There’s something comforting about nearly every regional centre across this country having a Chinese restaurant, each trotting out a similarly wide menu of Australian-Cantonese. While other styles of restaurant can be much more hit and miss, you can usually rely upon the ones with jade green roof tiles, red lettering and grandiose names, to trot out an edible offering wherever you may be. This search for dependability is exactly how I found myself at I-Dragon Chinese Cuisine in Forster on the Mid North Coast.
Here you’ll find the jade green roof tiles inside the restaurant, sitting over the tiny cashier’s hutch. The small room is filled with tables and the standard gold-framed red fabric chairs that Chinese restaurateurs seem to be fond of.
Where it branches beyond the expected, is in the startling set of grimacing Chinese theatre masks, the credible piece of Jackson Pollock-like action painting, and in the wooden ceiling structure built solely to improve the restaurant’s look.
This family-run business, which has been operating since 2011, has a good handle on the Cantonese standards. A simple bowl of Chicken Sweet Corn Soup ($5) is well balanced, with the right amount of cornstarch to be syrupy without being overly thick.
My mother-in-law, who is an unadventurous eater and doesn’t handle spice, baulks a little at the Mongolian Lamb ($19). It’s a generous portion that contains more tender lamb than onion filler. It arrives with the usual sizzling fanfare, and is a good rendition of this perennial favourite albeit with some heat on the back palate.
Luckily she’s kept happy with Honey Chicken ($14) that’s a bit too heavily battered for my liking; and a mound of Special Fried Rice ($7/large) dotted with a decent collection of BBQ pork, chicken, ham, peas, omelette, prawns and shallots.
Presented on shredded iceberg lettuce, slices of roasted BBQ Pork ($7.00) are coated in a Peking sauce. Rather than a triumph of red food colouring, this sweet, nutty sauce is left with a natural appearance that gives the dish a home-style feel that’s enjoyable and unique.
Another place I-Dragon dares to be different is in calling one of their specialty dishes Evil Hot Lamb ($20). My chilli-mad dining companion was of course compelled to order it, despite a bit of ribbing from the young, friendly floor team. It’s a blend of lamb fillets, dried and fresh chillies, onions, capsicum and shallots, that has a real, creeping heat. My dining companion claimed it was easy to stomach, but sure spent a lot of time eating our vegetable side and downing a jug of Ginger Beer ($9).
The meal for three set us back a hundred dollars, with enough left over for my mother-in-law's lunch the next day – well played, regional Chinese.
I-Dragon Chinese Cuisine
1/10 Head Street, Forster
Ph: (02) 6555 2092