What Attracted Me To The Tasty Eating House 香滿堂?
The first time was actually its interior decoration which reminded me of those traditional tea-houses that belong to an inn in a kung fu movie. Located on the ever busy Victoria Avenue in Chatswood; thanks to its decor I caught a glimpse of this Chinese bistro in between a popular Cantonese seafood restaurant and a Cantonese BBQ house. My casual lunch turned out to be quite satisfying and since that discovery, the food has led me here for many more meals.
After the devastating Australian bushfires, there was a tiny window of relief. Before the spread of COVID-19 in Sydney, I organised a small gathering, a lunch with Kent, myself and our friend, marketing guru Nyk Sykes, a post Chinese New Year celebration.
The lovely Jenny who has been looking after me for a while now took my booking and also passed on the information to the owners that ‘there will be photos taken’ during our lunch – all A-OK. And it was Jenny who welcomed us and showed us to our table. While browsing the menu, ‘Tsingtao Beer please!’ – for Nyk and Kent. And a pot of jasmine tea for all of us. As the host, I was in charge of ordering, and here are my choices:
夫妻肺片 – Sliced Beef, Tripe And Ox Tongue In Chilli Sauce
This dish is originally from Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan. A street food using ox offal, mixed with sliced beef in Sichuan style chilli sauce which became popular towards the end of the Qing dynasty (1636 – 1911). This dish was reinvented and improved by a Chengdu couple in the 1930s, and named after them as Fuqi Feipian 夫妻廢片- ‘Couple’s Waste Slices’ or ‘Waste Slices of the Husband and Wife’. ‘Waste’ or ‘unwanted’ being how offal cuts are often called in China. However the word fei 廢 ‘waste’ was not considered sophisticated, and so it was to be replaced by the same pronunciation word which is 肺, meaning lung. And that’s how this platter 夫妻肺片 ‘Lung of the Husband and Wife’ won its name; although nowadays and somewhat ironically, lung is no longer used in this creation.
Worth mentioning here is that this dish as prepared at Houston’s Chinese restaurant ‘Pepper Twins’ was crowned ‘Appetizer of the Year’ by ‘GQ’s 10 Best New Restaurants of 2017’ list. They named it ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’.
Being a big fan of Sichuan cuisine, if this item is on the menu I must order it. It’s a benchmark dish for me. This Sydney version seemed milder in its red chilli oil usage compared to my previous favourite from a restaurant in New York City (though that’s another story..). Besides the numbing sensation of Sichuan peppers and chilli, of which I can never get enough; the different character of the various cuts of meat really make this meal, a ‘textural masterpiece’ to quote Brett Martin, the Chief Food Critic for GQ Magazine, and I agree. Nyk being a first timer to Fuqi Feipian seemed to be enjoying every bite of it too, stating: ‘I can see why you like it so much Vivienne!’
醬豬蹄 – Marinated Pig’s Knuckle
I was so looking forward to this glutinous sticky sauce appetiser. However it was much dryer than it really should be. The expected sticky sauce was non existent and it was under-seasoned. I understand this cold plate of pigs’ knuckles was pre-prepared, and not made to order. It was Kent’s first pigs’ trotters and not knowing how it should be, so he quite enjoyed them anyway. Likewise for Nyk it seemed who really got stuck in.
You might want to check with the staff if they do offer it freshly made; maybe call ahead.. Having said that, they did give us a rather generous amount. I took the leftovers home, mixed them in a noodle soup and had no complaints there.
小炒肉 – Stir Fried Pork With Chilli
This was Kent’s choice and what a great choice it turned out to be! A good balance of spices of different kinds such as green pepper, red chilli; spring onion and sticky chilli bean sauce. The pork itself was moist, well seasoned and full of flavour. By the time I put the camera down to enjoy some deliciousness, there was only about a spoonful left as the ravenous team of Kent and Nyk had almost polished the whole plate off!
蒜蓉炒豆苗 – Stir Fried Snow Pea Sprouts With Garlic Sauce
I love snow peas sprouts’ delicate yet crunchy texture and their fresh flavour. The garlic sauce was very subtle, whereas I’d prefer it to be more pronounced. A little plain for my liking but the freshness balanced out the strong flavoured dishes such as Fuqi Feipian.
An Unpretentious Casual Dining Atmosphere
We learnt from Jenny that the restaurant opened four years ago and the owners are from Northeast China. ‘Why don’t they focus on the Northern style of cooking?’ I asked. ‘To be popular and well received by the dinners, our menu needs to show a greater variety!’ Explained Jenny. We picked 3pm to avoid crowds and yes, the kitchen was open throughout the entire afternoon, and customers kept coming in. There’s no music, only our conversations and laughter.
鍋包肉 – Deep Fried Pork With Sweet And Sour Sauce
Finally, we asked for Jenny’s recommendation.. ‘What’s Tasty Eating House’s signature dish?’ ‘鍋包肉, Deep Fried Pork with Sweet and Sour Sauce.’ ‘Then we must try it!’ From the picture in the menu, this all-pork-no-veges dish did not appear particularly fancy, but we were eager to give it a go!
It took a little longer to prepare compared to other dishes. When the wait was over, what arrived was a mountain high plate of crispy golden brown pork slices and it smelt so good! The sweet and sour sauce was quite syrup-like, I assume it’s made of rock sugar and white vinegar. The taste was definitely more of a sweet note but the competing sweet and sour were well balanced. The pork, tender and juicy, crispy on the outside from the light coating of flour. Kent declared it a mountain of Asian schnitzels, only finer!
‘Delicious!’ We nodded to one another as our mouths were full. It may have been a mountain but if you were too slow, you might miss out on a slice. ‘Now I know why it doesn’t come with any vegetables, it is a complete dish in itself!’ I came to the conclusion. Yum, Yum, Yum!!!
Looking For A Chinese Bistro In Sydney’s Lower North Shore?
If you are looking for a Chinese bistro in Sydney’s Lower North Shore, the Tasty Eating House is a good choice. Simply head to 393 Victoria Avenue in Chatswood. It is a short walk from the Chatswood railway station. The restaurant has no website.. yet; for enquiries, please call 02) 9410 2045. You might see me there picking up my Fuqi Feipian takeaway!
Open Hours During COVID-19 Restrictions
Due to the recent ban on dining at restaurants, cafes and food courts in New South Wales; Tasty Eating House only opens for takeaway orders for the time being. It is still operating seven days a week, from 11am to 10:30pm. I truly hope that we can overcome this crisis, sooner the better. Now I look back, even simple meals with friends are to be cherished. It has made me appreciate life so much more!