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Published July 1st 2013
Update November 8th 2020
Permanently closed and no longer trading.
A common method of ordering is pointing and nodding
I grew up in Chatswood, and while business empires have risen and fallen and the library was moved to a shopping centre and then relocated underground like a murder victim, Kam Fook has proved itself to be undefeatable, embedded in Westfield and always drawing solid crowds on weekends despite the growing competition next door.
Sneaking a photo in, pretending to text someone...
I conducted a quick Google search on Kam Fook for details and honestly, since childhood days I was never aware it was a seafood restaurant, but there you go. The entranceway sign itself never mentions it and the food, in the tradition of Yum Cha, seems spawned from the imagination of someone who had too much flour and not enough animal.
I grew up eating here and the years have taught that this is not fine dining. This is dining boosted by ornate decor and brand icons and mob mentality and the convenience of shopping centres.
It's definitely not bad, but all the staples you may expect from Chinese cuisine fulfil those expectations and then never surprise after that. You won't find art here, if food was a formula then they've got this boiled down to the last chicken, tidied into factory plates and slid clattering by human conveyer belts onto waiting tables.
In the tradition of Yum Cha, staff walk around with pre-prepared dishes. The game comes from seeing what is on selection, like playing Guess Who? with pastries rather than people. Sometimes it really does become like Guess Who? if you're after something specific.
When I am seated for lunch I have a few staples I order. Note that while all the foods have English translations I'm not entirely confident that the waiters and waitresses will know what you're talking about without you telling a story with your hands and repeating one-syllable nouns like you're reading a picture book to a child. I have thus provided the English and Chinese names for convenience.
I feel like a damn tour guide.
Pork Bun: Cha Siu Bao
Hovering phone over dish for the bird eye's view. Guests staring at me. It's getting uncomfortable.
Apparently the English translation is Cha Siu Bao, when the literal translation is pork bun so I have no idea what Wikipedia was thinking. The dense, white bread is even in texture, soft and sweet and hollowed out by a cocktail of syrupy, ground pork infused with strong sugary sauce. This should be recognizable to many for good reason.
This is pork? Ok, whatever. I've had these things since the dawn of time and they are solid dishes, they're filling and tasty like only processed food can be. Ground pork that somehow manages to taste like nothing in the wild but instead like mystery meat, wrapped in a skin of dough and decorated by crab roe is surprisingly good, not in a classical dining sense, but in a hamburger afternoon sense.
Shrimp Dumplings: Har Gow
This is shrimp. In wrapping. Like there's only so much I can convey.
Unlike everything else, this dish's components are recognizable without close examination. The ground shrimp is gift wrapped in semi-transparent flour. This is quite mild, which is a nice change from the usually heavy dishes on display.
There is quite a decent variety of other dishes, including some that are ordered from the menu instead of chosen off passing carts like a game of Cluedo. Yum Cha perhaps illustrates the arbitrary nature of many aspects of life. You could have your heart set on something and it could just never turn up. Or maybe you just suck at Guess Who?
I'm not going to review every dish, like this Pineapple Rice for example, a salad of full fried rice exotically melded with a fruity tinge to an otherwise hearty grainy dish.
Kam Fook is a jumble of dishes paraded by travelling salespeople in the bustle of families and friends. While this is certainly not the greatest restaurant you can go to, it's in Westfield, there's free parking, it's easy to find and it's never lonely. The food's also decent.
Why: Convenient, passable Asian Restaurant
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Sunday
Where: Shop 600, Level 6, Westfield Shoppingtown, 28 Victor St, Chatswood
Phone: (02) 9413 9388
It sounds like a Chinese fast food joint decorated to look like a posh restaurant by the sound of it. I can't say the place inspires confidence if it is mean to be a seafood restaurant and you can't even tell. I'll be looking out for a pigfish in the next nature program.
Thanks for your light hearted review of this restaurant and I hope you continue to write and develop your skills.
A thing that we are increasingly see is the "Americanisation" of the Australian language and unfortunately you propagate this in your restaurant review by using the term "shrimp" instead of "prawn". Australia and some other Commonwealth nations follow the British usage of using the word “prawn” almost exclusively, while it is the opposite in North America .
Prawns and shrimp are both decapod crustaceans i.e. that they have exoskeletons and 10 legs. Prawns are larger in size, and have larger legs with claws on three pairs. They have branching gills. Shrimp are smaller, have shorter legs and have claws only on two pairs. Their gills are lamellar, i.e. plate-like.
When Australian comedian Paul Hogan used the phrase, “I'll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you” in a 1984 American television advertisement, it was intended to make what he was saying easier for his American audience to understand, and was thus a deliberate distortion of what an Australian would typically say.
As you are a student who wishes to pursue a career in media, I will leave you to think about what we call the 60,000 tonnes per annum of PRAWNS that are consumed by the 23.1 million people here in Australia