Chatswood seems to be a food hub recently, with the introduction of it’s new “eat street”, a dining hub which boasts no fewer than seven different restaurants and cafes with a variety of different food and drink offerings. This new hub is on the Westfields side of Chatswood and boasts big names such as Bavarian Bier Cafe and the very well known Mamak Restaurant.
If you take a stroll to the other side of Chatswood train station, you’ll find Chatswood Chase and a slew of other restaurants. The last time I went to Chatswood, Chatswood Chase looked totally different (10 years ago), so I was surprised to see it get a make over.
What you’ll also find is a new restaurant called The Rice Den. Situated away from the crowds of Eat Street, it sits halfway between Chatswood Train Station and Chatswood Chase. A few friends of mine have been meaning to take us here, it’s a bit of a regular joint for them since they live in the area.
It’s hard to explain the cuisine type here, it’s ‘Modern fusion Asian’ but it doesn’t really stick to one cuisine. You’ll find a bit of Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian. It’s a jack of all trades, but master of what?
The balmy summers evening is kicked off with the steamed cheong fun. It’s a photogenic plate of soft steamed rice noodles with a sweet sesame and ‘Rice Den’ sauce, which had hints of hoisin and soy. On top were fresh shiitake mushrooms and shiso leaves and fried onions which added a bit of texture.
This dish surprised me a little, it’s a nice twist on the conventional offering at most Yum Cha restaurants.
One of my favourite snacks at home is to deep fry a bunch of school prawns and have them splashes of fish sauce and Vietnamese herbs. So when I saw it on Rice Den’s menu I had to give it a go. It’s not as adventurous as my creation, but it’s good to see it on a restaurant menu as I think it is an underrated seafood option.
The prawns are crisp and juicy and come to life with a squeeze of fresh lime and dollop of the aioli. The prawns were a tad under seasoned, but it’s a perfect snack option while sculling down a beer or two.
They got me at the words original and home town. This pad thai is the recreation by one of the chef’s named Tu. It’s a slightly sweeter version of pad thai than I am use to, but I love the addition of fresh chives, peanuts and chili flakes on the side.
A whole baby barramundi de-boned , fried and dressed with home-made chilli sauce, kaffir lime leaf, ginger, pineapple and sliced chilli, served on a bed of bok choy.
Mongolian lamb brings back memories of having lunch in the various food courts in Chinatown during my Uni days. I’ve always wondered though, what goes into a Mongolian lamb sauce and do people in Mongolia actually eat this dish? I’ve always thought of it to be similar to sweet and sour pork, but that doesn’t stop me from ordering it.
Rice Den’s version isn’t quite like the food court versions, with tender pieces of lamb cutlets lightly drizzled with a ‘Mongolian Sauce’ sitting on a bed of crispy onion rings. The onion rings however make the dish a bit ‘heavy’.
The Rice Den is another recent addition to the booming Chatswood food scene. They find themselves on the other side of ‘Eat Street’ so the opportunities of catching the through traffic of Bavarian and Mamak patrons is missed. In saying that, they find themselves with a niche offering in the area. Their fusion style menu with a modern twist is something which can appeal to a variety of demographics. When we were dining there, we noticed a lot of random and curious diners who popped in just to see what the fuss is about, hopefully this means return customers.
The interior is modern and funky, with a youthful design with wooden tables and benches. In terms of the food, it’s an interesting take on the Modern Asian Fusion genre. It remains to be seen what tricks The Rice Den have up their sleeve to compete with the crowd who are on the ‘other’ side of the fence along ‘Eat Street’. If anything, I think they need that one signature dish that will drive customers back, a bit like their neighbours Mamak and their roti canai. It’s early days but I think they have a lot of potential to drive on, the Chef’s and owners are young and have plenty of time on their side.
3 / 77 Archer Street
02 9411 2001