Chungking, or Chongqing without the anglicised spelling, is a major city in southwestern China. Part of the Sichuan province, in culinary terms Chongqing is known as the birthplace of the hot pot; though the local cuisine includes more than forty different cooking methods, running from pickling to drying to steaming.
You’ll find many of them illustrated on the well-photographed menu that lured us into choosing this Burwood Road restaurant over its countless Asian counterparts.
The long galley-like restaurant has a stylish, modern interior ending in a black and red box bar that sits in front of the kitchen.
Down one side of the space there’s a long wooden banquette and tables with punishing wooden stools. We opted for one of the tables surrounded by brown bucket chairs on the other side, but be warned, they’re lower than expected.
Blonde wood detailing on the walls and ceiling, plus an array of rusting woks, make up the only decorations in the dimly lit space, which is saved from being too dark by hanging spot lights beaming onto each individual table.
We kick off with Chungking Pickles ($3.80) which are light, bright and surprisingly salty. There’s a good crunch to the cabbage and carrot mix that reminds me of what KFC coleslaw could be, without all the creamy sweetness.
They’re the perfect counterpoint to one of the chef’s recommendations – Steamed Duck with Glutinous Rice ($22.80). It arrives with a (frankly odd) arrangement of flowers in foil and plastic wrap, looking like a fried then baked dish that has been cut into chopstick-appropriate fingers. The steamed duck has been placed on the bottom of the slice, with glutinous rice pressed over the top of it.
They’re tasty but dry, and really need a double dip in soy then sesame chilli sauce to really sing. Luckily the kitchen was happy and fast to oblige. I will say they made me powerfully thirst, so there may be the hidden hand of MSG in their crisp coating. Luckily there was both my old faithful – Calpis Water ($3.50) and Tsingtao Beer ($5) on hand to quench it.
With many dishes here on the inexpensive side, you can afford to take some risks. We tried Steamed Chicken with Mushroom in Lotus Leaf ($7.80) which presented morsels of chicken coated in a nutty, creamy egg mixture then steamed with tender but toothsome shiitake mushroom pieces. Beyond the mushrooms, this one was a bit bland for me, but I don’t usually order steamed dishes.
While I didn’t stumble upon a winning dish, there’s plenty more to see on this extensive, well photographed menu supported by an easy-to-understand order form that doesn’t require much cross-cultural communication.
Shop 3, 89-91 Burwood Road, Burwood
Ph: (02) 8387 7809