The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Monday, 14 May 2007

Hawker's Cuisine, Chinatown Northbridge

Hawker's Cuisine is located in Chinatown in Northbridge where Chin Chin Eating House used to be. Chin Chin was a special place for us and we were very sad to see it close. It was where Rob and I went for dinner on my 21st birthday more than 3 years ago, and impressed with the food [the Hainanese chicken rice was fantastic!] and service [the best in Chinatown - the Chinese restaurants in that area ought to have taken lessons on customer service from them], I decided to have my 21st dinner there with friends and family. It was also where we had our celebratory wedding dinner 2 years ago with family and close friends who'd helped out with the wedding.

Hawker's Cuisine opened in its place shortly after the owners of Chin Chin decided to close shop. Serving Malaysian and Singaporean food, we tried it when it first opened last year (before coming to Japan) and quite liked the food. However, when we went a second time shortly after our first visit, the same dishes tasted different, and the quality wasn't as good as our first visit. Needless to say, we weren't too impressed with the inconsistency. We thought that they were definitely not fit to replace our beloved Chin Chin.

When organising to meet up with some of my university friends on our recent visit to Perth, they suggested we go to Hawker's Cuisine for dinner. Ah, why not? Perhaps by now they would have a more consistent formula for their dishes. The place has certainly gained popularity, particularly with the non-Asians. There is an outdoor al-fresco dining area, which would be nice during the warm weather. It's not a flash and fancy place, and likewise the service is typical of Chinese restaurants - it could be better, but it could also be a lot worse.

We ordered some spicy Belacan Fried Rice (belacan is fermented shrimp paste with chili), Singaporean-style Chilli Prawns, Sizzling Japanese Tofu, and Szechuan Beef. We also ordered a chicken dish with a supposedly special sauce, but it will not be included in this review as I did not find it at all special (and I can't remember the name).

I quite liked the Belacan Fried Rice, which was very tasty although very greasy as to be expected of a fried rice dish. There were bits of shrimps and the usual vegetables like diced carrots and peas. The Chilli Prawns wasn't that spicy, and I wasn't impressed by the fact that the prawns were literally drowning in the tomato-based eggy sauce - the feature of the dish ought to be the prawns, not the sauce.

The Sizzling Japanese Tofu was quite nice, but Rob reckons that the same dish at City Garden two doors away was perhaps better. This was my favourite dish at dinner. The Szechuan Beef was served covered with dried chilli and Szechuan pepper berries. I thought that the dried chilli made the dish look more chilli hot than it actually was, and certainly made it look very Malaysian/Singaporean. The smaller Szechuan pepper berries were plentiful and were scattered throughout the dish and was very spicy. Probably not an authentic Szechuan dish, but quite good in its own right.

I have to say that although the food was decent and better than average, it wasn't outstanding. What makes Hawker's Cuisine a bit different than the other Chinese restaurants in Chinatown is perhaps the fact that they serve unusual dishes like Marmite Chicken (Marmite tastes similar to Vegemite), which I've heard is delicious, but did not get to try on this occasion as one of my friends present at dinner wasn't too fond of the dish. I would come here again if only to try the more unusual dishes.

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