Szechuan cuisine, but I am going to go out on a limb and make the gross generalisation that any menu with that much tripe and sea-cucumber has to be authentic. Right?

We ordered a lot of food for three people. Some things I'd never seen before, all absolutely delicious. The waitress didn't speak much English and we were the only people there on a quiet weekday lunchtime, but the restaurant looks like it is really designed for evenings (garish red banquettes studded with rhinestone buttons, shiny lacquered walls, colour-changing neon lights around the cornices).
Yes, this is fried rice. No, this was not one of the unfamiliar dishes. Very, very nice though.
Hot & sour potatoes. Extraordinary. The potato has the crunch of being undercooked but without that "yuk, raw potato" thing. With vinegar, garlic and chilli. I will order this in a flash if I ever see it again.
Chicken hotpot. Not as sauce-y as I expected a hotpot to be, and not as spicy as you would imagine from all of that chilli. And those white-ish bits? yes, they are garlic cloves, but cooked gently so they were quite mellow.
Gai larn with garlic is always good, but this was cut up into much more convenient pieces than I am used to! Much easier for picking up with chopsticks than the stuff usually served at yum cha.

Lamb with cumin. Absolutely divine. SO tender and almost crusted with crunchy toasted cumin seeds. I'd imagine that this is a dish of Islamic origin.
Aubergine with pork. I have had other versions of this dish, but this was the best I have tried - perfectly silky aubergine with pork as a flavour, not the main event, and a very well-balanced slightly sour sauce. I think this is an example of "fish flavour" sauce which doesn't actually have any fish products in it...


Alexandra Stafford said...

I love Szechuan cuisine, too, but am not that familiar with it. Friends took us to a szechuan restaurant in LA, and we ordered a ton of dishes, several of which were loaded with Sichuan peppercorns. We experienced that numbing ma-la sensation. Love it. Did you order anything like that?

grace said...

oooh, toasted cumin. i'm seeing a lot of comforting food here!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Ali - none of it had that real Szechuan pepper numbing tingle, but there was a hint of it in the lamb dish.

Grace - it was a wonderful meal!

Bettina Douglas said...

Some of the dishes at the Toowong branch of the China Kitchen restaurant have lots of Szechuan pepper so I know that feeling. The chef at Sunnyback Hills seems to be more into chilli!


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