There are 116 different dishes on the foldout menu at Silk Road - each dish illustrated with a helpful photo - but I only want one thing. The Chinese hamburger.
"You really want the Chinese hamburger don't you," says Josh, as we work out which dishes to share.
I do. And I'm not budging.
Deciding on the rest of the dishes to order is no easy task, a kaleidoscope of dishes that cover the Xinjiang region, in China's north west. Its cuisine is noticeably influenced by its neighbours, including Russia, Mongolia, Kazahkstan, Afghanistan and India.
The food is simple but hearty: thick pancakes filled with mince, chilli chicken served with mantou buns and skewers of lamb and chicken wings, dusted generously with cumin.
The decor inside the restaurant is bright and welcoming, with scenes of camels trekking through the desert depicted in cheerful shades of orange and yellow. Plastic grape vines overhead are a reminder of life back home in Xinjiang, where they traditionally provide cool shade for diners seeking relief from searing temperatures.
Chinese hamburger with lamb $5.50
The Chinese hamburger is the first to arrive, a modest looking bun that makes up in width what it lacks in height. The soft bun reminds me of Turkish bread, and although we are missing the lettuce that appears in the menu photo, it's a satisfying sandwich, filled with tender and saucy slices of pan-fried lamb, onion and red capsicum.
I have a strange fascination with Uighur-style shredded potato, relishing the combination of slipperiness with the accented flavour of potato, intensified perhaps because the potato is not cooked all the way through.
The potato salad is cold in temperature but spicy with chilli; the vinegar acts as a palate cleanser even as the taste of garlic slowly builds. It's an addictive push-pull sensation, stimulating the tastebuds and appetite.
North Western-style fried flat noodle with beef $10.80
We finish with the North Western-style fried flat noodles. I love that when Josh asks about choosing the listed chicken option, our waitress shakes her head and says "No, you should have beef, it is better", scribbling on her notepad as confirmation.
The noodles are smooth little pillows, hand-sliced and bumpy, and satisfyingly chewy. It's a simple stir-fry of beef, onion and garlic chives, liberally flavoured with garlic and chilli.
Fancy a trek along the old Spice Road? You only need to trek down to Chinatown.
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2/02/2011 02:40:00 a.m.