Posted March 9, 2011 by Jennifer Lam (Jenius) in Occasion

The Rice Den

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A new breed of modern fusion restaurants are wooing food lovers all over Sydney. They’re casual, cool and creative. Led by young enterprising restaurateurs, these eateries are so comfortable with their unique experimental fusion of Asian, Australian or European cooking styles
and ingredients, that the ‘cool’ just comes naturally.

The Rice Den is one of them. Since opening its doors in November last year, The Rice Den has been serving up modern Asian dishes, seven days a week, to a growing hungry Chatswood crowd.

The Rice Den, modern Asian restaurant at Chatswood

The Rice Den’s owners are four mates, aged between 23 and 30.There’s Roy who is the head chef and has over 9 years experience in owning and operating restaurants; Nick who works in advertising and manages the restaurant’s marketing; Eddy who works in IT and uses his former waiting experience to manage front of house; and Jin who has a family background in real estate and helped source the restaurant’s location.

They each brought with them inspiration from their travels and created a fun offering that was based on tastes they loved themselves.

Having dined here recently, I almost feel like it was designed, just for me. Familiar flavours with a twist.
The Rice Den - steamed cheong fun

The cheong fun ($6) is a Chinese dish often eaten at yumcha where the rice noodle rolls (normally with spring onion and dried shrimp) are pan-fried then served with a dipping sauce of hoisin sauce and peanut butter/sesame paste. My mum used to make this at home every time she got her hands on a fresh batch of rice noodle rolls, direct from the factory. Here, it is dished up more elegantly. They’re steamed until silky smooth, topped with fresh subtle flavours of shiitake mushrooms, shiso leaves and fried onions and a drizzle of that delicious nutty sauce.

Next we have the nem nuong san choy bow (two pieces for $8). The ingredients are clearly inspired by the Vietnamese DIY dish featuring succulent grilled pork skewers and nuoc cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce) but served in a Chinese san choy bow manner. I love the fresh flavours but the shot glass of sauce isn”t very practical. Too slim to dip, too messy to pour :-\

The Rice Den - nem nuong san choy bow

The school prawn stack ($12) on the other hand are crunchtastic and more-ish. You eat these with the shrimp’s head and shell in-tact so it’s super crispy and the aioli makes you keep coming back for more.
The Rice Den - school prawn stacks

The restaurant’s name almost implies it’s specialty would be rice but there are just four rice options on the menu – jasmine rice; garlic and shallot rice; tropicana; buddha; and nasi goreng. Upon the waitress’ recommendation, we try the tropicana fried rice ($14), a tasty tomato fried rice (that reminds me of com do: Vietnamese red rice) with king prawns, chorizo, fresh pineapple chunks, carrots and tomato chutney. This dish is a total winner because who doesn’t love chorizo? Or pineapple? Or prawns? 😉

The Rice Den - tropicana fried rice

The Rice Den - chilli basil crocodile

The chilli basil crocodile ($15) is a classic Thai style stir-fry. Crocodile meat is more delicate and leaner than chicken but in this case, the distinctive crocodile taste is somehow lost within the punchy chilli basil flavours. I do adore the texture and flavour of the deep fried basil leaves though!

Having never not ordered soft shell crab ($16) if it were on the menu, the soft shell crab at The Rice Den is lightly battered and wonderfully crisp; it is dressed with sweet soy and chilli mayonnaise which isn’t quite spicy enough and topped with a sprinkling of flying fish roe.

The Rice Den - soft shell crab

The Rice Den - deep fried barramundi with apple salad

One of today’s special is a barramundi green apple salad ($25). With the freshness and mints of Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, the salad is crisp and full of zing. The presentation is both gorgeous and thoughtful, particularly because we didn’t have to pick at a whole fish since it had been filleted, cut and battered separately.

Then there’s the Mongolian lamb cutlets ($18), an Asian twist to an Aussie BBQ favourite. These are served with ENORMOUS onion rings. The cutlets are sweet, tender and very flavoursome but although I love onion rings, the batter on these are too heavy for my liking.

The Rice Den - lamb chops

And to finish, deep-fried green tea icecream ($6). The crumb coating is impossibly thin and crunchy and you all already know about my weakness for matcha-anything – oh so good.

The Rice Den - deep fried matcha green tea  icecream

The Rice Den isn’t a place for the traditional folks but for nights when you’re feeling a bit adventurous, it’s definitely worth checking out. Six of us ate for about $25 a head so it’s well priced too!

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The Rice Den
Shop 3, 77 Archer Street, Chatswood NSW
Phone: (02) 9411 2001
Web: www.thericeden.com.au

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Jennifer Lam (Jenius)

Jennifer is the founding blogger of I Ate My Way Through (originally, Jenius.com.au). Growing up in the multicultural melting pot of Sydney’s Inner West as a second generation Australian (of Vietnamese refugee parents of Teochew Chinese ancestry), Jen has always had a deep curiosity about global cuisines, culinary heritage and the cultural assimilation of immigrants. For Jen and her family, food is always at the centre of all celebrations, life events and milestones. A lover of the finer things in life, as well as cheap eats, her blogging ethos is all about empowering and inspiring people to expand their culinary repertoire. When not running her two companies (she is also the Managing Director of The Bamboo Garden online marketing agency), Jen can be found exploring old-world charms at vintage markets and delving into local eats around the world. She has a weakness for fried chicken.