Chefs Gallery, on George St in Sydney's CBD, is a big, barn-like place. At lunchtime, it's filled with suits. On weekends, it's table-to-table diners. Everyone's there for a reason: Chefs Gallery is one of the best value restaurants in the CBD.
The atmosphere in the restaurant is refined. The wait staff are each equipped with radios, allowing them to communicate without having to rush or yell. Booths on one side allow a sense of cosiness for some diners, while the large tables in the centre are good for big groups. The bar seats surrounding the glass walls of the kitchen provide a great view, particularly of noodles being woven and stretched by the experienced chefs: it's mesmerising.
The food is the real draw, as it should be. The menu is packed with interesting little dishes that shows the hand of a chef who wants to explore the boundaries of Chinese-western food.
Fried eggplant with pork sauce (slightly post-mortem due to a ravenous appetite)
There is an obvious concession to Australian palates (there is one dish on the present menu that features shredded duck feet, but otherwise the menu contains nothing that will challenge – this may not be a plus for hardcore Asian foodies but it makes the many marvellous dishes accessible). The one criticism to make is a lack of purely vegetable dishes; vegetarians have a limited choice, sadly.
For the joyful carnivore, there's plenty. This visit, I had the vegetable dumplings, fried eggplant and noodles with spicy pork sauce. I'll be honest, the noodles weren't spectacular, but the sauce was tasty and the dumplings a thing of beauty. On a previous visit, we went wild and shared the Szechuan soup, soft-shell crab, Peking duck, green beans with pork, a variety of dumplings, and gave in to the piggy dumplings for dessert. I recommend branching out and trying a couple of interesting combinations.
CBDs are tricky in any city. The Elizabeth Street area can be difficult for a weekday lunch, despite having numerous eating houses. Chefs Gallery is the most interesting and, at mostly $10-$15 a dish, certainly the best value.