Last Saturday, my tummy was very happy. Not only was the Sydney Food Bloggers' Christmas Picnic in the afternoon, I also had a very lovely friend's 21st in the evening! Awesome food ahoy!
The 21st was held at Emperor's Choice Restaurant at King's Street. Now I've got this real phobia about eating Chinese food in Sydney - just cause I've had quite a few bad rounds of pseudo Chinese food here - but this restaurant just blows my mind every time! The last time we had gathered here was for another friend's birthday, and I was so surprised that there really was such an awesome place to eat that I missed how exquisite the food really was.
Just as a note, the way Chinese banquets go is that you order loads of food, it comes out one or two dishes at a time and gets placed on a lazy susan in the middle of the table, and then everyone dig in!!
First up was the cold platter of fresh oysters, and salmon and lobster sashimi! This is one of my food dreams come true. The seafood was fresh and succulent, and I think I've really developed a taste for lobster sashimi (much to the demise of my wallet).
Then we had little pockets of wonder that were spring rolls. I am though, quite ashamed to say that I was so happy eating them that I forgot to take a moment to discern what was in them. They were really yummy too though!
Then duck! I love duck.
The poultry equivalent of red meat, the firm flesh with a layer of crispy skin is accentuated by a tangy plum sauce. Duck's quite easy to get wrong and overcook, but this was tender and silky - I think I finished a third of the plate myself.
And at every birthday dinner (said in a sage voice) there must be noodles.
The belief is that the long strands of the noodles are for a long life. (The Chinese can put auspicious meaning into any dish.) The soft noodles were matched with coral crab. How awesome is this? Sashimi and crabs in the one meal! I only usually get such a choice at the fish market!
Besides the noodles, you gotta have rice of course.
The fried rice with bits of tender tender beef was not too oily, and went so well with the salt and pepper squid and eggplant dish that I unfortunately didn't manage to get a decent photo of!! =( The salt and pepper dish had little fluttery feathers of seaweed that I eagerly heaped onto my rice and mixed in for that extra crunch.
There was also the succulent wagyu beef on a bed of sugarsnap peas. I know it's not the healthiest thing, but oh how I love fat in my meat. I'm sorry, but lean meat really doesn't do much for me. Must. Have. Fat.
The dark, juicy pieces of meat coupled with the crunch and the sweetness of the sugarsnap peas was a party in my mouth, but nothing can compare to the dish that was to come...
The Shandong chicken is Emperor's Choice Restaurant's signature dish (招牌菜 for those of you who know mandarin). Juicy pieces of chicken are drenched in a tangy, spicy...heavenly sauce. The mild spice from the chilli stimulates your taste buds while the tang moves in for it's delicious attack. The soft meat and the crispy skin joins in the melodious harmony of tastes and textures as flavours explode in all directions.
The last time I came here was for another friend's birthday, and this dish has haunted my dreams ever since. I would definitely go back there just for this, if nothing else.
And what's a birthday dinner without fish?
Oh how I've missed a whole fish steamed to perfection. Not that there's anything wrong with fillets, but sometimes you just want to taste the soft flaky sweetness of a fish that is served off the bone. I really regret wolfing down my bowl of rice and not keeping it so that I can drizzle the sauce that the fish is cooked in over it. And the best part is that you're assured the freshness of the fish too. Fish that is not fresh definitely cannot stand up to the delicate process of steaming, and that this beautiful fish was soft and had no fishy smell was a testament to the freshness of it.
It was such a good dinner, and of course, watching your friend turn 21 is such a joyous occasion. I especially recommend eating here during celebratory occasions - you'll have excellent food memories to accompany the memories of whatever you're celebrating.
Food and friends - isn't that what life is all about?
We ate at:
Emperor's Choice Restaurant
147 King Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
(02) 9232 1881
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