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Monday, September 06, 2010

Chefs Gallery, Sydney

noodle maker

"Do you mind if you sit at the bench?" the waitress asks apologetically.

Of course we don't. In fact Billy and I break out into huge grins as we realise we'll be seated with a birds eye view of the action, a glassed-in kitchen that is more akin to a noodle-making arena.

Chef's Gallery is the newest dumpling house in Sydney, executive chef Edward Zhao taking up residence on the Regent Place site formerly occupied by Bonta Vita. With its dark timber tables, regal surrounds and open kitchen, comparisons with Din Tai Fung are immediate.

cooking bean sprouts
Wok-tossing vegetables

We notice the mouth-guards first. Each and every staff member is wearing them inside the kitchen, a plastic shield that has a chin guard on the bottom and elastic loops hooked over each ear. We presume they're meant to reassure us of their commitment to hygiene, even if they do look like surgeons on a lunch break.

Billy and I are seated in front of the wok station, the chef before us delegated with cooking fried rice and vegetables. The rice is literally tossed in the wok until golden, the rice flying upwards in a Chinese mosh pit - the limited use of a spatula means the rice stays fluffy.

Handmaking noodles

But it's the noodle show we're more interested in. Great lumps of dough are kneaded into thick ropes, then swung up and down to allow gravity to stretch them into a noodle skipping rope. The ropes are looped back onto themselves, twisted into plaits and then swung up and down again. The process is fluid and looks amazingly effortless. Spinach noodles, in a vibrant green, are a surprise display of colour in the otherwise grey and white kitchen.

noodle makers
Stretching noodles mid-air

seat cover
Protective chair covers for jackets

The calligraphy on the walls says "the skills of the chef are equally as important as the quality of the ingredients". Customers are looked after too. I place my jacket on the back of my chair and within minutes, a chair cover has been placed over the top, presumably to protect customers' clothing from accidental spills.

roti pancake with pork floss
Fluffy Chinese roti served with pork floss $5.90
Shou Zhua Bing

We start with fluffy Chinese roti served with pork floss, a dish we'd only thought to order when we spotted it at the table next to us. Its arrival in a wicker basket adds much to its presentation, the flaky pastry disc scrunched up and garnished with a generous handful of salty pork floss.

Although we don't spot anyone making this in the kitchen, the menu says the roti is handmade daily by their pastry chefs. It's deliciously addictive, and impressive in its non-oiliness.

pork roll
Pork belly roll $8.90

Thin slices of boiled pork belly wrapped around carrot and cucumber constitute the pork belly roll. The pork is soft and tender and the garlic dressing on top packs a wondrous garlicky punch. I love the contrast of the fatty tender pork against the crunch of the vegetables - it's easily my favourite dish of the evening.


tofu custard
Chef's own handmade egg tofu $15.90

A square platter holds our next dish, the Chef's own handmade egg tofu. This is a large dish to share between two, with eight blocks of tofu that look more like deep-fried mah-jong tiles.

We bite through the golden skins to find a satiny-set custard that tastes like a cross between silken tofu and chawan mushi Japanese custard. The insides are quite firm, almost like an agar jelly, the green hue coming from the incorporation of chopped spinach. A fine dice of preserved pickled vegetables on top adds salt and acidity.

handmade noodles with pork
Zha Jiang handmade noodles with finely minced pork $11.90

There is one page dedicated to handmade noodles, served dry, with soup or wok-fried. We opt for the zha jiang noodles which come doused with a sweet soy bean sauce that is studded with pork mince and tiny cubes of tofu.

The noodles are slippery, smooth and uniformly thin and yet somehow I'm left longing for the thick uneven strands you find at other handmade noodle houses, the ones with bumps and curves and fat with chewiness. If high class dining is more your style, on the other hand, these will be right up your alley.

pan-fried pork buns
Jia Bao Zi lightly pan-fried pork buns $9.90

Pan-fried pork buns are a must in our books. We had forgone the steamed dumplings, and felt the better for it when we notice the dumpling skins used are from a packet, and not handmade.

The buns take the longest to arrive, delivered twenty minutes after the previous dish. These look more like traditional Chinese dessert buns, rounded on top with a thin skin, not the usual chunky buns pinched together at the top.

pan-fried pork buns
Bottom of the pan-fried pork bun

The buns have a very soft and fatty filling of pork mince inside although find the bun a little chewy with a slightly tough skin. The bottoms aren't as crispy on the bottom as I'd normally prefer, although again, they're not overly greasy either.

walnut dessert
Baked walnut pastry dumpling $5.90

"We have to get the piggy buns, and the walnuts! They look like walnuts!" Billy had said as we perused the dessert menu.

