Thursday, April 2, 2009

Spice Temple - Sydney CBD

Oops, I had shaky hand sydrome that night, half my photos looked like this...
I know this might sound really lame, but I am not usually the type to plan too far ahead in life - I never knew what degree I wanted to study, I never thought about my career, never think about what my wedding will be like or what I would name my kids - but I decided from the time I was 16 that I wanted to go to Neil Perry's Rockpool for my graduation dinner. My brother's girlfriend went there for hers and it sounded like the most amazing dinner ever. I always loved watching Neil Perry on the Lifestyle channel, his food was just the type of food I wanted to eat. But when it closed for renovation a while back, I started thinking about other options which might be slightly more affordable considering the amount of people I want to bring to my graduation dinner.

As soon as I read the review for his new Chinese restaurant Spice Temple, I knew I had to try it. A and I have been suffering the food blues since coming back from Malaysia, where everything was so satisfying and filling that we actually lost weight while we were there. Now that we are back to our carb-filled, sambal-less diet, we are actually eating more calories-wise. It's very depressing. So I knew he would enjoy something like this for his birthday dinner, with a menu that promised to be packed full of spice.

The entrance to the restaurant is actually quite easy to miss, I only recognised it from other food blog reviews. A door covered with a super huge LCD screen displaying an animated curtain is all that invites you in. I love it. A spiral staircase leads you down to a dimly lit room, heavy with the smell of burning incense. There's something really warm and inviting about the restaurant. We are led to a table inside the main dining area, which is separated from the bar by wooden blinds. Everything matches, from the small red table lamps right down to the mother of pearl chopsticks and custom made ceramic dishes.

We order a half bottle of french Guwertztraminer and one of their lovely sounding cocktails. The wine list is ENORMOUS, and each cocktail is named after a chinese zodiac animal. A chooses the Rabbit. Jasmine tea soda with burnt rice, aviation gin, and green cucumber. It's lovely, extremely well balanced.

I had a lot of trouble choosing the dishes for our meal. The serving size of the mains sounded enormous for two people, so I try not to overdo it. We started off with cucumber pickles and the tofu and preserved egg entree.

Cucumbers with smashed garlic and ginger & Tofu and preserved egg with soy chilli dressing

I love both of these dishes. The cucumber pickles are refreshingly cool, the perfect offset to the heat from the fresh chillis in the tofu dish. The tofu and preserved egg surprised me, it may sound on the bland side but the dressing makes this the opposite of bland. We also try the fried squid entree. This is wonderfully moist, and I begin to realise that I might never have had non-overcooked squid until this very moment.

Fried squid with whole five spice and dark chilli paste

For our mains we have the hot, sweet, sour and numbing pork (chilli, sugar, black vinegar and Sichuan peppercorn) and the stir-fried spinach Sichuan style. We were only going to get the pork but the waitress recommended we get a vegetable dish. It ends up being the perfect amount of food, and the spinach is not bad. Could be spicier though! Don't be fooled, the highlighted red dishes on the menu are not as hot as they threaten to be. But this may just be because we are completely immune to the heat thanks to Malaysian food.

Hot, sweet, sour and numbing pork and Sichuan fried spinach

The morsels of pork are moist and deliciously moreish, it disappears quickly and I wish there had been more of it. The spinach isn't too bad and it feels good to have some greens amongst all the fatty meat. We opt out of desserts, there's still half a caramel apple cheesecake waiting for us at home.

Spice Temple - Sydney,
10 Blight St, Sydney
(02)8708 1888
Lunch: Mon-Fri, Noon to 3pm
Dinner: Mon-Sat, from 6pm
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