The Rice Den used to be one of the few Asian fusion restaurants situated in the heart of Chatswood, but it seems like their growing popularity has meant that they need a bigger space. Not long ago they moved to St Leonards (behind the IBM building), featuring a slick modern fit out with wooden furnishings, hanging lanterns, a licensed bar and a brand new menu to match.
House Made Pickles
The menu is more diverse now, still drawing on Asian influences (Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, Singaporean) but with more choices than before. We start off with some house made pickles – light and refreshing, it’s a nice palate cleanser before we dig into the heavier stuff.
Scallop and Prawn Siu Mai
Rice Wine Cured Ocean Trout, Pickled Fennel, Ginger and Soy Sauce
The Siu Mai and Ocean Trout come out first. The Siu Mai is a lot shorter than what I’m used to seeing at yum cha restaurants, however it’s a bit fancier with a big juicy scallop in each one. The Ocean Trout was also lovely and light, with crunchy textures from the puffed rice accompanied by a vinaigrette style dressing.
Tea Smoked Chicken Salad Rice Sheets, Sesame and Soy Dressing, Chinkiang Vinegar
Stir Fry Roast Duck San Choi Bao
Next was the Tea Smoked Chicken Salad, which similarly to the Ocean Trout was light with great textures. I loved the rice sheets as well which acted like noodles and our table definitely agreed this was an Asian salad done right. The San Choi Bao was also a nice handful with lots of duck throughout the mixture. It’s a bit salty to eat on its own but once the filling is in the lettuce cup, the flavours are well balanced.
Hand Made Cheong Fun, Sesame, Hoisin Sauce
The Cheong Fun came out next, served in a Malaysian style with sesame and hoisin sauce. The rice noodle rolls are silky smooth, soft and flavoursome, there’s a nice balance of sweetness from the sesame and saltiness from the hoisin sauce. If you love peanut butter, you’ll be sure to love this as the sesame sauce is highly reminiscent of peanut butter!
Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage and Shiitake Mushrooms
Crispy Soft Shell Crab topped with Spicy Spanner Crab, Mung Bean Noodles
Onto some more substantial dishes, we tried the Fried Rice which is served with Chinese sausage and shiitake mushrooms. It’s well flavoured with some salty hits from the Chinese sausage, but I find the rice a bit oilier than other Chinese fried rice dishes I’ve had before. Then there was the crab noodles featuring crispy soft shell crab on a bed of mung bean noodles, a twist on the traditional XO Chilli Crab Claypot dish in Cantonese cuisine. This is a super tasty dish and quite spicy! I can usually take a bit of chilli but this dish is quite spicy by Western standards, definitely a nod towards Malaysian cuisine.
Canton Style Barbeque Pork Neck, Molasses and Honey Glaze
Slow braised Chu-Hou Beef Cheek, Kohlrabi, Baby Carrot, Corn
For some more meaty dishes, we got the Barbeque Pork Neck and the Slow Braised Beef Cheek. The pork tasted just like Chinese BBQ Pork (Char Siu), but was much fattier, succulent, and soft given the cut. Unfortunately I wasn’t a fan of the beef dish. Although the meat was cooked well, falling apart when we touched it, I found it far too salty for my liking.
French Toast, Dulche de Leche, Peanut Crumble, Mascarpone with Matcha Green Tea
The best thing about fusion restaurants is seeing what they come up with for desserts! French Toast is a popular Hong Kong dish where a peanut butter sandwich is normally fried. Here it was made in a similar style, with a light crispy exterior keeping the insides moist. The caramelly dulce de leche oozing out and mascarpone on the side added richness to the dish, but the green tea is not very apparent in this dish – there is just a bit sprinkled onto the mascarpone.
Ovaltine Pannacotta, Whisky Glaze, Roasted Chestnut
The Ovaltine Pannacotta was intriguing, with the familiar malty flavour I remember from my childhood in a creamy, wobbly pannacotta form, but couldn’t live up to the high bar set by the French Toast.
Overall The Rice Den is still a winner in my books, moving progressively forward from its previous Chatswood days. The food has a bigger variety of flavours and the presentation is more refined than before and I can’t wait to head back to try more of the menu.
Excuse Me Waiter dined as guests of The Rice Den
The Rice Den
30-32 Chandos St, St Leonards NSW 2065, Australia
Phone:+61 2 9411 2001