Course #1: Yee sang
It's a family tradition of ours to celebrate birthdays by eating out together at a restaurant. The two Aquarians always get a combined celebration and at their behest, we headed to Makan at Alice's for their annual Chinese New Year banquet.
Readers with good memories will remember that I'd already attended and blogged this banquet last year. Sadly the menu remains exactly the same, but on the plus side, so does the price. It's still $428 for a table of ten.
The staff were happy to accommodate our booking at lunchtime, so whilst other patrons are tucking into roti and nasi lemak and nasi goreng, we're clustered around the only large table in the restaurant, reading to commence proceedings with the traditional yee sang salad.
Deep-fried wonton squares
Pomelo (Chinese grapefruit)
Taking turns around the table to add the sesame seeds for good luck
Master Four and Miss Two enjoy the interactive contribution to the salad, solemnly adding a sprinkle of sesame seeds with great looks of concentration. This is a great dish for kids and kids at heart. It's not often we're encouraged to play with out food!
Tossing the salad as we shout out "Happy New Year";
the higher you toss, the greater the luck
Yee sang for one
The yee sang salad here is perhaps one of the sweetest versions I've tasted, the fine shreds of carrot, daikon and cucumber are a little overwhelmed by the thick chunks of sugary crystallised winter melon and a heavy plum sauce. The salmon slices are satiny and fresh and the wonton crisps are always a winner, particularly with the kids. We do like the delicate pearls of the peeled pomelo flesh, and in the end, a splash of soy makes everything all good again.
The yee sang carnage
Course #2: Butter soft shell crab
Butter soft shell crab is full of crunch with soft strands of buttery fried egg yolk.
Course #3: Basket of prosperity
I'd remembered that last time the basket of prosperity was one of my favourite dishes but I was a little disappointed with this one. Now that I can compare the photos, I can see that this year's version is missing the smoky herbal tendrils of black moss, the delicate fried discs of lotus root and the luxurious touch of whole macadamia nuts. The deep-fried basket of yam is still a highlight with soft cooked flesh and a crisp browned crust.
Course #4: Teowchew loh ark
The teowchew loh ark braised duck is tender, although we find most of the flavour is in the caramelised skin flavoured with five spice.
Course #5: Nien nien yau yee (whole fish)
The whole steamed fish is a lighter take on last year's sweet and sour deep fried version. This one comes with wilted strips of cucumbers and a thin dressing of pineapple juice and sugar. Master Four won't eat the fish eye no matter how much we entice him. Instead Veruca Salt and I take great delight in eating a fish eye each as we watch his face. I quite like the gelatinous covering around the eye but the eyeball itself is a little chalky and the pupil is a disconcerting nugget of solid chewiness.
Course #6: Salt and pepper prawn
Salt and pepper prawns pack a big of heat but more from the addition of fresh chillies than Szechuan pepper.
Course #7: Braised pork (apparently)
The braised pork is not what I expected at all, and looks nothing like the dish from last year, a slow-cooked leg of pork that fell apart at the bone. A small mound of deep-fried pork short ribs does battle with a glistening mound of tender braised shiitake mushrooms. The mushrooms win resoundedly.
Course #8: Lu yee mein noodles
Lu yee mein noodles are the final savoury dish, thick yellow noodles with chicken and mushroom in a pool of oyster sauce gravy.
Ladling out the tong sui sweet soup
It's a hot day and whilst we relish the cool refreshment of the tong sui sweet soup, we were really hoping we'd be served some of Alice's famous kuih.
The soup is still delicious. A traditional Chinese soup made with lily bulbs, lotus seeds, gingko nuts, white fungus and red dates that's sweetened with rock sugar. It's the kind of dessert that makes me think of doting Chinese grandmothers, or maybe that's just the memories of my childhood coming through. The fungus had a lovely crunch to it, a contrast to the slippery gingko nuts and soft fibrous mush of red date. The soup itself is quite thick, and its herbal undertones make you feel reinvigorated.
Ice kacang $5.00
Which is probably how we find room for another round of dessert. Most of us continue with a shared bowl of ice kacang although I'm happy to have one all to myself. It's a small mountain of finely crushed ice that holds a treasure trove of basil seeds, palm seeds, jelly, jackfruit and creamed corn. The best part is the gula melaka, a dark caramel syrup made from reduced palm sugar.
Makan at Alice's has an annual Chinese New Year Banquet Dinner which must be pre-booked. This year's banquet is available from January 24 to February 8, 2009. Dinners are held in two sessions, 6pm-7.45pm and 8pm to close. We were able to negotiate a lunchtime sitting upon request.
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Makan at Alice's
Shop 3, 262 Pennant Hills Road, Thornleigh, Sydney
(turn into Bellevue Street and it's on your left)
Tel: +61 (02) 9484 8288
Lunch Tuesday to Sunday 11.30am - 2.30pm
Dinner Thursday to Sunday 6.00pm - 9.00pm
Related GrabYourFork posts:
Makan at Alice's, Thornleigh (CNY Banquet 2008) and (lunch 2007)
Malaysian -- Kopitiam, Ultimo (Dec08), (Apr07) and (Apr06)
Malaysian -- Malay Chinese, Sydney (26 Apr 07) and (3 Apr 07)
Malaysian -- Mamak, Haymarket (Nov07) and (Oct07)
Malaysian -- Mc Lucksa, Haymarket
Malaysian--Temasek, Parramatta (Jan09) and (May08)
Malaysian -- The Malaya, Sydney
Malaysian -- Tan's Malaysian, Ultimo
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2/07/2009 12:02:00 am