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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Rhodes Phoenix, Rhodes

Crispy skin chicken $18.80

We'd forgotten it was Boxing Day.

That's because we'd rocked up to Austrian Schnitzelhaus, ready for some pork knuckle and a shattering of crackling, only to find it closed. Doh! Or dummkopf!

We piled back into the car and head to Rhodes Shopping Centre, figuring we'd catch a movie before dinner instead. By the time we get there, stomach growls have gotten more insistent. We hope that Tomodachi is open but it's closed. It's Boxing Day. Argh!

There's only a cafe open or Rhodes Phoenix. We head toward the lady in the pretty cheongsam dress.

Deep-fried king prawn and calamari with salt and chilli $26.80

The Phoenix brand is now a Sydney-wide empire, adding Manly, Rhodes and Hilltop (Castle Hill) outlets to its original Sky Phoenix retaurant in Pitt Street Mall. The decor here is determinedly showy with plenty of regal reds, dark timbers and sparkly crystal lighting. Huge wooden display cabinets with expensive wine bottles only add to the sense of ostentatiousness.

We're not ones for much pomp and ceremony, so when our bucket of rice arrives, and the first dish lands on the table, Veruca Salt prepares to start scooping rice. Within seconds a waistcoated waiter materialises by our side. "No, no, I must do the rice," he gently chastises, and with a purposeful nod he ladles the rice, one bowl at a time.

In spite of the glamour, and general attentiveness, we find our dishes a little lacking. The crispy skin chicken looks promising enough, a lacquered tan that gives a crunchy skin, but the meat itself is a little dry, even with a generous douse of lemon.

Peking style pork ribs is a guilty pleasure of mine, a dish that reminds me of my grandma and a sweet tooth I'm sure I've inherited. A regular dish at so many family gatherings in my childhood, this is no substitute for sweet and sour pork. At its best it's sweet, spicy and a little bit sticky. The battered pork ribs should be crunchy and succulent, the dark red sauce offset by the chunks of sweet pineapple and squares of capsicum and onion. With this childhood memory in mind, I'm disappointed that this version tastes more like sweet and sour pork ribs than the dish I remember so well.

Pork ribs Peking style $18.80

Much better received is the deep-fried king prawn and calamari with salt and chilli. The albino coloured batter is paler than most, its fluffiness almost springy in the mouth. Its starchy chewiness suggests an egg white batter, the prawns and calamari well-protected for a soft and yielding tenderness. Generously scattered with bits of chilli and scallion, we also attack the bed of deep-fried seaweed (dried cabbage or kale?), a house specialty garnish that also lines our pork rib platter.

In the end we don't end up seeing a movie, even though, yes, we know. It's Boxing Day.

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Rhodes Phoenix
Level 5
Rhodes Shopping Centre
1 Rider Boulevard, Rhodes, Sydney
Tel: +61 02) 9739 6628

Yum cha hours
Mondays to Saturdays and Public Holidays: 11am - 3pm
Sundays 10am - 3pm

A la carte hours
7 days a week: 5.30pm - 10.30pm

A la carte menu

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Strathfield -- Bagan (Burmese)
Strathfield -- Crystal Seafood (Chinese)
Strathfield North -- Bar Biscotti (Cafe / Breakfast)
Strathfield North -- Outback Steakhouse (American)
10 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/07/2009 01:20:00 am


  • At 1/07/2009 4:13 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Helen,

    A foodie all the way from London, stumbled upon your blog via the article the boys over at Dos Hermanos wrote about you at Times Online. I am loving your foodblog, the pictures are great :D

    I was in sydney two years ago and absolutely loved the food there, can't quite remember where my friends took me, but I vividly remember the sushi at Makoto, the chilli hotdog at a cafe de wheels cart (i think) and also a nice steak at kingslee or a kingston .. hmm , my memory fails me!

    Anyway, keep up the great work here!

  • At 1/07/2009 8:27 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That deep fried king prawn looks amazing!

