Browsing in Burwood: eating our way through a Chinese outpost.
Lorrie and I had two goes exploring Burwood, the first time at the suggestion of foodie friends Susan and Edward and Gordon, the second time with Rae Ann as unsuspecting re-inforcements. We probably needed a dozen trips with further groups of friends, to really get to all the exceptional looking eating places, big and bustling to tiny places in the alleyways. So check back here over time, because I'm thoroughly hooked, and will definitely go back to explore more....... and I promise to post the memorable in updates.
We started at Burwood Park, a true old fashioned park, complete with bandstand in a rotunda and a memorial to fallen soldiers. On the edge of the lovely sloping green lawn, with neatly pruned winter rose bushes and canary island palms, is The Picnic, a semi open air coffee and lunch place, enthusiastically supporting the theme of 'picnic' with bits of white picket fencing, yellow and white striped umbrellas and masses of plastic flowers.
As it was our first stop for the morning, Lorrie ordered herself a fortifying triple shot coffee, and a more sedate variety for me. We asked for the house made brownie and the nutella donut, both highly indulgent but we had to try them for our readers, didn't we?
The coffees were great, full of flavour without being bitter or overpowering. The homemade brownie with right amount of gooey in the centre felt just chocolatey sweet enough rather than sugary. Full marks.
Across the road from the serenity of the park is bustling Burwood Road along which is Chinese food of every variety, with a smattering of Italian,Thai, some fast food chains and a Nepalese restaurant too. You'll not lack for choice, and on this adventure we were seeking out all things Chinese, but where to start?
We head south with purpose, away from the park and just before the entrance to the railway station on Burwood Road is a little lane called Deane Street. I'd urge you to find Yang's Dumplings here and fill your tummy with their delicious made-on-the-spot dumplings. Two grannies stand in a glass cubicle at the front of the little hole in the wall, swiftly assembling each little morsel. A memorable experience... Lorrie and I happily warmed our bellies on a chilly day.
Here are the other places you might consider along Burwood Road, and its surrounds:
It is possibly the worst service we've experienced in any of our food forays, but we are here for the food as recommended by trusted friends.
Here you'll find standard, Chinese classics rather than sensational tastes, and despite a lack of welcome, you do get a freebie bowl of steaming and delicious veggie soup as you are seated.
Lanzhou in North Western China is home to a large Muslim population, and also home to the famed Lanzhou beef noodle, served all over China..... and as it turns out, on Burwood Road too.
Lorrie, Rae Ann and I were quite surprised to find the mix of diners at 1919, after queueing for a good while to get into this obviously popular spot. Amongst office workers in their smart dark suits were women in colourful hijab, hipster muslim guys in designer track pants, sneakers and beanies, and a large Lebanese family that had taken over the biggest round table at the back.
Beef noodle is obviously what to get, and the bowls of shimmering stock, filled with Lanzhou (hand-pulled lamian) noodle and thinly sliced beef with a bloom of chilli oil and green veggies are a sight to behold.
We order a dry version, and find the texture of the noodles quite out of the ordinary, chewy, tender and with a lovely dough-y flavour often missing in packaged noodles which often taste of nothing.
Fried Chinese chive pockets are excellent, in fact I have to admit we order more, and slather them with chilli dipping sauce; we are getting the hang of this! Yum yum yum.
The tall chef behind a glass wall up the very back of the restaurant obliges with a smile when I gape in awe as he pulls his portions of supple dough until they separate out into long and slender strands of pale yellow noodles.
Help yourself to hot black tea; you'll find it ever so slightly sweetened, a nice antidote to the rich flavours we were consuming.
Before we leave I press my reluctant (perhaps full?) partners-in-crime to share a bowl of the 1919 dessert: fermented glutinous rice with beaten egg in milk. Lorrie thinks the taste reminds her of cassata, this strange but pleasant warm and milky soup with floating bits of curdled egg, black sesame seeds and goji berries.
Verdict? Yes, do eat at Lanzhou Beef Noodle if you possibly can. And ...........
Thank you Roberts sisters for always recommending a gem.
If you're in Burwood outside of a mealtime, don't let that slight detail deter you from finding something to eat. There's a wonderland of baked goods at this place, with row upon row of shelves packed with endless varieties of cakes, buns, breads and biscuits to tempt you for a snack. From Porkfluff sponge cakes ($7 per piece) , taro mocha buns ($3.30 each) to a Korean style garlic cream cheese bun, the sky's the limit for unusual taste sensations. Don't expect to find a barista made coffee here. These treats are to take home or to snack in the car with a takeaway cuppa....
Since the fermented glutinous rice dessert doesn't quite cut it as dessert for us three, we explore the possibilities at Roji, which attracts us for the cute monster eyes which adorn all their signage and the piles of shaved ice cream. Order your ice cream flavour ( black sesame, chocolate or green tea) and your favourite toppings (crushed nuts, mochi, red beans, chestnuts, etc) and it is like you're being served up the Sesame Street Cookie Monster's head .....
I must say eating ice cream that's been frozen extra hard and then shaved so that what you're consuming is literally a pile of flavoured giant snowflakes is pretty sublime.
Also for sale in this cool space fitted out with shoji screens, paper lanterns and streamlined wood benches and stools are some clever merchandise using their cute logo. Take home a super soft t-shirt, a key ring or a face washer, a nice google eyed souvenir.
Before leaving Burwood, stock up at Market Place in Belmore Street, just off the main drag. It is stacked (neatly) to the rafters with all kinds of ingredients both fresh and preserved you might need for your Chinese, Korean, or Taiwanese recipes. And snacks. Packets of prawn crackers, crispy fish skins in salted duck egg, wasabi peas, fried sweet and sour anchovies,........ and the list goes on. In fact, discover new snacks you never thought you could live without.
These experiences are only what we scratched the surface with. We've all agreed to return and try the various other places like the sweet-potato-baked-in-a-coal oven spot, or the place specializing in cocoa flavoured curries, or further along where you can pick up a bag of 'stinky tofu', chang (glutinous rice triangles filled with pork, chestnuts and salted egg and wrapped in lotus leaf) and fried Chinese donut sticks or youtiao.
Yes, certainly more exploring to be done. Who's coming?
Lorrie Graham's delightful daily blog features her version of this trip to Burwood. Be sure to read it and enjoy her excellent images of the experience.
A train setting you down at Burwood Station will find you at the heart of all this action and more.
If you're driving, park in the Westfield Shopping Center on Burwood Road or at any of the other parking decks close by.