Confucius say when Melbourne girl in Sydney, she should seek out what she cannot find back home.
Not ridiculous heels and unflattering hemlines, but top-shelf Sichuan food with a sprinkle of Sydney glam.
Thus I find myself at the LCD-screen encrusted door to Neil Perry’s Spice Temple, pushing open the digital image of a shimmering curtain and wondering how those Sydney girls totter down the stairs to the basement without turning an ankle.
The promise of a cocktail of fresh pomegranate or lavender tea soda in the bar upon arrival may have something to do with it. There’s a choice of 12, inspired by the Chinese calendar.
Else there’s the 100-piece spice-friendly wine list, close to half of which, unexpectedly, are Europeans. Or there’s beer.
The $69 10-dish banquet is the easy solution to a menu of which every dish tempts – be it tingling prawns, heaven facing chillies or hot, sweet, sour and numbing pork.
It also provides a balance and harmony to one’s meal, which could be quickly waylaid if an adjective-happy Melbourne girl was doing the ordering.
The banquet starts delicate and builds in heat, climaxing with the aforementioned pork and an equally smouldering wagyu brisket, before a cooling coda of fluffy watermelon granita.
Think fresh pickles of cabbage and cucumber, followed by steamed eggplant mixed at the table with perfect amounts of garlic, coriander and sweet pork.
An elegant dish of steamed shredded chicken with ginger and spring onion oil would have been apt in a lady’s finger sandwich.
Earthy cumin lamb pancakes remind of the breadth of Chinese cuisine.
While I’m here to sate my addiction to Sichuan mouth-tingles, Spice Temple also pays smoky spicy salty homage to Hunan, Yunnan and Jiangxi influences – anything bar the Cantonese mainstays of Australian country town restaurants.
In an oh-so-cool setting to boot.