Vanessa: If, like me, you have not ventured to Chatswood Interchange in some while prepare to be impressed. The Interchange has gone through a major overhaul and is now a hub of Asian eateries and desserts spots all located in ‘The District’. The latest addition to The District is international Chinese hot pot restaurant Simmer Huang.
With over 500 restaurants world wide, the Chatswood edition is the first to include a bar serving up some delicious cocktails and it’s evident that there is a sharp focus on creating a sophisticated dining experience. Simmer Huang has also teamed up with former Masterchef Australia contestant, Alvin Quah, who, in his role as an ambassador, has created some unique dishes which we were privy to try.
Team FFS were greeted and immediately offered a cocktail to get the evening underway, something we rarely turn down!. Reasonably priced at between $13-$15, I would recommend trying the gin based “Dr Huang “ for a refreshing kick to get the taste buds going.
We knew we were in for a fun evening when the energetic and charismatic Alvin sat with us for the meal. It is clear that Alvin is extremely passionate about food and it was great to hear about his inspiration for cooking and especially the dishes he has created for Simmer Huang.
We were presented with some entrée dishes to start ahead of the infamous hot pot. A bowl of salted edamame, Alex’s favorite, as well as the hometown chicken ($7.90), which is cold poached chicken smothered in a spicy almost peanut tasting sauce. I really enjoyed this dish as the bold flavors of the sauce complemented the less distinct flavor of poached chicken.
We also tried one of Alvin’s creations for the restaurant, the Asian BBQ duck salad with hot sweet and salty dressing ($7.90). This was the winning dish of the entrees we tried, and I’m not just saying that because Alvin was entertaining us all night with his Masterchef tales! This is a dish with strong flavors that complement each other well to create a very tasty combination.
Another highlight entree for me was the cold bean curd strips with spicy sauce ($6.50). This was a light dish and the shredded bean curd had a great texture that absorbed the spicy sauce well.
Next up was the main event, Alvin’s braised pork belly simmer pot ($43.90). Now, I must confess, I am definitely not a “hot pot connoisseur” (having only ever had it once before in China Town) but this was different to the one I had previously. Simmer is taking a unique approach to the traditional method of hot pot, where diners would place their own ingredients into the broth. This comes back to their focus on creating a more sophisticated dining experience whilst still maintaining the elements of traditional hot pot.
A large pot was placed on the induction plate in the middle of the table, whilst a staff member busily prepared the hot pot for us. She placed a hefty quantity of butter in the pan before carefully placing par-boiled vegetables and slightly cooked pork belly around the pot. This was left to simmer for approximately 15 minutes, during which time we continued to fire questions at Alvin. He was a very good sport!
The waitress came over and scattered some coriander over the dish which we then were able to tuck into. There were a lot of strong flavors coming through and visually you could see large cloves of garlic, which added to the taste of the dish. The bite-sized pork belly had caramelised nicely amongst the thick sauce.
The theatrical part of the evening came when the waitress reappeared to add broth to the pot creating a soup with the remaining dish. She then proceeded to spin and stretch long noodles at the table before adding them to the pot.
For me the addition of the noodles didn’t really add much to the dish. Perhaps because I felt they were a little too thick and a thinner noodle, that was able to absorb more of the sauce, may have worked better…but perhaps this is in line with tradition.
There is no doubt that this is great value for money, as I believe one simmer pot could feed between 4-6 people. With its sophisticated atmosphere and unique approach to hot pot, Simmer Huang will no doubt firmly make its mark at ‘The District’.
Photos by Alex