A writer sharing travels, experiences, a love of festivals & events. Life is a journey and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at https://www.travelwithirenke.blogspot.com
Published September 24th 2015
Confucius says doesn't matter when you go, as long as you go
Stylish and elegant, Simmer Huang is not your average Chinese restaurant experience. This new cuisine option at The District in Chatswood Interchange is a breath of fresh air, combining a cocktail bar and unique hotpot masterpieces cooked at your table.
Upon entering, we were greeted with a smile and attentive service that continued throughout the night. Tempting cocktails, with Asian influences, started our journey to fulfilment. There was Bubbling Asian, made with rice wine; Plum Blossom with Hibiki 12YO and Aperol; Dr Huang, a mixture of herbal teas, mint and alcohol; and a Hemingway-style Daiquiri with grapefruit juice. All went down well. Many more interesting combinations are on offer. Lucky it's not far to walk or stagger back to the train station.
The official launch saw us rubbing shoulders with Alvin Quah, finalist and favourite from Masterchef series 2 on Channel 10. Partnering with Simmer Huang as part of their ambassador program, and host for the night, Alvin produced two signature dishes. One was an entree, Duck Salad, and the other, a fabulous Pork Rib Hotpot. Both were winners. They were delicious and spicy but not so spicy your palate burned.
Alvin with his signature duck salad and pork hotpot
Side dishes we indulged in included Spicy Tofu Salad, made of bean curd strips, and Hometown Chicken, with a spicy sauce. These were also delectable. They have various other salads to choose from as well as Mushroom Bites and a Sour Bowl that combines jellyfish, peanut, cucumber and preserved egg with a sour spice sauce. Some interesting combinations to be had.
The piece de resistance followed, the Hotpot. Each table has a built-in hotplate where your hotpot rests and cooks up a simmering feast that will feed a family of four. This interactive experience sees your waiter or waitress start with a butter paste and a load of vegetables, and some broth and spices. Your choice of meat or seafood is then added on top. It is covered and left to simmer for around 10 minutes before the lid is removed and a unique sauce is stirred in. A sprinkle of coriander adds to the colour and flavour. Another 5 minutes and it is ready to dig into.
First the vegies and some seasoning for our hotpot
We had a Fish Hotpot. It was the best fish I've had in a while, fresh and very tender, melt in your mouth fish. This huge soup had a great consistency, not too watery, and filled us to the brim. When we were three quarters of the way through it, our waitress came and added in some famous Chinese noodles. Spun and stretched in front of us, they're cooked for a few minutes before being ready to taste. A very nice addition, they resembled fettuccine but with wider strips.
Noodles - the last component
There's lots of variety with the hotpots. You can choose from King Prawns to Teriyaki Beef, Chicken Wings, Barramundi or Catfish, Duck and more. Alvin's signature Pork Rib Hotpot will be available for a month and new hotpots from the restaurant and its other ambassadors will come on the menu from time to time. With the vegetables, you can also pick what you want. Prices per hotpot range from $35-55 with one at $80, being the Alaskan King Crab legs marinated with an assortment of vegetables. Divide the price between 4 people and it is very good value.
The food is fantastic and adding to that is the decor using traditional Chinese elements of wood and the colour red. Lights, set in birdcages, hang from the ceiling and sophistication comes in leather bench seats keeping diners comfy at marble tables. Catering to 160 people at a time, it is well organised in its aisle setup and delivery of service. There's no 'Confucius' here.