Eager to put Blanche through her paces, the SO and I rode out to James Street on a little exploration and dropped in at Chow House for a spot of dinner.
Chow House has replaced James Street Bistro and occupies the prime James Street real estate space right beside the cinema, so it’s hard to miss.
Being a school night, things looked a little slow at the casual dining restaurant. I counted five other occupied tables when we first arrived, which grew to about 10 by the time we left.
Chow House‘s menu is undoubtedly Asian. With a selection of items inspired by the commonly available street food of the Orient, adeptly labelled ‘Street Chow’, think fresh explosions of flavour with slick modern presentations.
The hanoi pork belly and prawn rice paper roll is gluten free and the portion is 3 servings. This made for some awkward butter knife hacking, so the SO and I could have half of the last roll.
I hadn’t expected the hanoi pork belly to be as crunchy as it was, but it was a great textural difference to the soft rice paper skins and zingy blend of herbs and dipping sauce.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the SO’s green tea smoked duck breast with steamed bun, but I was impressed. While the duck breast was not the most succulently prepared duck we’ve had, the delicate smoky flavours were divine. It seemed to build the more you chewed on it and it complimented the thick sweet sauce that was liberally applied over it.
However I was not particularly keen on the steamed bun. It would’ve been a fluffy yeasty plain sweet bun, but it seemed to have been toasted. This not only made the outside almost as dry as a biscuit, but made much of the inside quite chewy.
Now I know AUD$22 for a green mango salad is steep for anyone who’s used to the Thai or Vietnamese prices, especially when the portion is only about fist-sized. But I was desperate for something fresh and zesty to perk myself up after our ride, and light enough that would sit well in my stomach on the way back.
Chow House‘s chicken and green mango salad chicken is everything you can expect from a green mango salad – think bright citrus, green crisp and biting zing. The chicken is poached in coconut milk and combined with the desiccated toasted with green mango, pickled vegetables, lime and coconut vinaigrette, it’s a real perk-me-upper of a dish. I had no trouble polishing the entire lot off my plate.
To round off the meal, the SO and I shared the Banana Praline Sundae Ice-cream. This was very filling and sweet, though thankfully not sickeningly so. The salted caramel and praline were excellent counterparts to the the oozy banana and cold ice-cream, both in texture and taste.
Overall Chow House has some glorious dishes that can take you back to that tropical holiday in Thailand/Vietnam, but it isn’t perfect. The modern twists means it isn’t 100% authentic, but it has scored well overall. If you’re easily deterred by prices for Asian food (ie. you expect it to be as cheap as chips as in Asia) in Australia, you might baulk at Chow House‘s prices, but it is pretty fair in my opinion.