Review: Jiangnan Kitchen, Haymarket

K and I seem to have a habit of having goals of attending special food event, only to fail spectacularly. We tried to go to the Flour Markets, only to be deterred by the massively long queue, and ended up dining at Brooklyn Hide.

Just recently, we tried to go to the Smooth Festival of Chocolate – almost as an afterthought as we were already shopping in the city. I have to admit we were a bit late in getting to the Festival as it was already nearing 4pm by the time we got there. Like total amateurs, we also decided to wander around the whole Festival first to see all the stalls and their offerings before making any decisions about what we wanted to eat.

An hour later after having browsed through each stall, we decided to go back to the beginning and work our way through the stands making our purchases. In a total comedy of errors though, it was 5pm by the time we made that choice, and we arrived at each of the stands only to be told that they had no stock left. If only we had been buying sweet treats as we walked through the Festival rather than at the end, we wouldn’t have walked away empty-handed!

Not all was lost though, as we decided to walk down to Haymarket from The Rocks for an early dinner instead, and stumbled across Jiangnan Kitchen on Goulburn Street, near the corner of George Street.

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It’s very clearly a new restaurant that’s only opened up in the past few months – everything is still spick and span and has that glossy brand-new sheen. Jiangnan Kitchen is already attracting quite a following though, with the restaurant at near-full capacity both downstairs and upstairs despite the early hour that we were dining there.

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As we walked past each table to our seats upstairs, we saw that every diner seemed to have a hot claypot still bubbling away in front of them – claypot was clearly the house specialty!

Soybean milk, $3
Soybean milk, $3

Thirsty after our highly disappointing chocolate-less walk from The Rocks to Haymarket, K orders a soybean milk which I find a bit overly sweet, though still full of that delicious nutty soybean flavour.

Milo Milk, $5
Milo Milk, $5

Determined to have my chocolate-y treat, I order a “Milo Milk”. I was highly disappointed by the Milo to milk ratio in this drink – surely everyone knows that the ideal ratio is four heaped tablespoons for each glass of milk? This version had no more than two heaped tablespoons of Milo, and thus was milkier and less chocolate-y that I would have preferred.

Special chilli sauce with dry egg noodles, $10.80
Special chilli sauce with dry egg noodles, $10.80

We shared a spicy noodle dish – advertised on the menu as being egg noodles, but which were most definitely wheat-based noodles. K was marginally disappointed because he loves egg noodles, but we couldn’t complain too much considering the mind-blowing self-torturing more-ishness of the special chilli gravy.

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Noodle mixing action shot

Looks can be deceiving – and while the gravy doesn’t look like it’s packed full of chilli – believe me when I say it is! My nose started sweating with moments of taking my first mouthful, and I’m pretty sure I resembled a cartoon character with steam coming out of my ears as I forced my way through the rest of the dish. It’s self-torture at its tastiest best, and I couldn’t stop myself from eating more.

Special homemade meatballs with dried day lily (small), $14.80
Special homemade meatballs with dried day lily (small), $14.80

We ordered a claypot dish as well in keeping with the other diners. The small special homemade meatballs were incredibly succulent and tender, falling apart in your mouth and releasing a burst of sweet soy flavours as soon as you took a bite. The day lilies are a bit of an acquired taste, but I found myself gobbling them down as the slight sourness of the lilies worked really well with the sweeter braising sauce.

House special rice crisp with prawn, $18.80
House special rice crisp with prawn, $18.80

Keen to try a ‘house special’ dish, we ordered the rice crisps with prawn. I had no idea what “rice crisps” would be, so imagine my surprise when this stir-fried dish came out with what looked like Rice Bubbles! Once the brief moment of surprise and interest over though, I found the dish disappointingly ordinary. From a handful tiny little prawns, a confusing mix of vegetables, and an underwhelming sweet and sour sauce, there wasn’t much to recommend about this dish – especially not for the price you pay. To be perfectly honest, I would have preferred to order another noodle dish!

Despite how disappointing the last rice crisp dish was, I’m already planning my next visit to Jiangnan Kitchen as the rest of the menu was very satisfying. It’s exactly the type of restaurant that would appeal to my father as ‘Chinese food with a twist’, so I’m contemplating this restaurant for a meal with my father when he flies up to Sydney for our wedding in November!

Also of interest – while I was looking up information about Jiangnan Kitchen online, I found this link to the construction company that did the fit out of the restaurant. There’s some great photos there of the interior decor.

Jiangnan Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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