Three years ago when I was still living in Melbourne, I came up to Sydney for a week long holiday and stayed with a good friend. I had a lot of days to myself, and I spent one of those days wandering around Westfield Chatswood quite happily. It wasn’t until later when I returned home that my friend informed me that Chatswood actually also has Chatswood Chase, Mandarin Centre and Lemon Grove shopping centres…well, colour me confused!
From the outside, Lemon Grove Shopping Centre in Chatswood could be mistaken for the poorer twin of the shiny and developed Westfield which is situated just across the pedestrian mall on Victoria Avenue. It was built sometime in the last century, and boasts a hodge podge of little independent stores run by people from East Asia. Unlike Westfield however, it just happens to have a food court of some of the best food in Chatswood, including the unassuming Grape Garden Beijing Cuisine.
Run by a genuine family from Beijing (I could tell from their accent and the way they rolled their “r’s”!), the daughter takes orders as the mother steadily rolls out dumpling skins and the father makes noodles in the kitchen. They laugh and joke with regular customers as they come up and order, and it’s clear that they have a dedicated group of customers who come in every week without fail.
K and I stand for a while in front of the menu board, trying to decide what to order. When we see everyone else ordering this dish thugh, we knew we had to try it – hand made dan dan noodles with beef and medium-hot chilli sauce. This was a lovely dish, with nice thick and tasty stock that you just know has been simmering in the back for a number of hours. The hand-made dan dan noodles had a lovely consistency – firm, but with a chewy texture that really gave it some body.
I love spring onion pancake – I always order it if I see it on the menu anywhere I go. In fact, this obsession probably goes a long way in explaining my love for parathas and rotis as well! This is the first time that I’ve had it served with chilli peanut sauce and it’s a surprisingly good combination. I think it’s particularly appropriate for this pancake as it’s not as flavourful as others I’ve had, so the sauce helps to amplify the flavour.
Never go anywhere without ordering a plate of dumplings – a simple motto that will see you through any situation. Unfortunately, I found the skin a tad thick on these dumplings and the pork mince was very lean – it wasn’t fatty enough to have that impactful and juicy pork goodness that you can find in other pork dumplings.
Overall, I rate Grape Garden a 7 out of 10 – the food is well made in a rustic style. Unfortunately considering the plethora of excellent dining options in Chatswood, the food wasn’t actually exceptional enough to warrant a second visit anytime in the near future. It’s worth trying, but not worth returning unless you’re really stuck for options!