Do you ever find that the older you get, the more you become a creature of habit? K and I go to Chatswood all the time for our weekly grocery shopping, and we have our favourite restaurants there that we go to all the time. We even have a routine where I get to stop by the pet store in Westfield to coo over all the gorgeous puppies and kittens before we start shopping.
We recently managed to tear ourselves away from our weekly routine and went out for dinner with some friends at a restaurant that we’d never been to before – The Rice Den. They specialise in interesting modern takes on Asian cuisine, ranging from reimagined Thai salads to Chinese syrup desserts with a twist.
We start with an entree of lightly battered school prawns, dipped in creamy aioli. The prawns were wonderfully crispy and crunchy, and it was much too easy to continually pop them into my mouth, one after another. Despite being deep-fried, it really didn’t taste unhealthy as it was so lightly battered. Dangerously more-ish!
We continue with duck stir-fried with assorted vegetables in a sweet chilli jam that was deceptively hot. It had the kind of long-lasting slow burn that left me gulping down glasses of water minutes later. It was really well cooked, with a great mix of veggies that added a good variety of textures.
As soon as I saw soft shell crab on the menu, I had to order it…I think it’s one of those unwritten rules! This dish is perfectly shared between four people, with four little crabs served. Like the school prawns, the crab is only very lightly battered and the freshness of the crab really shines through as a result.
Trying to be a bit healthier, we order a salad to share as well. With a tangy fish sauce-based vinaigrette, the julienned vegetables and fresh herbs prove to be a great base for the tender sliced beef. It’s a fantastic fresh and mouth-cleansing end to the main part of our meal.
But just because the mains are over, doesn’t mean that our meal is completely over! The dessert specials chalked up on the blackboard caught our eye, and we ordered a dessert each. Two of us ordered the super-creamy and sweet coconut cream sago.
Another friend ordered the black sesame tong yuen, interestingly served with syrup that included the distinctive flavours and aromas of star anise.
Breaking my dairy-free pledge, I decided that I simply needed to have deep fried ice-cream. At least green tea is a healthy choice of ice-cream right? It’s an incredibly hearty serve, large enough to be the equivalent of three scoops of ice-cream. This is definitely one dessert that is best shared between two people.
What The Rice Den has in spades that is lacking in many other Chatswood restaurants is the cool atmosphere and environment. The staff don’t try to rush you out in order to turn the table over for their next guests, and they’re dedicated to making the evening a fun one for you. The music is fun as well – with a playlist put together by the young Gen Y staff themselves, it’s a great mix of 90s pop that had me dancing in my seat all night!
With a 25% discount voucher from my Entertainment Book, we ended up paying around $80 for this meal for four. A bargain by any means – I think we’ll be back to The Rice Den!