"Oh and the pumpkin. It looks like an actual pumpkin!" His excitement is palpable.

And lo and behold the walnut pastries do look like walnuts! Two halves of a hard pastry shell hold a filling of crushed walnuts and sugar between them, a crumbly mix of nutty and sweet.

pumpkin dumplings
Steamed pumpkin pastry $5.90

The steamed pumpkin pastries are also pretty, presented in a bamboo basket and the lid whipped off with a flourish. A happy shade of orange, the pumpkins are scored down their sides just like the real thing, and the black stalk is not a clove as we'd first presumed, but coloured glutinous rice dough so the entire thing is edible.

pumpkin dumpling
Lotus paste inside the pumpkin dumpling

The pumpkin dumplings are filled with a smooth sweet lotus paste, and I relish the starchy glutinous package which is thick and stretchy.

piggie buns
Steamed sesame 'piggy face' bun $5.90

But the overall cuteness prize goes to the steamed sesame 'piggy face' buns - Billy and I are both a picture of smiles as well lean in for a closer look.

pink hair bow
Hair bow

Usually patrons receive a boy pig and a girl pig but today we receive two females. Neither of us are complaining as we marvel at the intricate detail of the hair bow and adorable snout. Even the two black sesame seeds for the eyes have been perfectly positioned.

We pull off each part and chew them thoughtfully and funnily enough we both save the snout for last.

black sesame bun
Black sesame paste filling

Inside the bun is a black sesame paste, one of my childhood favourites, with a nutty, almost smoky flavour.

The dessert menu is surprisingly comprehensive here, with five hot desserts and eight cold desserts listed. The osmanthus and goji berry jelly is another signature dish.

Still new somewhat hidden from passersby, I expect Chefs Gallery will only get busier as word spreads around. Get there now and beat the queues.

Chefs Gallery on Urbanspoon

Shop 12, Ground floor
Regent Place, 501 George Street, Sydney
(between KFC and the Lumiere building,
main entrance on Bathurst Street)
Tel: +61 (02) 9267 8877

Opening hours:
Open 7 days 11am-3pm and 5pm-late

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Dumplings - China Grand, Haymarket
Dumplings - China Noodle King, Haymarket
Dumplings - Chinese Noodle Restaurant, Haymarket (Jun07) and (Oct04)
Dumplings - Daniang Dumpling, Haymarket
Dumplings - Dynasty, Belmore
Dumplings - East Ocean, Haymarket (Oct 08), (Aug 06), (Aug 05) and (Oct 04)
Dumplings - Hung Cheung, Marrickville
Dumplings - New Shanghai, Chatswood
Dumplings - Palace Chinese, Sydney CBD
Dumplings - Shanghai Night, Ashfield (Jul 08) and (Mar 06)
Dumplings - Uighur Cuisine, Haymarket
Dumplings - Zilver, Haymarket (Jan 07) and (Feb 06)


Congratulations to J who has won dessert and wines for two at Tomislav, Darlinghurst.

Missed out this time? Don't forget to enter the other Freebie Friday competitions still open which you can now also enter via the Grab Your Fork facebook page.

(entries close Thursday 16 September 2010)

(entries close Sunday 19 September 2010)
41 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/06/2010 01:28:00 am


  • At 9/06/2010 2:32 am, Anonymous Dave said…

    those Dumplings looked awesome! IfI'm ever out that way I will definitly look that up.

  • At 9/06/2010 4:32 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    squee the piggeys are so cute!

  • At 9/06/2010 5:05 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    I love getting to sit at the bench as well - my favourite spot to see the kitchen action.

  • At 9/06/2010 7:21 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    The roti with pork floss sounds awesome and the piggy & pumpkin dumplings are too cute! Totally need to go

  • At 9/06/2010 8:42 am, Blogger the dainty baker said…

    They ran out of the piggy buns when I went, but now I wish i got to try it, theyre so cute!! The pork floss roti was my favourite thing there, so yummy!!

  • At 9/06/2010 9:08 am, Anonymous Minh said…

    Awwww the piggy bun really did make me smile lol. Looks like a fun meal!

  • At 9/06/2010 9:23 am, Blogger Monica ^o^ said…

    nice shot of the noodle making ! I tried taking photos last time and failed miserably lol The tofu looked delicious !

