Sunday, 13 November 2011

Gourmet Ultimo Chinese Terrace - North Chinese - Ultimo

I'm having problems starting this blog as it concerns a condiment called XO Sauce. The problem is that I can't compare it to anything I currently buy at my Asian grocer or any other shop for that matter. It's not like Soya Sauce. It's not like Kecap manis. It is not like fish sauce and nothing like shrimp paste. I've become obsessed with this sauce simply because of one meal I tried at the Gourmet Ultimo Chinese Terrace restaurant at Ultimo. A simple trinity consisting of a handful of nondescript seafood (any seafood would have worked), home made Chinese noodles and XO sauce created a meal sensation that has had a profound effect on me.

By profound I mean I think about this meal all the time. Currently placed high on my current shopping list I intend to buy XO sauce (in various brands) next time I visit my local Asian grocer to try out in my home cooked meals. I'm overcome with how the simple trinity of basic ingredients created a most excellent meal.

So what is XO sauce? Developed in the 1980s in Hong Kong for Cantonese cuisine, it is made of roughly chopped dried seafoods including scallops, dried fish and shrimp and cooked with chili peppers, onions, garlic and oil. XO sauce can be used as a condiment on the side of main dishes or used in cooking to enhance the flavour of fish, meats, vegetables, and otherwise bland foods such as tofu or noodles. Home cooks often use this sauce as the chief flavorant for fried rice.
XO Seafood with Home Made Noodles - $11.00
I've known of the Gourmet Ultimo Chinese Terrace in Ultimo for several years. I stumbled into them by accident when I once stayed at the Vulcan Hotel a couple of doors down on a business trip. Typical of myself I wasn't too fond of the attached hotel restaurant even though the bill was paid by my employer. I seem to have a sixth sense which reliably sources cheap & cheerful eating opportunities so I had no problems finding this place once I was in the vicinity.  Since then I had eaten there so long that I forgot what I ate, except to remember that it was good, so good that it was on my "must visit again list". So I made a special effort to drop in on my last visit to Sydney.

I was on an eating Safari so I only ordered the XO Seafood with Home Made Noodles simply because I love seafood and suspected that the noodles would be good (they were excellent !!!). The "XO" part intrigued me. It simply sounded exotic so I had to try it.

The view from my table. The table with the bowl was part of a spring roll production line.
As I arrived the couple who ran the place were sitting at table wrapping spring rolls.
Whilst I waited for my meal I became absorbed by the surroundings. Many of the menu items published on the wall were in a Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, I don't know) language. It would appear as if they have specific Asian clientele that  are homesick and come here for an authentic fix of Chinese cooking. They go to the effort to state: "Booking for live seafood and special soup." on their menu (see attached printed menu below). It gives the impression that something special is happening on certain hours of the week.

Wall Menu

Wall Menu
You are not handed a menu (though they did have printed menus for you to take home) to read and are expected to read menus laid out on the walls. The ones that appealed to me the most appear to be in Chinese as I expect they are aimed at the discerning Chinese speaking client and are more authentic than what might be offered to less tolerant white Australians. Several Bitter Mellon (Bitter Mellon  & Beef with Rice for $13.80) themed dishes that they had on offer come to mind.

Bitter Melon Fruit
Most of you of non Asian background would have noticed Bitter Melon Fruit in various Asian groceries and wondered how to eat it (as I have). Well here is a great opportunity. Simply come on down to this fine eatery at Ultimo and order one of their dishes with it. Except I personally haven't tried it, so don't shoot the messenger if your experience ends up being a total disaster.

Bitter Melon Fruit has a distinct warty exterior and an oblong shape. It is hollow in cross-section, with a relatively thin layer of flesh surrounding a central seed cavity filled with large flat seeds and pith. The fruit is most often eaten green, or as it is beginning to turn yellow. At this stage, the fruit's flesh is crunchy and watery in texture, similar to cucumber, chavote or green capsicum, but bitter.

The hand made noodles are excellent, I can highly recommend the XO Seafood & hand made noodles. My next visit will be to indulge in the  meals that contain Bitter Melon Fruit they have on offer.
Gourmet Ultimo Chinese Terrace

Besides the great food, Its a cool piece of real estate. Potentially a good place to spend the night with some friends if it isn't too crowded. A little gem in the back streets of Ultimo. Currently rated as my favourite home made noodle establishment in Sydney.

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Click to Enlarge
Gourmet Ultimo Chinese Terrace
12 Mary Ann St.
Ultimo NSW 2007
Tel.: (02) 9212 6308
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