Chef’s Gallery

Posted on August 20, 2014

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Whoops, time has slipped by me again. Same excuse, life getting in the way, but there was also a short getaway to Sydney. It was nice to get away from the daily grind and chilly Melbourne to enjoy the mild and sunny days of Sydney’s winter.

Every time I’m in Sydney, I’m always a little struck with the differences in food culture. Both cities have a vast array of good food available. But quite different styles. Perhaps it’s due to the larger migrant population in Sydney, but I always feel like there is a more variety in ethnic cuisine in Sydney. Yes Melbourne does have a wonderful mix of ethnic food, but a lot of the ethnic venues in Melbourne tend to be a bit on the daggier side of things compared to Sydney. (I’m aware there are a few exceptions; this is a generalisation afterall…)

Take for instance Chinese food. In Melbourne, they tend to be dingy cheap eats, or daggy family friendly venues with not very much in the middle. Sydney seems to have a wider range of Chinese foods with plenty in the mid range level that still managed to have a funky vibe. Like Chef’s Gallery (Ground Flood 273 George Street, Sydney NSW), their schtick is traditional Cantonese style cuisine with modern interpretation. There’s three branches across Sydney, and we managed to snag a table at their then newest location, Wynyard. The venue has clean modern lines and an ambiance that appeals to Chinese families as well as the young the hip. I can’t really think of an equivalent style venue for Cantonese cuisine in Melbourne. If you can, please let me know, I’d be very keen to try.

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To keep with the modern take on Cantonese food, there’s even a few signature cocktails with distinctly Chinese characteristics on offer. The one I tried was the ‘Red Cliffs’ (around $15), named after a historic event, the Battle of Red Cliffs (208-209AD) and movie of the same name. My love of the movie drove me to choose this cocktail. This gin based cocktail had a red tinge thanks to the grenadine and the addition of basil seeds made it feel a bit like an adult bubble tea. While I did like that little Chinese spin, I didn’t like the cocktail half as much as I liked its movie namesake. I found it far too strong for my tastes, but perhaps it’ll be more favoured by those who like their drinks on the stiff side of things.

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We fared much better on the mocktail list, the strawberry delight (~$6) was equal parts fruity and fizzy. A nice little refresher.

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For our food order, we couldn’t go past the mini Macanese pork buns ($15.90) which is listed as a very popular menu item. Not hard to see why. Fried pork chop with pork floss, lettuce and sweet chilli mayo encased in a fried mantou (a Chinese steamed bun). Yum. Not a criticism, more of a suggestion, but my companion and I believe that if they used a chilli mayo instead of a sweet chilli mayo, these pork buns will go from good to amazing. Thing is, pork floss and mantou are already a touch sweet, so if you’re having more than 1 bun, it can very quickly feel a little overwhelming. Mayo itself also has an inherent sweetness, so we found it a bit odd that they chose to use sweet chilli with the mayo. If they had just used a chilli mayo, we believe the potency of the spice should cut through the sweetness and richness to give the pork buns more complexity. But maybe that’s just us.

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Next up was the spinach noodles stir fried with seafood ($18.90). This was another must order dish for me. Well technically any noodle dish would have satisfied me. How can one not try a noodle dish when Chef’s gallery is known for their large windows showing off chefs hand pulling noodles? This was really delicious. The noodles had a really nice texture and I thought they were quite generous with the seafood. The nori and sesame seasoning on top was a nice flavour enhancer.

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Last was their new menu addition, the fried pork belly and barramundi dish with a sweet sauce (approx $28). The concept of this dish was to eat with your hands, wrapping up a bit of pork belly and fish in lettuce, top with some basil leaves then dip into the sweet sauce. In reality, it did not happen like this. The lettuce they gave us was mesclun, which is far too small for wrapping food in. They would have been better off giving us iceberg or cos leaves. Secondly, the sauce was sickly sweet. All we could taste was sweetness, there was no other discernible flavours, no hint of salt, no taste of any of the spices the menu said would be in the sauce. We were very disappointed. The only saving grace was that the pork belly and barramundi were cooked rather nicely. Perhaps this dish is still a work in progress, they did specify it as a new menu item afterall. Hopefully for their sake, they will make the necessary improvements so that the dish can be eaten as it is described. The sauce definitely needs to be reworked.

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We had hoped to finish our meal with the ‘piggy buns’, sweet Chinese steamed buns shaped and decorated like little pigs, but unfortunately they had sold out for the day. 😦

Overall Chef’s Gallery provided a reasonable eating experience. I did like the contemporary food presentation and I found that generally the food was decent. There were elements that could be improved, but there were also a few good points. Pricing is moderate, slightly marked up from the daggier venues that may dish up comparable food. I would go back when in Sydney again. The noodle dish we tried was superb and I’m reasonably confident that their other noodle offerings will be just as good. I would be interested to see if anyone will bring a similar venture similar to life in Melbourne. I for one definitely think there is a gap in our market for this type of venue.

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