  • At 9/06/2010 10:15 am, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    Just heard a collective *squeeeal* from girls around Sydney - those pig buns will be running out the door, and I'll be right after them... :)

  • At 9/06/2010 10:16 am, Blogger K said…

    Oh wow. This place looks good! Must go before all the queues start. Adorable piggy buns! And love the first image, great action shot!

  • At 9/06/2010 10:39 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    The buns look fantastic! Shame I couldn't go, I had so much more fun doing housework :(

  • At 9/06/2010 10:53 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    this type of noodle is very prevalent in NYC but it hasn't made its way over here. I noticed the Chef's Gallery people tend to labour over it but in NYC they do it really quickly! Anyway, a totally different type of hand made noodle, more precise than the nobbly ones

  • At 9/06/2010 11:04 am, Blogger Anna said…

    Great shots - looks like a great experience!

  • At 9/06/2010 11:50 am, Anonymous jess @ fushmush said…

    pumpkin pastries! I had these while I was in Shanghai and have never been able to find them again.

  • At 9/06/2010 11:56 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Ooft, looks like Din Tai Fung has some competition! Those pig dumplings looks so cute but the pork floss + pork belly rolls look so freakin' nommy. Arhhhh why is this place so chockers every time I walk past!! Lovely photo composition ~ I see you noodle-makers, I see you!

  • At 9/06/2010 12:08 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    looks fabulous I always walk past on my way to work. Definitely trying it out for lunch today.


  • At 9/06/2010 12:25 pm, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    I've walked pass this place as they were setting up and once again as they were up and running. Sounds like an awesome place and the dessert dumpings look so cute! Esp the pig ones.

  • At 9/06/2010 12:29 pm, Anonymous kewpie said…

    love the piggy buns! looks like a place to check out!

  • At 9/06/2010 2:07 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Oh, Helen! That egg tofu! I've never seen anything like it!

    And those pumpkins and pigs... you know my current love for anything sweet, and for black sesame in particular. Even without the utter cuteness, those would have had me by the heart strings :)

  • At 9/06/2010 2:47 pm, Anonymous Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Oh, the piggy buns are just so cute! I've heard mixed things about Chef's Gallery but I'm glad you liked it, I'll have to check it out soon too!

  • At 9/06/2010 4:22 pm, Blogger Bean Sprout's Cafe said…

    I read a few reviews about this places and my friend didn't like it so I thought I wouldn't be bother to go.. but after reading urs, I changed my mind :D I wanna try the roti and pork floss and the tofu dish.

    and i am laughing when Billy say about piggey, walnut and pumpkin dishes..hahaha

  • At 9/06/2010 4:24 pm, Blogger JanJan said…

    Oh my goodness! The little piggies are so cute~

  • At 9/06/2010 4:36 pm, Anonymous penny aka jeroxie said…

    Ok... so Im a girl - Those piggies are seriously CUTE!

  • At 9/06/2010 4:57 pm, Blogger Sara @ Belly Rumbles said…

    Love the little piggies and the pumpkins. I am so heading to Chef Gallery.

  • At 9/06/2010 5:29 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    those piggy face buns will be the most blogged buns in Sydney soon enough. so is the place worth visiting and is it better than Ding Tai Fung? or too early to say. seems to be very popular but is that because it's good or just because it's the latest emperor's new clothes?

  • At 9/06/2010 6:55 pm, Anonymous Tina said…

    Wow - the effort in those desserts...!

  • At 9/06/2010 7:30 pm, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Drove past here recently and was wondering what the performance was about in the windows. They definitely score points for cuteness in presentation!

  • At 9/06/2010 7:38 pm, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    Great review Helen! Must def check this place out...love those piggy buns! Thanks for sharing.

  • At 9/06/2010 10:16 pm, Anonymous Soy @ honeyandsoy said…

    Hmmm... really wanna try the handmade egg tofu! Love how you described them as majong tiles ;P

  • At 9/07/2010 5:05 am, Anonymous Amy @ cookbookmaniac said…

    my tummy rumbled when reading this post. A definite must try. Those piggys are too cute to eat.

  • At 9/07/2010 10:41 am, Anonymous Anna Johnston said…

    Awesome post. Love watching noodle making, mesmerising stuff! Piggy buns are very cute & as always Helen, loved the photos. Thanks for sharing.

  • At 9/07/2010 12:41 pm, Blogger Brenda said…

    The piggy buns are almost too cute to eat up! I've had pumpkin dumplings in Macau before but never here....this place looks really cool.

