Monday, January 13, 2014

Chop Chop Chang's

Chop Chop Chang's

We caught up with our lovely friend Lilly last night and decided to have dinner and chats in Chop Chop Chang. I don't often insist on any one particular restaurant but it's common for me to get cravings for a certain type of food. Last night, it was for anything Asian. I had a mind blank over where to go but Lilly remembered that a friend of hers had tried Chop Chop and recommended it. It's a newish restaurant that I filed away to try out when I first saw it but then forgot all about. Luckily someone has a better memory than me.

Parking around that part of West End is a nightmare to put it lightly. We ended up about 10 minutes away up and over a large hill. I was worried that being Friday night, we would be turned away without a booking. Luckily that wasn't the case and we were led to one of the large share tables.

Being our first time, our amazing waitress took a moment to explain the menu. Like authentic Asian cuisine, the food is designed for sharing. She recommended that we order approximately 1.5 items per person so for 3 people, we rounded down to 4 dishes plus rice. As an uneasy consumer of white rice, I was delighted to see brown rice on the menu. This should be a trend picked up by all Asian restaurants.

Pear and green tea punch

To stay on the theme of sharing, we chose a punch jug to share between us. I was drawn to the first flavour on the list, which was green tea and pear. I could definitely taste the pear and a slight spice element (we found whole star anise floating decoratively in the jug) but I would have liked a stronger green tea infusion. I found this drink slightly too sweet for me but Lilly thought it was OK.

Green papaya salad - with carrot, snake beans, tomato, peanuts, dried shrimp and nahm jim

The first of our food dishes to arrive was the papaya salad. Both Lilly and myself really enjoyed this dish. With papaya salad, I think it's all about how fine everything is shredded and how well balanced the sauce is. This version was bang on and I liked that the dressing was slightly too spicy for me yet somehow this made it all the more perfect. It had a wedge of cabbage on the side that I was unsure about. Lilly suggested that it was for wrapping the papaya in. I tried that but didn't think it was worth the effort.

Shaved, sliced beef - with Asian herb salad, jeau, chili and lime

Lilly's pick for the night was the sliced beef salad. I really liked this one too also because the dressing suited my taste just right.

Close-up of the beef to emphasize how nicely cooked it was

I liked that the beef was tender and indeed rare, unlike some beef salads that contain chewy, dry morsels. If I could manage to whip up something like this for weekday lunch, I would be stoked.

Hokkien mee - with noodles, prawns, char siu pork, cuttlefish and beansprouts

Marc ordered the hokkien mee with seafood and pork. I was most unimpressed by this dish because it was about double the cost and half the size of something similar in Sunnybank but in my opinion, nowhere near as good. With fried noodles, I really look for that wok charred aroma but this dish didn't have it. Marc defended his choice saying he thought it was really yummy and I suppose I lost this argument because Lilly agreed with him. I will concede that there was a lot of ingredients besides the noodles such as meat and juicy prawns.

Cashew and chicken - with roasted chili past, thai basil and coconut cream

My dish arrived last after a minor wait that was long enough for us to forget we had another dish coming. I chose chicken cashew with apprehension because although it's a safe option, it's also admittedly quite boring. I had been drawn to the chicken curry on the menu but refrained from ordering that because it contained noodle and I didn't want redundancy. Imagine my delight when I discovered this cashew chicken was more of a creamy cashew chicken curry. This is hands down my favourite dish of the night (besides maybe the ice-cream which you'll read about later). Lilly critiqued that the sauce was too sweet for her taste but that probably explains why I liked it so much. I'm a sucker for sweetness in savoury dishes (and saltiness in desserts). The chicken pieces were succulent and soaked in a rich, coconut sauce with crunchy whole cashews and fragrant thai basil immersed in the mix. Delicious.

Ice-cream, trio of flavours - coconut brittle (front), chai (centre) and chocolate cashew (rear)

I'm pretty sure the table was full but I put my foot down and insisted on dessert. I was leaning towards the sago but when our waitress read out the ice-cream flavours of the night, I was completely swayed. We ended up getting three flavours to try. Lilly thought the chai and coconut brittle flavours were too sweet but I loved them both. The cashew chocolate had this amazing intensity that made it just like eating a brownie in ice-cream form. How could that be a bad thing? Two at our table hadn't tried chai latte before and I explained that it was exactly like the ice-cream we were eating but warm and foamy. The coconut one was equally as accurate in flavour and had interesting crunchy brittle pieces. I loved them all! I would definitely go back just for ice-cream.

We had a good time at Chop Chop Chang and I'm really glad this opened up in my neighbourhood. The menu has so many yummy sounding options that I really want to go back and try the chef's favourite banquet. I liked the vibe of the place too because it's casual and fun and suits the share plate style of eating. Expect dishes to be smaller in size than your local Asian eatery but taking into consideration location and ambiance, it's not a big price to pay.
Chop Chop Changs on Urbanspoon

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