One day on the bus I noticed a few new restaurants on Pacific Highway. One of them served "central Asian cuisine". "What does it mean?" I thought to myself. When I got home I told Mr Curious about it, and said we should give it a try one day.
My FIL paid us a visit last weekend. When I said I didn't feel like cooking on Saturday night, Mr Curious suggested we give the restaurant a go. My BIL came along as well so I was well out-numbered by the men.
A quick glance of the menu told me that we chose the right place for a "man-ly" dinner - it was a celebration of meat! The number one vegetable on the menu was potato, and the vegetarian section was short and not very inspiring.
The menu are trilingual - in English, Chinese and Uyghur, so I'm guessing most of the dishes were from the Xinjiang province of China.
The main attraction was charcoal lamb skewers served on little swords (Zik Kawap, $12.50 for 5).
The tender meat and intense lamb flavour made them a winner. We ordered a mix of spicy and mild skewers but the chilli was barely there on the spicy ones.
TLG was a big fan of the skewers and ate almost 3 of them!!!
We also wanted some noodles to fill TLG up, and our waitress (Janna, who was very lovely) recommended the Xinjiang style stir fried lamb/beef with noodles (Hekiki Guiron Laghman, $15). She said the noodles were hand-made.
The noodles were super-long (we had to ask for scissors to cut them up before serving). And they were awesome! So soft and chewy, and it soaked up the flavour of the meat. The meat was again really tender. It was a touch oily - not that it stopped me from eating multiple bowls ;-P
Mr Curious ordered the spicy shredded potato (Karhtup Konimisi, $12).
They were a bit crunchy and very tasty. I felt it was more suitable as an appetizer than a main dish though, one or two mouthfuls per person would have been the right amount.
My FIL's pick was braised beef hotpot with potato (Karhtup Kala Göshi Korumisi, $25)
It was nice but overshadowed by the other dishes IMO.
Initially we ordered another lamb dish but Janna came back and said that the lamb would taste very similar to the skewers, so she suggested we choose another dish. She recommended the spicy chicken with potato and dried chilli served with fresh hand-made noodles (Dapan Ji, $20 for small).
This dish was the spiciest of the lot, but unlike Thai or Indian food the chilli was not in-your-face. Instead the heat built slowly and it was very warming. Perhaps they took it easy with the chilli given we were foreign to the cuisine.
The hand-made noodles hidden underneath the chicken and potato was another highlight. They were thick, flat noodles (like papadelle) but the texture were similar to Shanghaiese rice cakes. Worked really well with a hearty dish like this.
Everyone was stuffed at the end of the dinner - we couldn't finish everything!
When Janna was tending our table TLG was very good with his "pleases" and "thank yous". She was very impressed and awarded him a special gift.
It was a small sweet bun with green bean paste, pinenuts, crushed walnuts, sesame and sultanas inside. TLG polished it off in next to no time so I suspect it was very good.
The bill was just over $100 which was excellent value.
It is worth noting a few small issues - the lights in the restaurant were so bright when we arrived it felt more like a food court than a restaurant (they were dimmed later), and the other waitress who served us had a very limited command of English. With a bit more experience under their belt I'm sure the these things will be ironed out.
We'll definitely be back again. They're open for lunch as well so I may take TLG there on one of the "mummy days". I'm keen to try their Uzbek steamed dumplings (Petir Manta) next time.
P.S. On their menu were a roasted lamb leg for $125 and a whole roasted lamb for $500 available for pre-order. I'd love to check them out...
Poplar Central Asian Cuisine
2/300 Pacific Highway
(02) 9439 9886