In between buying a house, boot camp commitments, various medical appointments and music festivals, I've had next to no spare time, be it on weekdays or weekends. I was long overdue for a catchup with some of my Brissie friends so I was grateful for a vacant Saturday night to gossip together over dinner. I chose Chow House on James Street because its menu and venue suit small gatherings really well.
We arrived there as a group of 6 and were seated in the outside area. Even though it was lateish (between 8:30pm to 9pm), there were still plenty of active diners. The restaurant had an upbeat and casual vibe.
The Chow House menu comprises of a section of 'street chow' i.e. smaller dishes suited for sharing, and more conventional mains divided into greens, salads, rice/noodles and meat/fish.
Whilst most of our table ordered a main each, I went a bit overboard and chose 2 street chow plates and 2 mains. It was amusing seeing individual plates being laid down in front of my friends and an array of 4 different items placed infront of Marc and I. I definitely felt like a pig.
Peking duck with shallot pancake - served with cucumber and hoisin sauce
The peking duck pancakes weren't at all like a traditional peking wrap. They were pre-wrapped in large rolls, with a thick, flaky shallot pancake and sweet duck filling. They were fairly substantial too, which is uncommon for duck wrap dishes.
Hanoi pork belly and prawn rice paper rolls - with asian herbs and dipping sauce
Marc and I really liked the rice paper rolls. We order rice paper rolls nearly any time we see them on a menu and these had a fresh and flavorsome filling.
Slow-braised beef brisket in aromatic spices - with flat corn bread
The first main we tucked into was the slow braised beef brisket. Marc was unimpressed by this dish and described it as bland and unexciting. The corn bread was a strange accompaniment since the brisket wasn't saucy enough to dip or cut small enough to wrap.
Caramelized pork belly - with star anise, crispy pigs ear, water cress, lychee and orange salad
Our second main was the caramelized pork belly. I liked this dish and thought the crackling was delicious. The sweetness of the fruits and salty sauce were nice compliments.
BBQ beef rib - with soy, chili, tomato and honey, served with baked potato with sour cream and chives
Jaws and Garthritis both ordered the barbecued beef ribs. These were served wth a tomato-based sauce and baked potato. Garthritis commented that the rib was good.
Grilled eye fillet - with fried onion, garlic and green peppercorn sauce, served on a sizzling hot plate with fries
Mork ordered the grilled eye fillet served on a sizzling hot plate. He thought the steak was juicy and tasty but the fries failed to impress him.
Twice-cooked warm duck salad - with shallot pancake, cashews and chili soy dressing
Kat had chosen the warm duck salad with shallot pancake and cashews. I suppose this is the same shallot pancake that we got in our duck pancake. Kat liked her dish but found it to be expensive for the small serving size.
We liked Chow House for the variety of food available and casual dining environment. The food was OK for me; some dishes were good and some were average but there wasn't anything too exceptional as a whole. I think this place is more about having fun and getting a feed before a night out than about the actual food.