When Laura suggested we catch up on the Friday before her birthday with Tammi and Marty she had a Mexican feast in mind and asked if I knew of anywhere we could go in the city.
I put on my thinking cap but was stumped. I couldn't think of any Mexican in the city (great or otherwise - this is pre El Loco by the way) so instead I more than happily replied with a selection of restaurants that I really wanted to go to. Hey, it may be Laura's birthday weekend, but there are A LOT of places to get through on my wishlist so I need to make the most of any opportunity to whittle away at the list.
Lucky for me Chefs Gallery was also on Laura's list so a booking was made for the four of us to celebrate Laura's birthday and strike another restaurant off my wishlist.
Now let me begin by saying that whilst I REALLY LOVED the food at Chefs Gallery the service left a little to be desired. To start with they had messed up the night for the booking and didn't have a table for us, despite calling Laura the night before to confirm. When I pleaded that it was a birthday dinner and blinked back faux tears of disappointment at the scary Maitre d' lady we were told we could have a table, but had to be out in 90 minutes. Deal!
Whilst our order was taken quickly, drinks took FOREVER to arrive at the table and the utensils we'd requested for non-chopstick wielding Laura and myself didn't arrive. Tammi was promptly told off by the head waitress when she got up to check where our stuff was, and we later got a rap on the knuckles for ordering more dishes 35 minutes before our allotted 90 minutes were up. All of that aside the food was damn tasty but I feel like I deserve a medal that says "I survived the cranky waitresses at "Chefs Gallery" - a bit like those people in Seinfeld who would risk the wrath of the Soup Nazi time and time again just to partake in his delicious soup.
Would I go back? Absolutely! I just hope the cranky-pants service was a once off.
So enough about that, let us move on to the highlight of the evening...the food! We decide to order a bunch of little plates and share them amongst the four of us.
We start our meal with Crab Meat Spring Rolls with Dipping Sauce ($12.90). These rolls were similar to the Crab Net Spring Rolls I had at Misschu's Tuckshop in Darlinghurst - a thin, crunchy net of pasty wrapped around minced crab. The dipping sauce, despite being an ominous firey red colour wasn't as spicy as it looked...thankfully.
Next is a serve of Prawn and Pork Wontons in a Shanghainese Style Spicy Sauce ($9.90). Like the Crab Spring Rolls, the spicy sauce in this dish is not as fearsome as it appears, and added a nice kick of flavour to the wontons.
Lightly pan fried Prawn and Cabbage Dumplings ($9.90) are next to arrive at the table. After the spicy "ish" sauce that accompanied our first two dishes these dumplings seemed very plain and very simple - not that that is a bad thing mind you. The dumplings are lightly pan-fried giving the skin a lovely crisp texture.
The Chefs Own Mini Pork Burger ($13.90) were lovely, but every bite had me laden with guilt - there is NO WAY I can kid myself that this babies are healthy. As the menu says these are very cute and tasty...and I'm not going to disagree. How could you not fall in love with a deep-fried Mantou Bun housing a deliciously fatty piece of pork. In fact these were SO good that we ordered an extra dish even though you can tell they are a heart-attack waiting to happen from 20 meters away.
I couldn't go past one of my all time favourite dishes Wok Fried Green Beans served with Pork Mince ($17.90). The menu says these are served with pancakes, but ours never arrived which is a pity as it's a variation on the dish that I've not encountered before. That said, the dish is as good as I could've hoped for, crispy, charred fried beans glistening with oil and dotted with pork mince. Salty and delicious!
The Seared Scallops served with Garlic and Oil Free Vinaigrette Dressing ($24.90 for 5 pieces) were perfectly cooked, but we did note that some of the scallops were nearly double the size of others. The vinaigrette dressing was lightly and "zingy" and it was nice to have a dish that was light on the oil after the very naughty Mini Pork Burgers.
The Steamed Prawn Dumplings ($7.90) were the most simple dish of the evening. Lovely plump prawns wrapped in a not too thin, not too thin dumpling skin.
The Seafood Pancake with a Creamy Lime Sauce ($12.90) appeared to be a fancy name for Prawn Toast with Salad Cream on top. Another deep-fried dish to have me thinking about the state of my arteries, but oh so tasty.
I'm sure the Steamed 'Piggy Face' Buns ($7.90) are what attract half the crowds to Chefs Gallery. I for one know that as soon as I saw the first picture of these I just had to come and try one for myself. Too cute, and oh so tasty with a sugary sweet black-sesame seed filling. It seemed a shame to bite into such a pretty dumpling, but after your first taste of the filling you'll forget all about the half eaten piggy face staring forlornly up at you...I promise!
As well as the yummy food and "Piggy Face Buns" one of the other attractions of this restaurant is the theatre of being able to watch the food be prepared before your very eyes. As the name suggests, the chefs are on display for to see - stretch noodles, pour soup, make dumplings - in a glass fronted kitchen at the side of the restaurant. Couples dining together can grab a prime spot at one of the bench seats at the window and watch the chefs hard at work.
Chefs Gallery is at 501 George Street, Sydney - although the entrance is actually located on Bathurst Street (right next to KFC).