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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Chinese New Year Banquet at Makan at Alice's, Thornleigh

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.

Raw salmon

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.

Shiitake mushrooms

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.

View Larger Map
makan@Alice's on Urbanspoon

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
Temasek, Parramatta (Jan09) and (May08)
Malaysian -- The Malaya, Sydney
Malaysian -- Tan's Malaysian, Ultimo
11 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 2/07/2009 12:02:00 am


  • At 2/07/2009 12:04 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    oh, that's a bit disappointing to see the quality has decrease compare to last year. K and W also had the banquet there last Friday I believe.

  • At 2/07/2009 12:21 am, Blogger Kt said…

    LOL - we went for my birthday too!

  • At 2/07/2009 12:33 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ooh yummmm all the dishes look tastyyyy! I do find some dishes at Alice's to be very sweet like the satay but still so hungry now haha

  • At 2/07/2009 3:29 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That salmon looks D-Lish!

  • At 2/07/2009 8:18 pm, Blogger apricotnelli said…

    It looks amazing.. I just want to be back in Sydney every time I read your blog...


  • At 2/07/2009 10:02 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That butter soft shell crab looks huge! A pity about the quality though :(

  • At 2/08/2009 8:57 pm, Blogger Aunt-T said…

    Hi Helen!

    This is irrelevant to this last post. But I just wanted to say, I've been reading this blog for over a year now, and have been following your track (no, not like a stalker), to places like Rise etc.

    Some places I really love which I'd like to recommend:

    Florentino - Sydney Rd, Balgowlah (now, its northern beaches and a trek, but it reachable by public transport and definitely some of the best food I've tasted)*near Luka's

    Tian Tong Xiao Chu - Liverpool Rd Ashfield, Opp Shanghai Night.
    (This is another Shanghainese restaurant much like Shanghai Night exp I like the food there much better. May I recommend their Xiao Long Bao or Sheng Jiang Bao and Prawn Wontons.)

    I hope you enjoy! And keep up the good work! :) Your a true inspiration.

  • At 2/08/2009 10:58 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Billy - We couldn't work out why it was a little disappointing compared to last year but thank goodness for photos to remind the memory!

    Hi Kt - lol. I was thinking about you guys too! And happy belated birthday :)

    Hi FFichiban - I haven't eaten that often at Alice's but we do tend to find the banquet dishes quite sweet.

    Hi Anon - The salmon was great. Nothing finer than raw fish, I say!

    Hi Margaret - lol. Sydneysiders are spoilt for choices when it comes to freshness and diversity!

    Hi Lorraine - There was quite a bit of soft shell crab. We were a little disappointed with the new variations of dishes - we presume the chef has definitely changed!

    Hi Phoebe - Thanks for your comment, and no stalker offence taken! I'm always interested in restaurant suggestions so thanks for your info, and hope you keep on enjoying the blog!

  • At 2/09/2009 7:24 am, Blogger hazchem said…

    Thanks for the VERY informative post AG! Went to Kopitiam in Ultimo yesterday with the family for Yee Sang before the cricket, as it arrived at the table I could see surprised looks on the faces of people around us that we'd even ordered it.

    Although I'd had it only once before, your post refreshed my memory on the correct 'protocol' for adding things to the Yee Sang and tossing with chopsticks.

    A couple of expat Chinese/Malaysians even commented how impressed they were!

    Its one of the things I love about small restaurants that serve great food, on busy days it can feel like you're all one big family, just split over a couple of tables.

    The grilled lemongrass chicken on the New Year menu is also very tasty.

  • At 2/09/2009 7:36 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Food was good but I was disappointed that they did not stick to the advertised menu. I really wanted the kuih. Maybe they changed some items as it was a hot day?

    Yee sang was interesting. The splash of soy really did bring it all together.

  • At 2/09/2009 9:53 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Hazchem - Ahh so glad you enjoyed the yee sang. Tossing it is always so much fun! I love how you effortlessly combine yee sang with cricket too :) And ooh I love grilled lemongrass chicken.

    Hi Veruca Salt - It was a shame we missed out on the kuih although the menu only said "dessert" not kuih specifically. The braised pork was definitely a misnomer though.


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