Sunday, August 7, 2011

Da Wan Lai The Poets Chinese Restaurant, Top Ryde City Shopping Centre

Cheesecake Boy and I were feeling hungry after our early morning visit to the zoo.  It was lunch time and I felt like some simple dim sum, but did not want to be around the hustle bustle of our usual yum cha haunts.  This led us to  Da Wan Lai The Poets Chinese Restaurant in Top Ryde City Shopping Centre where they serve dim sum made to order.  However, they predominantly focus on Northern Chinese dishes.  If the name of this establishment sounds familiar to you, it is because they are the sister restaurant to Da Wan Lai in Eastwood.

We ordered Jasmine tea for two, and it came in a pretty teapot with matching tea cups and saucers.  They almost made Cheesecake Boy look dainty, whilst he was drinking his tea.  It was definitely different to the usual plain white teapots that are ubiquitous in other Asian establishments.

Jasmine tea for two, $4

The rain really started to pelt down so Cheesecake Boy and I thought some spicy dan dan noodles were perfect to keep us warm.  The dan dan noodles were a generous serving, and honestly look spicier than it tasted.  It was the usual mix of chilli oil, pork mince, Sicuhan peppers, preserved vegetables and noodles.  However, the version served here included poached quail eggs that was something different.  The runny egg yolks added a soothing richness to these noodles.

Dan dan noodle soup, $12.80

They have a small dim sum menu, but a lot of the firm favourites are available.  The menu warns that the dim sums are actually made to order and can take up to fifteen minutes to be cooked.  Cheesecake Boy and I were skeptical if they were actually made to order, but after my first bite of my steamed prawn and pork dim sim or siu mai, I was a believer.  The siu mai had a lovely home made quality to them, but more importantly they were nicely succulent and incredibly fresh and pure tasting.

Steamed prawn and pork dim sim, $7.80

We also ordered the steamed prawn dumplings or har gow, as they are Cheesecake Boy's favourite.  Now, if you have been reading this blog for a while, you may be aware that I don't like har gow and I will usually not eat them.  However, I gave them a try and the har gow were really lovely.  The har gow here may be the only ones that I will readily eat.  The fresh prawns had a lovely sweetness to them, but the delicate and translucent skin of these dim sum was what won me over.  There was a beautiful chewy firmness to the skin without the sticky wetness that can be associated with over steaming.

Steamed prawn dumplings, $7.80

I love tofu, but I usually never order plain deep fried tofu when I dine out.  However, I saw a picture of them on the menu, and impulsively ordered the deep fried tofu to Cheesecake Boy's surprise.  I was meant to order the cumin chips, but it slipped my mind.  The tofu ended up being the right choice, as I have never seen Cheesecake Boy eat tofu so enthusiastically.  The deep fried tofu was actually a salt and pepper tofu dish.  However, unlike other salt and pepper tofu dishes, this one was very nicely seasoned and not at all overly salty.  The slight kick of chilli was just right, as was the batter which was thin, crispy and very light.   

Deep fried tofu, $12.80

Da Wan Lai The Poets Chinese Restaurant was a nice surprise, and is one of the few establishments in Top Ryde City Shopping Centre that I really do want to return to soon, so that we can give their extensive menu another go.  The dim sum may be slightly more expensive, but I think that they are worth it for their made to order quality.  They are also open for dinner as well, and I am keen to head back to try the Peking Duck one of these days.  Otherwise, I would happily settle for more dim sums over some tea.

Dining away, Dumpling Girl.

Da Wan Lai The Poets Chinese Restaurant
Top Ryde City Shopping Centre
Ground Level
Cnr of Blaxland Rd and Devlin Street
Ryde  NSW  2112
Ph: (02) 9808 3868

The Poets (Da Wan Lai) on Urbanspoon


gastronomous anonymous said...

Didn't even realise they had a branch in Top Ryde! I love tofu too so would order it if I say it on the menu! The noodles looks pretty tasty too!

chocolatesuze said...

aw man now im dying to eat siu mai!

joey@forkingaroundsydney said...

A nice place near my parents to try, thanks!

Anna Johnston said...

Gawd I wish Canberra had places like this. It totes looks like your in another country. Very authentic.

chopinandmysaucepan said...

We went to their Eastwood branch located along the arcade and found the food to be really oily although we understood this to be a Sichuan / northern chinese style of cooking to warm up in winter.

The dan dan noodles looks quite fiery but again it seems to be swimming in oil on the top. Although it may be "authentic" or "traditional", I really think Asian chefs and restaurants need to adapt where appropriate because the majority of the market will not appreciate something so oily. Case in point is Neil Perry's Spice Temple, a smart and modern take on Sichuan and a few other lesser known chinese cuisine. Drop the tradition and give it a twist that enables him to charge $40 for a main and getting bums on seats - that is savvy! Food trends are changing fast and die hard recipes of yesteryears that don't take into account Gen X & Y who have no living memory of these flavours will eventually become irrelevant.

