One positive to 2016 is that it was the year I started to really hone in on the kind of food I really like. It wasn’t that I was eating a whole lot of new things. But 2016 was more of a consolidation period, understanding what I wanted to eat and what I didn’t. Where I was able to make the most blasphemous of statements such as ‘I don’t actually like pasta’ or ‘Pizza is okay’ or ‘I really, really don’t like fried chicken skin Jeff’.
Example one, I adore Chinese food. 2016 came and went and it’s now on par/fast surpassing my love for Japanese cuisine. I enjoy both traditional Chinese (Cantonese) but I’m not opposed to modern or fusion takes if it doesn’t compromise on taste. Thus for my birthday dinner with the cherry and wider Instagram group, it seemed like a no-brainer that we had to check out Queen Chow, one of Merivale’s latest new restaurants. Located in Enmore at the old Queen Hotel, it’s certainly another unassuming old place that’s kept its historic shell with an interior that can only be descibed as Merivale-esque. Mr Wong (also Merivale) has been a long time favourite of mine although I’ve never blogged it and with Merivale veterans like Patrick Friesen, Chris Hogarth and Eric Koh up to bat for Queen Chow, I was fairly confident that I would enjoy this meal.
All photos below by @gookstagram
Salt and pepper squid, silken tofu, prawns with chilli bean mayo $24
We ordered a couple of snacks to start, one of them being some salt and pepper squid with a twist. I liked how the batter wasn’t too thick and also the inclusion of tofu in the mix. I’m normally a squid fiend but I found myself reaching out for the tofu, given that delicious play of textures with a crunchy layer versus the soft mound of tofu encased within. I found the seasoning was relatively light, presumably to encourage the use of the chilli bean mayo. While this wasn’t mind blowing, I think it’s a great opening dish that’s perfect for sharing amongst our party of 6.
Silken tofu, vegetarian XO, pickled long beans, mushroom floss 14
More tofu was on the cards since Sarah and I were the leading the ordering. I think the idea of this dish was a vegetarian rendition of chilled tofu with pork floss (sometimes century egg). I find silken tofu really refreshing as it goes down so smoothly, this was the same while still being a very savoury dish. I’m not sure it’s a ‘must order’ as you can probably get similar elsewhere but still tasty!
Stir fried milk, prawns, prawn roe, tobiko, fried bread $24
This was a must order for us after seeing this photogenic dish on Instagram multiple times and being intrigued by the concept of ‘stir fried’ milk. It also has a lot of my favourite ingredients such as prawns again, tobiko and yao char kwai (or youtiao if you like). As for the milk? I’m not sure how they did it, but it ended up tasting a lot like an egg white omelette. Still quite tasty and went well with the briny seafood flavour.
Steamed market fish fillet, ginger, shallot, white soy MP
I was initially anticipating an entire fish because I had incorrectly read the menu description. This fillet was cooked to perfection. The flesh was bouncy, bordering on melt in your mouth and had clearly absorbed the full flavour of the ginger, shallot, white soy and sesame oil. Pro-tip for carb advocates, this would go amazing with white rice. I only wish there was a whole fish of this.
Queen Chow fried rice, cuttlefish, char siu, sweet corn $21
Didn’t really have this since I don’t eat pork (char siu) but I think the group rated it. The hallmark of a good fried rice in my opinion though is for it to still look white in appearance rather than oily and golden while still bearing a good flavour profile, including that smoky wok hei.
Moreton Bay bugs, kombu butter,asparagus, tosaka seaweed $42
Bugs always make me so happy, when they’re of the (regular) eating variety. These were well cooked however the true stand out had to be the sauce, the kombu butter, that was just crazy umami and decadent. This dish needs a little pourer to sit on the side so you can add more to the bugs or alternatively do shots of it. My only complaint is that the portion was rather small for the price point. I reckon amongst the six of us, we had half a mouthful each.
Black market angus beef, baby king oyster mushroom, potato $32
The group was still peckish so we opted to order another main in the form of some red meat. The beef was surprisingly melt-in-your-mouthy even though it looked like it was going to be your stock standard chewy beef cubes. Sarah loved the potato and even I had to have one or two bits of spring onion because it was coated in such a moreish sauce with hits of black pepper. The rest of us were also fighting for remnants of the king oyster mushroom, definitely wish there were more. Vegetables and mushrooms are such great vessels to carry flavourful sauces.
Roast duck with plum sauce – half 40
If I had to pick a favourite red meat, it would probably be duck. Queen Chow’s take on a long time favourite roast meat features insanely crispy duck skin (even I had to have some) with very succulent meat that was just lightly blushing pink. Definitely one of the better ducks I’ve had around Sydney but purists who frequent Eastwood might think otherwise. Also I could probably tackle a half duck on my own.
Flowering garlic chives, schmaltz $9
We did not anticipate this being one of the top dishes of the night. But wow where can I get find a pool of schmaltz to drown myself in? Schmaltz is typically rendered poultry fat such as chicken or duck fat (in this case I think it was chicken) which I think would go well with ANYTHING. Dribbled on toast, poured over roast chicken, doused in pancakes, can we schmaltz all the things now? More than happy for this to become the next burger, macaron, cupcake trends. Garlic chives had a good bite to them, yes very nice, but overall that schmaltz sauce though.
Last but not least is the snow pea leaves which were actually the first thing to catch my eye when I first looked at the menu because vegetables are the best. Notice how it isn’t heavy at all and looks very lightly seasoned after probably only being blanched for under a minute. The perfect accompaniment to all of our deep fried and drowning in animal fat dishes.
The forgotten koi fish in the frozen pond $15
Dinner isn’t complete without dessert. Here we have the koi which is basically a modern interpretation of the mango pudding you often see at yum cha. Sitting on top of it all is a mango sorbet that’s got all the flavours of the tropical fruit almost like it’s 100% just frozen puree. The ‘pond’ has coconutty bits, jelly, cubes of mango, lychee granita and what must be coconut milk or cream. The ‘koi’ is the mango pudding but not like you’ve ever had it, none of that unappealing artificial flavouring here. Despite the coconut undertones, I really enjoyed this, it’s the perfect dessert for summer.
Don’t be fooled by the nondescript sounding name, what arrived was certainly not what we imagined coffee milk tea would look like. I don’t remember all of the flavours entirely but you’ve got your cloud-like mousse on top, coffee milk tea ice cream underneath, a whole bunch of little malt balls (think malteasers but smaller) and Valrhona chocolate cake pieces. I can’t remember what the other pieces are. Each spoon is a huge mouthful and a challenge to gather all of the individual components together, but the parts of this whole work fine on their own.
We roll right out of Queen Chow and into the clutches of two more eateries before we finally call it quits for the night. This is a testament to our wandering and insatiable appetites. If you like Mr Wong or daring attempts at shaking up an institution of a cuisine, check out Queen Chow.