Chi and Co is tucked away from the main strip of restaurants on Canley Vale Road. D and I had long spoken of having dinner there at one point after he’d tried their delicious drinks menu over dinner with colleagues. Its location and my office in the city, though, made it a logistical nightmare to organise. But after a long week of D working night shift, we managed to visit a couple of days before Chi and Co exited Canley Vale (to be reopened elsewhere in 2016). It’s not a surprising move — the items and prices on the menu and fit out of the restaurant are the sort you’d expect of a restaurant in the City. That said, they have a firm following and bookings were essential.
How does one resist a cocktail inspired by one of my favourite cakes, the strawberry watermelon cake at Black Star Pastry? One doesn’t. The Berry Rose cake ($16) is ‘muddled strawberries and watermelon, vodka, strawberry liquer finished with a rose foam’. This cocktail certainly does the cake proud — it’s refreshingly light in its sweetness and creaminess. The watermelon, strawberry and rose flavours as balanced beautifully as in the cake. And even the creaminess of the cake is translated across in the smooth, slightly thicker consistency of cocktail.
With the carafe of lychee tea (see below) we’d ordered, D passes on the lychee based cocktails and goes for the Guava Martini ($16). It’s an ‘Asian balance of guava, citrus and floral notes’ made with guava, Cointreau, St Germain elderflower, fresh lemon/lime and finished with rose foam. This was deliciously refreshing with a crisp, pleasant very subtle floral taste. It’s a ridiculously easy easy cocktail to drink — I’d likely choose this one over the Berry Rose Cake if judging on taste solely, although that one is more interesting and complex.
To drink generally, we ordered a carafe of Lychee Tea ($12). The lemon is very pronounced, which is not how D enjoyed it the first time. The tea base is a jasmine green tea with the floral notes of the jasmine being the second most evident flavour. The lychee flavour wasn’t really there, even though I saw lychee flesh in the carafe, although I may have confused the jasmine notes with the lychee notes because the menu mentioned only using green tea, and D didn’t have trouble tasting the lychee behind the obvious lemon notes. Either way, it’s easy to drink and sweetened just right.
We were really here for the drinks, and everyone knows you shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach. So we order a couple of dishes to share.
We start with Japanese grilled eggplant with peanuts, fried shallots, coriander and Vietnamese dressing and black sesame crackers ($12.90). The flavours in this dish balanced beautifully: the dressing gave a punchy acidity, while the peanuts gave a nice crunch, the eggplant was tender and flavourful, and even though I don’t usually like the green parts of dishes, it went surprisingly well together.
These black sesame crackers that came with the eggplant were a delicious vehicle for soaking up the sauces from the eggplant while giving a pleasant crispinessto the dish. This eggplant dish was the definite highlight of the food we had.
Next up we had the House Duck Spring Rolls with mushrooms and water chestnuts served with sweet plum sauce ($12.90). The spring rolls tasted pretty ordinary by themselves, although the plum sauce went some way to elevating it. The plum sauce had a sweet freshness and was a clear unlike the opaque stuff you get in jars from the Asian grocery. Even so, the spring rolls were not worth $4 each.
Spicy chicken wings are some of D’s favourite foods, so the Devil Wings ($12.90) are an obvious choice. While fried until the chicken wings have a crispy skin, the wing were surprisingly not oily although they were really quite salty. The spiciness did not come from the wings at all, but from the red hot sauce drizzled over. I have a rather sensitive tongue so even the mild hot sauce was already quite spicy for me, but D would’ve liked it hotter. Then again, he thinks most spicy foods we eat aren’t hot enough. So…!
Finally, we finished off with some hand made curry puffs with beef, potato and peas served with cucumber and mint yogurt ($12.90). This was the most disappointing of the food we tried. While the puffs came out piping hot piled on the plate, the pastry quickly absorbed all the steam and became very soft, and not flaky or crispy as you’d expect from a good puff. With the mashed filling, which didn’t taste much like curry, it was just a mushy puff.
We were there for the drinks, and they were good! And the staff were attentive and friendly and staggered the arrival and removal of the dishes well.
Chi and Co was at 3/264 Canley Vale Rd, Canley Heights NSW 2166.