We heard the whispers. 'Go to the grape place in Chatswood, you'll like it'. Then people started talking a bit louder. 'Grape Garden is good'. Now we are shouting it - 'Grape Garden, we love it!'
We've been to Chatswood so many times in our lives, but never set foot inside the Lemon Grove shopping centre. Always lured elsewhere, we've never known what treasures were waiting inside. We had been given a few tip off's that there was a really good northern Chinese style place inside, 'the grape place' was the usual description.
We are also told that head noodle making guy doesn't speak much English, but the staff were really helpful in explaining what they offered. The pictures on the board and descriptions are a little old, the main thing here is noodles. Just ask what they have and they will let you know the options, or look around at what others are ordering.
You can order two noodle dishes and get two side dishes to go with them for $28 all up.
Side dish 1: soft black fungus with lily bulb and peanuts. Oh those peanuts, I could just eat a whole plate of them.
Side dish 2: shredded cucumber with thinly sliced offal, probably intestines. Chilli sauce is poured over after the dish is plated up.
From the 'point at someone else's order' system, noodles with beef. The owner called these 'juicy noodles', they aren't in a full soup, just a thick salty soup that nicely coats and flavours the meat, greens and noodles.
From the board, Dan Dan noodles. You can choose beef or pork, the pork is the spicier of the two. There is a definite real heat in these, we had to wait for the temperature to die back a little so the chilli heat wasn't too much as well.
On another visit we get the same two side dish deal. Celery sliced on the diagonal, served with tofu skin and those peanuts. A light dressing covers the lot.
Nubs of chilli drenched chicken, small on the bone pieces in a tongue tingly Szechuan style pepper.
Can't decide what to order? Ignore the board the owner tells us, while he offers you a choice of meats for your soup. Beef soup with noodles ("good choice!" he says), in a well balanced broth which was not too salty or over flavoured. The beef is diced and well cooked so it is soft to the bite. A splash of vinegar adds a neat tang and a side serve of chilli allows you to balance the heat.
Lamb broth with noodles, a stronger lamb based broth with thin slices of lamb meat. This is a dream lamb soup for Mr Shawn, the handmade noodles are a high qaulity and really add to the starch/soup/protein/veg perfect combo.
Grape Garden Beijin Cuisine is at Lemon Grove Shopping Centre, 427–441 Victoria Ave
Chatswood. Walk through the main entrance off Victoria Ave and go downstairs.