It's easy to guess the inspiration behind Simon Goh's newest restaurant. The concept behind Chinta Ria... Mood for Love draws heavily on the 2000 movie In the Mood for Love, written and directed by Kar Wai Wong. It's an idea that has been brewing for the past ten years, Simon says, finally coming to fruition this week when the restaurant opened its doors to the public on level six at Westfield Sydney.
Mood for Love dining room
Simon has deliberately created a love den for Sydney diners. The room is rich with dark chocolate timbers and dimly lit. In one corner is what Simon calls The Nipple Bar, with a distinctive art work mounted on the wall. Scenes from a Chinese love story are projected onto the walls with passionate quotes stamped across the faces of young lovers. Because copyright issues prevented them using scenes from the original movie, Simon organised the filming of original love story vignettes, directed with the same intense and seductive undertones.
The Nipple Bar
Film script menu
The film concept is reinforced with the menu, presented as a typed movie script complete with handwritten edits. Ours arrive in an old fashioned brown paper envelope, sealed closed with a loop of twine.
The private dining room
A private dining room at the front of the restaurant is partially hidden behind a decorative frame and drawn black curtains. "You can lie down in there," says Simon with a laugh. "And if you use the candle, noone will come inside."
Each table, he explains, is provided with two candles: one green and one red. The green one means go; the red means do not disturb. Perfect for couples who need a little bit of privacy, and no distractions from waitstaff.
Otak otak $11
The menu is a mix of Malaysian classics and more modern dishes. Otak otak is one of our highlights, a spiced Spanish mackerel mousse that is light and fluffy, and presented in a miniature bamboo steamer.
Some of the dishes have a deliberate saucy bent, like the loh bak variation re-badged as "Seduction Rolls". Minced chicken is used instead of pork -- no pork dishes are served at Mood for Love -- which is mixed with five spice and then rolled up in thin sheets of bean curd skin and fried until crispy.
Hug Me Honey combines stir-fried tenderloin beef slices with a sauce of honey and pepper that is a little too syrupy sweet for my liking. Chai tow koay is a jumble of pleasantly charred radish cake with crunchy bean sprouts and wilted garlic chives. Achar pickled mixed vegetables provide a welcome palate cleanser.
Satay beef and satay chicken skewers $12 for four
A good satay skewer is hard to find, but we can find little fault with these. The chicken is plump and juicy but it's the beef satay that makes me weak at the knees. We drown them in lashings of thick peanut sauce.
Clockwise from top left: Prawn curry [dish not yet on menu]; Monk's mushrooms $18
Amah ginger chicken $18; and Quack! Quack! Kiam Chye braised duck $25
I'm not usually a fan of Asian curries, but the prawn curry is oddly alluring, a thick gravy that is sweet and spicy, and even better mopped up with torn shards of flaky roti. Monk's mushrooms is a hearty mix of shiitake, enoki and oyster mushrooms cooked in ginger sauce.
The kiam chye braised duck is served on a bed of preserved vegetables, and although it reminds me of homestyle cooking, I still wish the duck skin was crispy. Amah ginger chicken is another dish that is a sentimental favourite for Simon. It's a simple dish of tender chicken thighs cooked in ginger wine with fat caps of shiitake mushrooms.
Durian pannacotta $9.80; Ondeh ondeh $8.80; Kueh dadar $8.80 and Pandan sago $8.80
We're presented with a sample platter of desserts to share. Simon has a twinkle in his eye when he describes the ondeh ondeh as "On me on me all day". The ondeh ondeh dumplings are mixed with sweet potato, stuffed with palm sugar and rolled in coconut.
Kueh dadar is another palm sugar dessert, rolled up in thin layers of pandan crepe like a sweet spring roll. We scoop up spoonfuls of pandan sago pearls, savouring the cool coconut milk and hidden well of palm sugar syrup at the bottom.
The durian pannacotta is the object of my desire tonight. It's a dual-layer pudding, and the heady scent of durian is like an irresistible drug. It wobbles on the spoon, and slips easily down the throat. And if you're in the mood for durian, the night dazzles with opportunity...
Grab Your Fork dined as a guest of Chinta Ria... Mood for Love.
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10/06/2011 01:12:00 a.m.