  • At 1/07/2009 10:43 am, Blogger Miss Honey said…

    As usual your photos are gorgeous even if the food isn't exactly mind blowing. Would you go again for dinner? I've only been here for yum cha..

  • At 1/07/2009 10:51 am, Blogger trishie said…

    My bf and I are constantly on the search for the best salt and pepper calamari in Sydney, the best one we've tried is at the Eastwood Garden Peking Restaurant. But will have to try the version at Phoenix sometime soon!

  • At 1/07/2009 11:56 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Decor was nice. Food was over priced and not that special. I found the salt n pepper dish well seasoned but had a strange bite to it.

    I had to have a good look around to make sure the waiter was not nearby before helping myself to more rice. I've heard of a napkin nazi but a rice one?

  • At 1/07/2009 2:12 pm, Blogger Y said…

    I know! The one time of the year I have a few days off in a row and nothing's opened! Thank goodness for Chinese restaurants! .. even if this one was a bit disappointing.

  • At 1/07/2009 5:54 pm, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    What a shame the food didn't measure up, maybe the normal chef was on Boxing Day holiday? The yum cha there isn't bad, if you can stand the wait, and there's always Ikea to browse in later.

  • At 1/07/2009 6:54 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Your descriptions have got my mouth watering! *droollll*

    Hee hee trust chinese restaurants to be open :P

  • At 1/07/2009 7:37 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm the opposite when it comes to Public holidays, I mark them down and stock the cupboards and fridge until bursting just in case I miss a meal due to the public holiday closures. Hubby thinks I'm mental :P

    The Peking spare ribs sound rather disappointing! :( What a pity, maybe their head chef was having a holiday?

  • At 1/08/2009 12:14 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Kang - Why g'day and welcome to Sydney :) I'm still getting quite a few hits via the Times Online (I've noticed a link often appears alongside Lifestyle articles).

    So great to hear you still have fond memories of your meals in Sydney. You've done a great job remembering them too! They're all spot on - the hot dog would've been from Harry's Cafe De Wheels and I'm guessing the steak was from Kingsley's Steakhouse.

    Great to hear you're enjoying the blog. Hope you make it back to Sydney sometime soon :)

    Hi Anne - The prawns were rather good. You can't beat seafood in an Asian restaurant :)

    Hi Miss Honey - Aww thanks :) I think I'd only go for dinner there in a large group where you could have more flexibility in ordering some whole fish dishes etc etc. I have heard the yum cha crowds are quite crazy so perhaps that's more their forte. I'll have to try it sometime to find out!

    Hi trishiekoh - I found this wasn't the usual salt and pepper calamari where it's lightly dusted with flour for a crunchy batter. This one definitely tasted foamy and chewy (if you can imagine that). Worth trying for the textural sensation anyway!

    I've had a few good S&P C's at Superbowl on Dixon Street but it's been a bit hit and miss on a few occasions. I also like the Vietnamese-style lemongrass version at Huong Huong in Marrickville.

    Hi Veruca Salt - The rice episode was hilarious to say the least. I couldn't really fault them on service but as you say, the dishes weren't that great, especially considering the price.

    Hi Y - We totally forgot that a lot of restaurants don't open on Boxing Day. Usually we're not that ditzy (I don't think!). It was a little disappointing but at least we were fed and watered :)

    Hi Belle - Oh yes I do love Ikea - except does anyone ever get out of there in under an hour?!? I know their yum cha is crazy popular so I might have to check it out.

    Hi FFichiban - I know. Chinese restaurants are always open!

    Hi Lorraine - Hmmm my cupboards are always stocked (it's amazing how much food I think it necessary to accumulate in my larder, fridge and freezer). I'm sure I could survive for at least 3 months with no problem!

    I was really disappointed with the pork ribs particularly because it was my choice. I hate dud selections! Perhaps the head chef was off, or maybe they do make their dishes a little sweeter than the norm?b>Hi


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