We are children of the 1970s and the word casserole is a euphemism for any withered old crap in the fridge shoved in a pot with some Gravox (or French onion mix for the fancy) and baked long enough to ensure it's dead. Casserole is a scary word but we faced our fears and entered the Chinese Casserole Bar like the culinary Evel Knievels we pretend to be. It turns out that a Chinese casserole is much better than anything Carol Brady whipped up, it's a choose-your-own-adventure soup served in a ceramic pot
There's more to the menu than hotpots and casseroles but that's what we've been in the mood for on our visits. Order using a marker pen on the front page of the menu. Clever huh? Tick off which style of pot you want and spice level from no chili to very spicy. Then tick boxes to add ingredients. Around five or six works for us. We recommend ordering a balance of meat and veggies. Our favourite extras are the tofu skins (super texture) and konjak knots (little bundles of clear flavour soaking noodles tied up in knots, so easy to pick up with chopsticks).
Incense hotpot - or that's what it was called on the wall poster anyway. We ordered from the top part of the menu and hoped for the best. It turned out to be like a large stir fry in chili oil, it can be ordered in five levels of spice. Medium heat works best for us, a nice bit of warmth but not burnies. This worked out to be around $30 with six selections.
Casserole - choose your own ingredients and the chef whips ups a soupy casserole for you. This is from the bottom part of the menu DIY front page. We chose fish fillet, cauliflower, lotus root, tofu skin, mushroom and bean noodles. The broth is a thin brown number, tasting a little of stock, you select how chili-hot you want it. It was about $28 all up, a cheap and fairly healthy dinner for two.
This restaurant as was called Xi Xi Chinese Restaurant on our first visit, Chinese Casserole Bar on our second. It was tarted up a little and given a rather nifty new logo, but everything else is the same, which is a good thing. We're keen to come back and try the soups and cold pots, another mystery to be solved.
We love the eat outside area, especially on a warm Sydney evening. Look out for the colourful shelf lined up with traditional hot pots inside.
Chinese Casserole Bar is in the top/north bit of the Dixon Street Mall, Chinatown, just near Crazy Wings.