Spice Temple - Sydney, Australia

Well, never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine music would take me to the far reaches of the world. I was always amazed growing up at how many places music had taken me and I'm ever so grateful for my luck or blessings. Here I am sitting in a cool shishi restaurant in Sydney, Australia sipping on a tropical cocktail with hints of ginger and raspberry purée. This was quite an amazing experience for me as it was one of the first times I've enjoyed "fusion".

The reason I'm always a bit weary of "fusion" restaurants is that they always tend to leave me wanting more of one side or the other. If I'm going to eat chinese food I want to taste the 5 spice as the main ingredient. I don't like to disassemble the dish and think why would they put that spice with that dish. But I must say my mind has been somewhat changed. Spice Temple brings the traditional chinese flavors to a more distinguishing palette. I will say though that these are not foreign flavors. They will not blow your head off with out of this world flavor combinations or bring a new memory to your taste buds. But, you will leave full and satisfied.

Hot and Numbing Dry Wagyu
If this is how the dishes were going to be for the rest of this meal I am going to love it. That was the internal dialogue I had as I ate this dried then fried wagyu beef. It was spicy and crunchy with all the right seasonings. I could see myself eating large quantities of this and getting sick off of it and wanting to do it all over again.

Cucumbers with Smashed Garlic & Ginger
If you've never had Schezuan food, it's always recommended to get the "cool" dishes as well. Spice Temple recommended we get the pickles to cool our palette between dishes with numbing qualities. I think I'll try to make these cucumbers and post a recipe soon. They seemed just to include some salt, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and maybe some mirin. I'll get back to you on this one.

Steamed Eggplant with 3 Flavours
(Garlic, Coriander, and Sweet Pork)
One thing that I can say with confidence about this place is that they love some presentation. These dishes would come out in bowls that were ridiculously large and sit them on table top burners while the server compiles the dishes in front of you. I'm usually not one for gimmicks like this, and I'm still not one for gimmicks like this. Although it does make for some nice photos. The dish was very well balanced with a good amount of sweetness from the ground pork. The eggplant could have been a bit more prominent or smoked, but it was a great dish to have over some rice. Comfort food for your soul.

3 Shot Chicken (Beer, Chili, Soy)
This is a great example of a dish that just screams "buy me." I usually stay away from dishes like that. But this night seems to be a night where I go against my own grain and order based on the recommendation of the bartender who I found out was a foodie. SCORE! I was shocked to find that this dish really had a balanced flavor with the beer, chili, and soy. I didn't expect to distinguish the flavors with the broth in the soup, but it was very good indeed.

Hot Pot of Fresh Shiitake, Oyster, Enoki, and Wild Mushrooms
If only this dish had come out with the 3 shot chicken above. By the time we were done eating the chicken dish we had thought the server had forgotten to put in the order for the mushroom hotpot and in a way relieved. I was stuffed! Much to my dismay and demise, as we were polishing off the last hotpot, this one came out, and it was twice as big! I LOVE mushrooms. That's why I got this dish, but to attempt to eat all 9 varieties that were actually in this dish, took a Zen-like state of mind. I had to forget the fact my belly was crying out in pain and that there was still the walk home in front of me.

I can't say we were the members of the "happy plate club", but I'd like to think we put up quite the effort. If your in Sydney for any reason and looking for some nice upscale Chinese "Fusion" check out this spot. Make sure to call ahead a couple weeks in advance or know someone who can get you in for an early dinner spot. This place fills up fast.

Cheers, --Joe Kwon

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