  • At 9/07/2010 10:02 pm, Blogger Von said…

    This place looks so cool!! I still haven't been to Din Tai Fung, but I think I'm going to try this out first- the pulled noodles just look so cool! And the food looks really good too =)

  • At 9/09/2010 12:48 am, Blogger Viv said…

    Hehe great review! I went there last week but didn't even notice those mouth guards! You guys ordered SO much for 2! lol. I still prefer ding tai fung to chef's gallery though...

  • At 9/09/2010 1:27 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Dave - Have fun :)

    Hi chocolatesuze - I can imagine you'd savour it very slowly!

    Hi Gourmet Chick - I agree, the front bench is my idea of front seats at a stage show!

    Hi Stephcookie - The roti was fantastic and yes, who doesn't love a cute dumpling!

    Hi the dainty baker - Oh no, you will have to return. The piggy buns are worth it!

    Hi Minh - Aww you softy you :)

    Hi Monica - It was tricky trying to get photos. Sometimes luck is on your side!

    Hi OohLookBel - lol. I think so too!

    Hi K - Thanks, it was a lucky fluke getting the noodle shots. Go now!

    Hi John - It was a great night. There's a piggie bun waiting for you with your name on it!

    Hi Anon - I do like a noodle show and yes, the texture is very different.

    Hi Ladybird - Thanks. It was a fun night.

  • At 9/09/2010 1:33 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Jess - Hurrah for a craving satisfied. The pumpkins were uber cute :)

    Hi Margaret - There aren't as many dumplings here but piggie buns are a major drawcard!

    Hi Manon - Hope you enjoyed it!

    Hi Phuoc'n Delicious - Who doesn't love a cute dessert? Like a present and treat all in one.

    Hi Kewpie - The piggy buns are awesome :)

    Hi Hannah - The egg tofu was delicious - I'm sure you would adore it :) Black sesame is such a great flavour isn't it.

    Hi Betty - I think there are always highlights on a menu - hopefully we found them all!

    Hi Bean Sprout's Cafe - Ahh interesting feedback. I think it's worth going just to check it out. And yes, Billy was so excited, but then again, so was I :)

    Hi JanJan - They were adorable :)

    Hi Penny - hehe, don't worry, I think the feeling is unanimous - even with the boys!

    Hi Sara - I am sure you will have a ball.

    Hi Simon Food Favourites - I think they offer different things to Din Tai Fung which concentrates more on dumplings. Here, it's noodles. And I think everyone loves a floor show. And piggy buns!

    Hi Tina - I know. It's so impressive!

  • At 9/09/2010 1:38 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi mademoiselle delicieuse - The street entrance is very dramatic. I expect that it'll prove to be very popular.

    Hi Peter G - The piggy buns win over everyone! lol

    Hi Soy - Thanks. Mah jong tiles suddenly came into my head as I looked at them!

    Hi Amy - Ahh rumbling tummies are always a good sign that my mission has been successful :)

    Hi Anna - Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the post, and yes, I could watch someone making noodles for hours!

    Hi Brenda - I'd love to try pumpkin dumplings in Macau :)

    Hi Von - Am sure you'll have a blast but you should definitely try both. For research purposes, of course!

    Hi Vivienne - We couldn't stop staring at the mouth guards although we were seated pretty close :) We did order a lot, but we take our research very seriously! lol

  • At 9/10/2010 11:34 pm, Anonymous Forager @ The Gourmet Forager said…

    I walk past this place every night on my way home meaning to make my way inside- will definitely have to now - especially as those dessert dumplings are just adorable! But what's with those plastic chin guards? Are the chefs prone to dribbling? Or is it so slippery in the kitchen than stacking it on the chin is a high risk?

  • At 9/30/2010 4:20 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Those pigs!!! <3

  • At 11/13/2010 9:11 pm, Anonymous Angie said…

    went to Chefs Gallery tonight. very disappointing. found toothpick inside the 'pork face' bun. almost chocked my young daughter. the manager did not even apologise.
    air conditioner did not work. we sat near the big glass window. baking hot.
    asked waitor for forks and plates. he stood next to our table, arguing with another waitress, deciding who should get the plates and forks.

  • At 1/10/2011 10:35 pm, Anonymous divemummy said…

    wow Helen it looks so yummy - and the desserts look adorable - I think I've found where to celebrate my next birthday dinner ; )

  • At 1/21/2011 4:05 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    looks delicious! i must disagree with your comment on the thin hand-made noodles though. after coming back from china, i have been looking in vain for handmade noodles that are made thin. they're everywhere in china and i think they taste much better than the thick ones that are commonplace here.

    will definitely give it a try!


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