The Spice Temple is located at 10 Blight Street, Sydney. I had trouble finding it, I walked up and down Blight Street and couldn’t find number 10. I eventually discovered that 10 was right on the corner intersection and the front is quite discreet, no signs, just a giant LCD door which you push to open. This is the sub-basement of the heritage-listed Art Deco City Mutual Building.
The dining room is quite dim but there is spot lighting directly above each table so that your food will be lit up but you won’t be which creates quite a nice, relaxed and intimate ambience. It was a great setting to catch up with my friend Steve who moved to Sydney from Perth last year.
They have a different cocktail for each animal of the zodiac. I ordered the dog cocktail which was quite nice - ruby red grapefruit and agave, with pisco, lemon juice and aromatic fluff.
The meals are designed to share. Between the two of us we had one entrée and three mains to share with some steamed rice. The waiter questioned our ability to eat it all but we were both very hungry.
We had the lamb and fennel dumplings for our entrée. The dumplings were crisp-bottomed potstickers laced with fennel seed and they tasted great.
Guangxi style roast pork belly. The pork was lovely and tender, and the skin was most importantly crackling. Garnished with heaps of coriander, peanuts, red onion and sesame seeds which provided lots of crunchy textures.
While eating this dish, Steve and I had a conversation about eating pork belly. He doesn’t like eating it much because he finds eating the signature layers of fat kind of gross. I on the other hand, love pork belly, especially the fatty bits, whenever I eat it I always choose the pieces which have the most layers of fat because I find it delicious. When I eat with my family, everyone reserves the most fatty parts of the pork belly for me. I love the moist and juicy textural contrast of the pork fat to the layers of meat. It’s really unhealthy and rather disgusting if you think about it…but that taste of fat is good….really good. "Fat is flavour” or “fat equals flavour” are popular food expressions for cooking meat. A good marbling/layers of fat on meat is important as it helps to keep meat moist and tender, providing some protection against overcooking. Fat also generates flavour when the meat is cooked and it carries flavour when you eat it. Full fat milk, ice cream, mayo and yoghurt always tastes better than the low fat variety.
Hot and numbing crispy duck? (I think this was the name of the dish). The duck dish was the stand out for me, it was cooked perfectly with a crispy skin and the inside was tender, juicy and still a little pink. The sauce complimented the duck really well with complex notes of sweet, sour and a little heat. It’s one of those dishes where over the time that you chew it your mouth continues to detect the layers of flavours at different intervals which makes it very satisfying.
Stir fried beef fillet with wok blistered peppers and black bean.
Neil Perry is known for his commitment to sourcing the finest produce, especially beef which he gets from only the best Australian producers. It was evident while eating the beef fillets that it was quality stuff. The beef pieces were seared well on the outside while still being tender and pink on the inside, and there was some flavour coming from the peppers and black beans to spice it up a bit but they took a back seat against the tastiness of the beef which was the star.
After our meal we were satisfyingly full but we ordered desert because so matter how much you eat there is always room for dessert!
We were given complimentary almond cookies with our bill which was a nice touch.
The Spice Temple is a great restaurant. The food is damn tasty. The Spice Temple doesn’t serve your usual Chinese dishes but showcases regional Chinese flavours from Sichuan to Yunnan to Guangxi. The dishes are well thought out and I enjoyed the depth and balance of the flavours, and there are lots of contrasting textures and tastes. There is a nice lovely ambience and the service was fantastic, we had a dedicated waiter who made us feel very comfortable the whole night. My friend Steve said that it was the best meal that he has had in Sydney so far.
Neil Perry opens his first restaurant in Perth next year. The Rockpool at the Burswood Casino. Neil Perry has just expanded his Spice Temple franchise to Melbourne….hopefully one day we will see it heading West.
The only warning that I have to offer for the Spice Temple is that there is limited parking….actually parking in Sydney is a bitch and don’t even mention the traffic, we ended up being late for our booking because of crazy peak hour traffic on a Tuesday night.
Parked in the basement of a building and after our meal at 10pm we found that the carpark closed at 9pm! Went around to check out the other entrance and found a car driving out (maybe someone who worked in the building?) and we ran under the gate as it started to close again….then we realized that we would get locked in so Steve went to get his car and I was given the duty of holding the gate up and stop it from closing down! I think there were sensors so I managed to disrupted it for a bit but then gave up as the gate was no longer registering that there was a human under it and just kept coming down and I was no match for it. Then a security guard come out and said “Oi! What are you doing?”. He must have seen me on CCTV (?) or noticed disruptions to the normal functioning of the security gate. At about the same time Steve appeared with his car and we explained to the security guard our dilemma and he was very nice to let us through.
Our parking misadventures made for a memorable night but I was just glad that our dinner did not result in an extra $$ because we had to leave the car locked in the carpark overnight.