From fine dining to home-cooked-like-grandma, there’s no need to head into central Sydney for a top Chinese meal. Chatswood, the Chinatown of the North Shore, has it all. We’ve visited some of the most popular restaurants to bring you five of the best.
1. General Chao
General Chao is a super hip, Chinese-Asian fusion venue with great decor, located in the upscale The District dining precint above Chatswood station. Bigger is better here, with massive crunchy succulent prawn toast, saucer-sized prawn crackers and a giant pork bun, filled with braised free range pork belly, chestnuts, mustard greens and shallots, served with smoked black vinegar. I think it’s designed to be shared, but there’s no one standing over me with a camera, is there?!
Also highly recommend is the The General’s Fried Chicken, coated in herbs and spices and served with house fermented Siracha. We also take a quick detour to Seoul as we can’t resist the “Bu-Gak” – Korean-style chips featuring puffed rice seaweed, tempura enoki mushroom and crunch lotus root with sweet plum powder.
And thanks to our friendly waiter’s recommendation, we go on a little Malaysian trip with the Prawn Ravioli Laska, Italian-inspired prawn ravioli served with punchy laksa sauce, curry leaf oil and coconut milk. It’s rich, fragrant and delicious. All in all, General Chao is a wonderful choice for groups when you’re struggling to reach consensus over which Asian cuisine to pick.
General Chao, The District (above Chatswood Interchange), Sun-Thur 12-9pm, Fri-Sat 12-10pm, https://generalchao.com
2. New Shanghai
Several years since it opened, even swallowing up the neighbouring restaurant and doubling its floorspacce, New Shanghai still has queues out the door for lunch and dinner, pretty much every day. The queue moves quickly, though, and it’s worth the wait. Located in Chatswood Chase it features traditional, stylish red and dark wood Chinese decor – “1930s street-style setting” as they describe it – including areas that work well for larger, private groups.
Xiao Long Bao dumplings are the signature here, and if you’re seated at the bar (a good way to queue jump if there are just one or two of you) you can watch them being made. Today our chosen dumplings are Lamb & Leek, soft snowy little white pillows of succulent meat, like a delicate version of a central Asian manti. We’re hooked on the Rainbow Beef – crispy chewy strips of beef in a tangy sauce – and the Sautéed String Beans with Dried Shrimp and Soy Sauce.
The Crispy Skin Chicken with Garlic & Chilli Sauce is another great one, as well as ideal for fussy or less adventurous diners, as the sauce is served on the side. We wash everything down with icy-sweet Lychee Black Teas. New Shanghai is a chain, by the way, they also have outlets in Queensland and Victoria, as well as Dubai and Shanghai of all places.
New Shanghai, Chatswood Chase, Mon- Sat 11am-9pm (9.30 Thurs & Sat), Sun 11am-8pm http://www.newshanghai.com.au
3. Mr Stonepot
Mr Stonepot, located on the ground floor of Lemon Grove Shopping Centre, is another so-good-you’ll-queue Chinese restaurant. There’s no point commenting on the decor: inside it’s a bit crowded, but half the time you get seated outside in the rather uninspiring shopping centre – however the food is so outstanding that you won’t notice or care. Seriously. The food is first rate amazing: fabulous quality, vast portion sizes, beautiful presentation, and at amazingly reasonable prices. It’s like being served Michelin 3-star in a carpark.
All around us, people are dining on the most wonderful looking dishes: whole fish swimming in rich sauces served in huge stoneware bowls, piles of steaming fresh vegetables, a Kung Po Diced Chicken Thigh that elevates the popular dish to food-art. We highly recommend this, as well as the Honey Prawns for the less spice-inclined diner. They’re golden crunchy treats that hit more of a dessert button than a savoury one. Something else we also spy is a dish that comes swirling with clouds of dry ice around dark red shiny spheres. It might be the Cherry Shaped Durian Taste in the Cold Appetisers section (well presumably it’s cold!) but I’m not sure. It’s spectacular at any rate.
But what we’re really here for, for the third time in a row, is the Crispy Egg Plant cooked twice in Sweet and Sour Sauce with a Hint of Chili. OMFG. OMFG. Nothing more needs to be said about Mr Stonepot than this dish. You can see it above, though no photo can do it justice. But I will squeeze in a mention of probably the most affordable Peking Duck pancakes I’ve ever found – just $20.80 for HALF a duck, coming in two courses with the pancakes and then a choice of San Choy Bao or Fried Noodles.
Mr Stonepot, Lemon Grove, Chatswood, Mon-Sun 11am–3.30pm, 5pm–9pm
4. Chinatown Noodle House
Chinatown Noodle House is another wonderful Chinese restaurant in the Lemon Grove shopping centre. It has a lot of Northern Chinese specialities on the menu, such as hand-made noodles with chopped garlic, dark vinegar and dried chilli, and large, crispy coated lamb dumplings. Decor-wise it’s pleasant: spacious and functional with a white tiled floor and some bright wall hangings, but you’re not going to be transported back to the Ming Dynasty or anything.
The Fragrant Spiced Eggplant is a rich and aromatic hit, consistently great, and we also love the Crunchy Spicy Shredded Potato. Not least because we tried to replicate this at home once, and it was an absolute lengthy fiddle and turned out to be fairly disastrous. So all credit to the chefs who throw it together, tip top delicious, in minutes. It’s an unusual way of serving potato from a Western cuisine perspective: it’s julienned and stir-fried with lots of vinegar and chilli, so it remains translucent and crunchy, rather than the soft opaque potato experience one normally expects.
Chinatown Noodle House appears to be doing some speciality “Dalian Small Seafood” dishes that look tempting. I had to google “Dalian” because my Geography is hopeless (this is what comes of ditching Geography for German GCSE – at least I can ask the best way to the bahnhof) – apparently it’s a major seaport in the south of Liadong Province, on a sort of peninsula in North Eastern China. It’s renowned for its unique seafood dishes, and here they include things like Crispy Shrimp with Mini Pancakes, Top Broth Radish Prawns and Pinecone Sweet Crispy Whole Fish. Also some tempting looking tentacle things on another poster, except the descriptions are in Chinese only.
Chinatown Noodle House, Lemon Grove, Chatswood, Mon-Sat 10.30am-9pm, Thurs & Sat to 9.30pm, Sun 10.30am-8.30pm
5. Funhouse Malatang
Malatang is a cool way of creating your own meal. You start with a mini supermarket basket and tongs, selecting everything from vegetables and noodles to seafood, meat, dumplings and fish balls, then take it to be weighed and pick your soup base. These include spicy, hot and sour, tomato, bone broth and others. Located in The District dining precinct above Chatswood Interchange, there’s seating inside and out, and it’s bright, friendly and relaxed.
We love the spicy soup base, but confess to odering it “less spicy” (they’re fine with this, it seems to be an established request). That way we enjoy the mouth numbing hit of sichuan pepper without completely melting our frail oesophagi. A good basket of food usually weighs in at around $15, but if you spend more than this, you have the option of a sort of ying-yang style divided soup bowl with two different flavour soups. The chef takes your basket away, and goes off to work the funhouse magic.
When the buzzer sounds and you collect your creation, the fun is still not over! It’s time to head to the condiments bar, where you can jazz up your soup with things ranging from chopped garlic and chopped pickled vegetables to sesame sauce, which adds a richness and helps soften the spicy kick a bit.
Funhouse Malatang, The District (above Chatswood Interchange), Sun-Thur 12-9pm, Fri-Sat 12-10pm, https://www.themalatang.com.au