I live in the south and thus visits to the west are seldom, once in a blue moon-style events. While there is a plethora of great food out in the west, I admittedly am quite lazy in visiting such a distant location, but honestly you wouldn’t do it just for the sake of food.
Well actually you might (and I have done it before), special occasions are also an exception to the rule.
Iron Chef is one of these exceptions – a rather good Chinese restaurant located in Cabramatta that has something for everyone.
Date Last Visited: 30/6/13
Address: 84 Broomfield St Sydney, NSW 2166
Recommended Dish(es): you can’t not have the Peking duck
The special occasion this time was the birthday of The Lady’s dad – such an event easily brings me out to the west, and when there’s food to boot, it builds a pretty good case for me to say yes!
The first item of note that struck me was how big the place was. There is lots of floor space, and LOTS of seating. I don’t think seating will be an issue most of the time, but peak hours beware – apparently, their yum cha (which is what they’re famous for) gets very busy. Booking is recommended.
Iron Chef bears the hallmarks of an “upper-class” Chinese restaurant, which is really another way of saying “ah, this is Chinese food, but it’s going to be expensive for Chinese food”. I wasn’t particularly worried, as I expected a certain level of quality. In any case, the decor is very nice and usually as good as a Chinese restaurant in Sydney will get (discounting fine dining, another category altogether).
What’s most important is that the end result of the attention to detail and the decor is that it feels clean, which is such a (sometimes stereotypical) view of Chinese restaurants that it warrants a mention. I don’t think Iron Chef has that issue, which is always good to note.
I did notice one plate had a little uhh…I’m not sure what on it, but a quick swap and that was out and done with.
In many Chinese restaurants, the first course that comes, regardless of what you actually order, is a starter soup that has several variations, almost always savoury. In mandarin it’s generally described as a soup that’s made with the bones of chicken or lamb, while in Cantonese it’s described as lei tong. In any case, it’s usually a subtly salty soup with a hint of meatiness that primes the palate for what’s to come.
Try to get the bowl that has large chunks of meat in it, don’t worry if you don’t get it the first time – there’s enough for everyone to get at least one refill.
Last thing – try to ignore the obviously dirty bowl the soup comes from…sheeeesh.
I almost never eat out at a Chinese restaurant without ordering Peking duck – as it’s not something my family could bother making at home, it only makes sense. Besides, I love Peking duck, especially when it’s served in its first form – wrapped in thin pancakes drizzled with hoisin sauce!
We get the duck cut right in front of us so the process is quite transparent. Within a few minutes, the prime sections (the skin, and the layer of meat underneath) is served!
This is usually the configuration I take – a piece of cucumber, plenty of hoisin, and a piece of Chinese leek for sharpness.
The taste is top notch stuff – the crispy skin of the duck is the star of the show, and the other ingredients just need to be there to complete it. It’s not often that a small morsel is close to perfect, but I could describe Peking duck in pancakes to be a classic example.
The one downside? Oily as heck – I hope you’re ready for that! It’s going to be a recurring theme.
Restaurants differ in how they end up serving the rest of the duck – some serve it with stir-fry noodles, some (Iron Chef included), serve it with san choy bow lettuce cups. We opted for neither and just had the rest of the duck by itself. Keeping it simple.
The oiliness of the duck is more pronounced here due to the lack of carbs & veggies masking it. I couldn’t eat many pieces until I just couldn’t take any more of the oil. It didn’t actually end up getting cleanly finished. I think I could have used more hoisin hmm…
For $28.8, this dish isn’t half bad from the value proposition perspective – it’s essentially a massive platter of meat! Duck makes a reappearance here, but this time it’s joined by virtually every other animal – including octopus (without the suckers).
After sampling each of the meats, I felt that it would be pretty awesome if all of the meat was just char siu pork – it is by far my favourite. I guess that’s why it’s propagated so well into so many restaurants. The octopus was too tough and flavourless for my liking, while the chicken was a little dry (though still quite good).
If I came here again with an adventurous group, I would order it again. Otherwise, char siu platter please!
For some odd reason, this dish could not be found on the menu despite its ubiquity across many other Chinese restaurants. Crab noodles (in this case with clear potato starch noodles) is always a menu favourite. What you see in the picture is actually TWO crabs – with 8 people in our party, this is a wise choice. I’d imagine this dish would cost at least $50, all things considered.
A crab cracker is provided so you’re not left being awkward trying to pry open the shell with your bare hands, though that’s what I did for the time before getting that cracker – it worked well, but don’t try it for yourself. It’s not worth getting your mouth/hands cut.
I usually enjoy these dishes as it’s just such a nice combo to have. Iron Chef’s serving is no exception – the noodles are slippery but didn’t break too easily – perhaps cooked just under al dente, with enough flavour to go by themselves. The crab adds to the mix, with juicy pieces with each crack, tasting just like a good crab should – stringy but not chewy meat. Satisfying stuff.
Unfortunately, the usual downside of its extreme oiliness remains – as such, it’s not something I could see myself eating oodles of, though I sure would love doing so.
This is a very nice wasabi beef dish that shines in how tender the beef itself is. Not so much melt in your mouth, but just how easily it chews and breaks apart with each bite. it’s very, very different to the texture of a steak, for sure. The taste is quite good also, though the wasabi I could have done without, nor the included butter cream.
I ate way too many pieces than for what should be good for me. Massive guilt? You betcha.
By this point, it seems almost ridiculous to order vegetables – who are we kidding? Still, veggies were indeed on the menu. Green beans fried with pork mince is a classic recipe that even dad makes at home, so not surprised to see it here. I am surprised that I can’t find it on the menu though – I imagine the price would be somewhere between $10-$20.
The beans were…you guessed it, super oily, but had a nice crunch to it and a sweetish center. They managed not to kill the beans in cooking! Hurrah!
There is one other stumbling block – there isn’t enough pork mince to boost the flavour of the dish to acceptable levels. Oh well…
Last of the savoury dishes, we just went all out and quite possibly ordered one of the most unhealthy things on the menu – deep fried prawns coated with duck yolk? Okay sure why not!
What’s unique about this dish, for me, is the duck yolk batter – that’s something I have not had before, and didn’t even realise it until I thought the taste of the batter was a little funny. I can’t honestly describe just how it’s different; it’s perhaps a little more earthy, but it’s just not the same taste as normal batter.
As for the prawns themselves – they lacked flavour, and required dipping into a provided sauce, which must be quite calorific as it was quite rich. Bring on the burn.
Though Iron Chef serves a selection of desserts, we skipped them as we had a birthday cake (brought from elsewhere). That said, they still provide complimentary cookies. These are the same ones you can buy at Asian grocery stores, with a buttery sweet taste, they just have to be liked.
There was also a serving of sweet red bean soup/congee that comes standard after every meal (though I forgot to take photos). More sweet times were had!
Also served are oranges. These are definitely welcome – all that oil needs to be washed out of the mouth somehow!
Iron Chef more or less meets my expectations of a classy Chinese restaurant, though I can’t help but think that the oil could be reduced. You just don’t need that much.
Overall, an enjoyable experience that I woudn’t repeat often, if that makes any sense at all.
So As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
Awesome: the food is really quite nice for the most part
Not so Awesome: that level of oil, service for birthday cake was somewhat shotty