As part of my Good Food Under $30 challenge, I dined at Taipei Chef with my friend T before a local theatre production of Pride and Prejudice…how heavenly! In truth, we probably should have had high tea or something else more fitting to the Regency theme, but Taipei Chef ended up being an excellent choice.
It’s located down a side street off the main strip in Artarmon in Sydney’s north, hidden behind an inconspicuous shopfront. Walking in, I was greeted by a diminutive middle-aged Taiwanese woman who took one look at me and decided to spend the rest of my visit speaking in Mandarin to me. Luckily, I can understand and speak Mandarin but I can see how other Australian-born Chinese might become flustered by this familiar greeting in a language they can’t understand!
For a family-run affair, Taipei Chef is quite professional, with glossy designed menus and their own logo! It’s a far cry from other organic home-grown affairs that rely on photocopied menus in plastic sleeves for their menu. The Taiwanese locals have also discovered the restaurant, with a large number of families occupying in the other tables in the restaurant, talking and laughing loudly in Taiwanese.
For entree, I had one of their new menu items – Taiwan style sticky rice. I love anything that uses sticky rice, from sweeter Thai desserts to savoury lo mai gai. While the flavour and texture of Taipei Chef’s sticky rice was excellent, with the crunchiness of Chinese sausage and shrimps contrasting well with the smoother mushrooms, I was disappointed by the lack of ingredients in the dish. I’m biased of course – I prefer home-made sticky rice with a 60/40 rice to ingredient ratio, but I still felt like this version lacked some bite.
For main, I ordered the Mixed Dumplings in Hot and Sour Soup. The dumplings were absolutely enormous and were the size of a toddler’s fist. They would have easily sufficed for a meal alone, without an accompanying soup! The soup itself I found a bit disappointing – it wasn’t nearly hot enough, nor sour enough to qualify it as a Hot and Sour Soup, Chinese style the way I’m used to. It could have really benefited from a healthy dose of Chinese vinegar, and some chopped chillies.
Overall, I rate Taipei Chef a 7 out of 10 – the food is quite good, as long as you don’t go in with expectations based on a lifetime of eating Chinese cuisine rather than Taiwanese cuisine! The atmosphere is warm, friendly, and homely, and the prices very reasonable for the meal you get.