26 June 2010

Spice Temple Banquet Review - Chinese - Bligh Street City

In a city like Sydney where life affirming meals can easily be found for under $10, we are skeptical of upmarket restaurants doing their take on Asian classics, but Neil Perry's Spice Temple just does everything oh so right.

Being a complete ignoramus when it comes to upmarket restaurants I had never heard of Spice Temple until a pair of out-of-town hicks dragged us there. I never knew it was a Neil Perry Rockpool joint until I checked out the website. And I never thought I could forgive Neil Perry for his ponytail.

When we find so much good food for so little money in Sydney we are hesitant to pay upmarket prices for downmarket food. But a recent trip to Kylie Kwong's restaurant, Billy Kwong taught us that East-West fusion can be mind-blowingly good and certainly worth paying for.

In our humble opinion Spice Temple is excellent value.  Most mains are around $35, not much more than you will pay in some Chinatown restaurants for average Cantonese dishes, and dining here is quite an experience.

We are in a large group so we opt for the $69 banquet. We downloaded the menu from the Spice Temple website and were thrilled to see the banquet included many of our favourite Chinese dishes.

Cabbage and radish pickle. A divine starter.

Cucumber with smashed garlic. This reminded us a North Chinese cucumber salad, a refined version of Miss Chicken's current obsession.

Tofu and preserved egg with soy chilli dressing, also an excellent take on one of our current obsessions. The preserved egg isn't overpowering as it  in a Chinese restaurants and the silken tofu tastes lovely and fresh. We were drooling over this one.

Steamed eggplant with three flavours: garlic, coriander and sweet pork. Sorry about the out-of-focus photo folks, it's very dark in Spice Temple. This number was mixed at the table by the wait staff. A hearty and flavoursome dish. We guessed that this was inspired by the North Chinese classic of noodles with pork mince, or Szechuan spaghetti, or Chinese spaghetti as it is sometimes called, with the eggplant replacing the noodles. Double yum.

Stir fried amaranth with garlic. I thought it was Chinese broccoli, if not is was very similar. So simple yet so delicious, and healthy. We must thank diner Brad for insisting that everybody ate their greens.

Fried squid with whole five spice and dark chilli paste: the thinking person's salt and pepper squid.

I think this dish drew the most 'oohs' and 'aahs' from around the table. According to Wikipedia (who are always right) five spice is star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper and ground fennel seeds. I'm no Masterchef but to me this dish was perfectly cooked: I could taste lovely fresh squid underneath the spices, it was neither too dry nor oily, impressive.

Steamed rice came out half way through the proceedings. In a couple of Asian feasts we have been to overseas the rice comes either halfway or towards the very end of the meal. I was quietly very impressed with this subtle touch.

Steamed Blue Eye fillet with salted chilli black bean. I don't think I have ever enjoyed a piece of fish as much as this one. On our recent trip to Hong Kong we became big fans of fish with black beans and chilli, a great way to eat whole fish, the black beans complement the fish rather than overpower it. Another wonderful take on one of our favourite dishes.

Hot, sweet, sour and numbing pork: chilli, sugar, black vinegar, and Sichuan peppercorn. The thinking person's sweet and sour pork.

Sweet and sour pork is one of my guilty pleasures, and this spicy take on it is sensational. Another crowd pleaser.

Stir fried David Blackmore’s wagyu brisket with baby eggplant and chilli. A hearty finisher.

Orange chiffon jelly cake. The thinking person's lamington. Very sweet and coconutty, too sweet for some, I liked it but I suspect there are desserts with more wow factor on the a la carte menu.

Folks were divided on these striking images on the wall.

The magic wonder-door entrance, and some very happy ladies brandishing shoes.

We left satiated and exuberant though we still can't forgive Neil Perry for the ponytail.

Spice Temple on Urbanspoon


  1. That orange chiffon jelly cake is my favorite dessert. I've tasted them on Suffolk County catering halls when my sister got married. It's so delicious and simply unforgettable.

  2. They seem small plates for a banquet...is each plate for one or two ?


Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).