With overseas holidays off the agenda for the foreseeable future, take a trip back in time at Sing Hing Restaurant in Sylvania.
Walking in from the late afternoon’s intense golden light is a bit like entering Aladdin’s cave. As your eyes slowly adjust to the darkened space, the elaborate jade green interior comes into view.
Dating back to 1966, the décor still looks quite spiffy for a restaurant that has had fifty-four years of operation.
Under dangling bird cages, the padded green bar is lined with swivel stools.
Taking a cue from carousels, mirrors are put to good effect on the walls and ornate ceiling, creating an immersive experience that replicates the disorienting ride.
Half-full fish tanks – the water level keeps the hungry koi from jumping out – and lucky bamboo work as room dividers, creating some intimacy in the visually captivating space.
Not immune to the adaptation and reinvention that has characterised the journey of Cantonese cuisine into Australian hearts and minds, Sing Hing offers up some unique menu items.
The extensive book of plastic-covered pages features locally driven oddities like Sizzling Fresh Mango Chicken ($21.80). Not quite convinced it won’t be an over-sweet disaster, I opt for the equally intriguing Creamy Wasabi Beef Pancake ($19/4). Provided on four little plates, these soft pliable pancakes, topped almost to their frilly edges with tender, shredded beef and crisp green veggies, are spiked with a gentle wasabi hit.
They’re great against TsingTao Beer ($6.80) - and the German-inspired Chinese quaffer fits right in with the colour scheme.
If you grew up with the type of Mother who was perpetually trying to sneak vegetables you didn’t like eating into the Bolognese, you’ll definitely understand Grandma’s Bean Curd ($19.80). Think of it as mapo tofu with a homelier edge; where straw mushrooms, corn kernels, green peas and carrots mingle with pork mince and soft blocks of tofu. The only thing it lacked was the (menu) promised chilli heat.
It’s a bit of a theme across all of our selected dishes, enjoyed with Special Fried Rice ($12.80) that’s not quite as well-handled as other versions I’ve eaten recently.
Arriving with all the sizzling fanfare a piping hot cast iron platter can deliver, our Lamb Fillets in XO ($21.80) are an easy winner. The glistening mound of super-tender lamb fillet, interspersed with still crisp vegetables - broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, snow peas and straw mushrooms – has just a hint of XO sauce middle.
Sizzling Boneless Sichuan Chilli Duck ($24.80) appears in similar fashion, hiding pre-cooked skin-on roast bird under slivers of onion, snow peas and capsicum. The syrupy sauce talked a big chilli game, but didn't deliver. Regardless I'm happy I took the time to visit this extraordinary exemplar of Australia's extensive Chinese restaurant history.
Sing Hing Restaurant
244 Princes Highway, Sylvania
Ph: (02) 9522 0188