Dumpling Girl said...

Hi gastronomous anonymous, yeah it's been there for a while, but every time I wanted to try it out it was closed. It was pretty quiet initially, but looks like business is now picking up.

Hey Suze, lol the sui mai were really good.

Hello Joey, hope you and your parents enjoy, I know it's hard to find something different in the area at times.

Hi Anna, thanks for dropping by. It does have a certain old charm to it, and the little extra details like the cushions really make this place inviting.

Hello chopinand, I've never been to the one in Eastwood, but I do want to now after my experience here. I would believe the experience in the one in Eastwood would be more traditional considering the demographic there. With the Top Ryde restaurant there are a lot of dishes there catered for the less adventurous too.

Coming from a family of restauranteurs, I do agree with you in relation to needing to know your market. However, the demographic in the subrubs is completely different to those dining in the Sydney CBD who may be more willing to pay top dollar for famed Neil Perry's smaller portions and not completely authentic dishes. I don't think the Spice Temple concept would work in Eastwood or Ryde, where people come to seek out authencity. Also, lots of large families tend to eat together in Eastwood, and have to also factor in value for money. There are also a lot of students in this area that crave a meal that reminds them of home.

Without mentioning our age, Cheesecake Boy and I are both Gen Yers so please give us a bit more credit :) and so are many of our friends and I have heard mixed reviews from them in relation to Spice Temple, so have not been tempted to go. Some of our friends say it's good, but not an authentic experience and I know others that have never tried Sichuan food before and made Spice Temple their first experience and not enjoyed it, but when I have taken them to the more authenic Red Chilli Sichuan they have loved it.

However, at the end of the day food is a very subjective issue and we're all entitled to our views. It's great that food can draw very passionate views.

chopinandmysaucepan said...

Hi Dumpling Girl, I hope my comment about Gen X & Yers didn't offend as it is general in nature. There are obviously Gen Ys like you and Cheesecake Boy who have discerning palates for being passionate about food, adventurous or coming from a foodie background like yourself and you guys definitely know what you eat. For more traditional chinese away from say Cantonese or popular yum cha in particular, I believe the majority of the market may get a little confused.

Having been to Spice Temple and numerous "authentic" Sichuans around Sydney including Red Chilli, I am of the view there needs to be something "in between" because the spectrum is so wide and subjectivity is always an issue. I definitely agree with you that glitzy Spice Temple will fall flat if located in Ryde or Eastwood and vice versa with "oily pools" in the city :) Eastwood restaurateurs are obviously paying attention to students and families which they rightly should. My point is restaurateurs cannot be driven solely by food because it is a business and although the "perfect formula" of good food and turning a decent profit is complicated, I think the balance needs to favour the market more than the food, sad as it may be although again, exceptions at the end of the spectrum have proven successful too.

Dumpling Girl said...

Hi chopinand, being Gen Y merely places us in a category and does not define who we are as individuals, so no hard feelings whatsoever :) Cheesecake Boy and I honestly just like to eat (in moderation of course).

I definitely understand your point of view and looking in from the other side, restaurants do realise that they are a business, but like all businesses some execute their concept better than others. For the ones that do an outstanding job in all fronts. I have seen a lot of people take advantage of these sort of places, and it makes me feel sick at times, but it is the minority.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a great choice-hubby loves Northern Chinese food! And interesting discussion about Gen X and Yers!

Anonymous said...

wow, I didn't even realise that there was a chinese restaurant there.. I always go to Kazbah or Hurricanes!

Dumpling Girl said...

Hi Lorraine, I love Northern Chinese food too, but it is different to the usual establishments.

Hello minibites, it's really easy to be get side tracked by Kazbah and Hurricanes.

Vivian - vxdollface said...

The zoo is so exp :( and you were only there for the morning?? :O lol
I walked past this place before but I didn't think to look twice since they didn't have many patrons inside! The tofu sounds intriguing though :) may need to try this place out!

Dumpling Girl said...

Hi Vivian, it's ok we are zoo friends so we always duck in and out of the zoo on whim :) I thought the same of this place, but I'm glad we gave it a try.

jack said...

The idea of fresh dim sum sounds really good, that salt and pepper tofu though.. I really want to eat this now. Give me that and a bowl of rice any day :)

Dumpling Girl said...

Hey Jack, lol I get like that with tofu as well :D

Simone said...

I took my brother there there for the dumplngs by chance, and we were both amazed at how tasty the dumplings were. We also had the sang choi bau which had larger than normal chunks of pork in it, which we bothreally liked. Next time we'll try the salt n pepper tofu.. looks good...

Dumpling Girl said...

Hello Simone, I am a bit addicted to their dumplings at the moment have to agree the dumplings are great. Lol, I have visited another three times just to savour the pork and cabbage dumplings.