Howdy trendsetters! This post continues my recent theme of affordable eats, this time round it’s of an oriental persuasion…
Chillies. What can I say; I love ‘em. Not only do they taste amazing, but it turns out they’re incredibly good for you too. Chock full of minerals and vitamins A, B, C and E, they boost your metabolism, lower blood sugar levels and have strong antiviral and antibacterial properties (as well as doing a lot of other stuff too, click here and here to find out more). All of this is particularly good news as the folks at the Shanghai Tea Garden certainly aren’t afraid of throwing the stuff about with gay abandon. Hearing good things about the place from several different sources, myself and some friends went there for dinner last Friday night, and if we hadn’t had our weekly recommended dose of chilli beforehand, we certainly had by the time we left.
A modest little place styled after a 19th century Shanghai tea garden and tucked away towards the northern end of William St in Northbridge, its small size and pleasant-yet-unassuming Chinese décor belie a hidden gem in Perth’s Asian dining scene. As is the case with a lot of Anglicised cuisine, I often find that most Chinese restaurants are pretty much the same. You know the deal, Chow Mein, sweet and sour pork etc… However, the Shanghai Tea Garden stays true to its name and offers up some amazing dishes specific to western China that are a world away from your average suburban “Jade Palace” and its oily fried rice and lackluster kung po chicken.
While a few of the lads made a swift trip around the corner to the bottle shop, we tided ourselves over with a few serves of Shanghai dumplings. Now while they were good and had the right smooth, elastic feel and soupy filling, I have to say that they didn’t quite measure up to the ones at Northbridge Chinese Restaurant. But seeing as that Northbridge Chinese is pretty much the best in town when it comes to the dumpling game I didn’t hold it against them too much.
Taking the lead and ordering for the whole table (with the help of a couple of helpful recommendations from our waitress), for mains we had the Xian Jing Spicy Chicken with Potato & Handmade Noodles, Double Cooked Sliced Pork with Szechuan Chilli, Spicy Szechuan Fish, Ba Boa Tofu Claypot, Stir Fried Shanghai Bok Choy with Mushroom and the Crispy Duck with a couple of large steamed rice for good measure. The claypot, Bok Choy and Crispy Duck were all very nice (especially the duck as it was decadent but not too greasy), whereas the rest of the food was, quite literally, mind blowing. The Double Cooked Pork took roasted pork belly, finely sliced it and then stir fried it with onions, capsicum and a whole lot of chilli. Amazing! Like being punched in the mouth by a delicious, fiery pig. Similarly, the Spicy Fish turned out to be a vast cauldron of fish soup absolutely brimming with blazing crimson seafood lava. However, the showpiece was definitely the chicken. Even though we ordered the smaller size it was still a vast platter of the in-house made fresh noodles topped with rustic chunks of chicken, potatoes and, you guessed it, lots and lots of chilli. I’ve honestly never had anything quite like it in a Chinese restaurant before and, even as I write this, I’m trying to figure out a date when I can get back and have some more. It was seriously that good.
After an amazing, sweat inducing and mind-altering meal I was already a very happy camper. Even though we’d asked for things to be a medium level of spicy, they didn’t hold back on account of the fact that we were a bunch of honkies, and for that I accord them a lot of respect. Then we got the bill. All up it came to $20 a head, a total bargain for the brilliant feast we’d enjoyed, and seeing as it was BYO alcohol too there was no nasty drinks bill to ruin the party either. Although I hate to end a post on a downer I have to say that as amazing and chock full of healing powers as chilli may be, even the colossal amount I ate during dinner wasn’t enough to stave off the effects of the wine and cocktails that accompanied and followed it and thus I was spectacularly unwell come Saturday morning. So let that be a lesson to you all!