09 February 2011

Chairman Mao Chinese Restaurant: Chinese New Year Dinner, Kensington (2 Feb 2011)

189 Anzac Parade, Kensington NSW 2033
Phone: (02) 9697 9189

Mao’s revolution in Kensington

A family dinner to celebrate the Chinese New Year of the rabbit brings me to this fairly large Hunan cuisine restaurant with predominantly non-Anglo customers and Chairman Mao adornments all around. To the delight of my dad the complimentary tea is very hot which usually gets a tick, especially if they promptly fill the empty pot and is made with loose tea leaves rather than tea bags. Service is well presented and friendly enough to actually want to please the customer which is generally refreshing for a Chinese restaurant. With a bit of Google research I learnt Chairman Mao's original name was actually Mao Zedong and Hunan cuisine is supposedly well known for its hot spicy flavor, fresh aroma and deep color as well as for its liberal use of chilli peppers, shallots and garlic. For some reason many of the dishes ordered tonight were unfortunately also very oily.

The complimentary appetiser of Sliced tofu with chilli is ever so finely sliced and has a fresh chilli kick to it. The Chopped green onion pancake ($3.50 each) arrives quite thin and crispy and serves well as a starter. The main dishes we ordered were quite tasty and different to what we’ve usually had in a Chinese restaurant although we did find them overall quite oily as well — is this to be expected in Hunan cuisine? The large serving of Chairman Mao's favorite braised pork ($16.80) comes with largish chunks of pork in a flavoursome sauce combined with a fair amount of fat attached. Spicy chicken dices braised with tea-tree mushrooms ($25.80) has a moderate heat factor amongst the tender chicken pieces although sits in a pool of oil as well. The Stir fried leek with five-spice bean curd ($14.80) was well liked although just as oily as the other dishes. The Hunan style stir fried rice ($10.80) had a very smoky flavour bordering on being slightly burnt for my liking but had all the right ingredients I was hoping for.

The special CNY menu dish of Steamed whole fresh barramundi with red and green hot chilli ($50) took over 45 minutes to prepare which would have been nice to know beforehand when ordered. It had lots of flavour being covered with liberal amounts of chopped green chilli. It was more expensive than the hand-picked fresh one last year at Golden Century and seemed to use more oil as well. There's certainly some interesting dishes to discover here compared to your usual westernised Chinese fare but be prepared for the very awkward seating, especially if you’ve got long legs and what seems like some liberal use of oil in the cooking.

Other reviews:
Daily Telegraph

PROS: Well presented and friendly staff, Tasty and interesting dishes albeit quite oily, Hot complimentary tea, Predominantly Asian customers, Prices seem reasonable
CONS: Very awkward leg room under the tables, Some dishes were particularly oily
MUST TRY: Braised pork at least once
WORTH TRYING: Chopped green onion pancake

Chinese tea served very hot (complimentary)

Complimentary sliced tofu with chilli appetiser

Chopped green onion pancake ($3.50 each)

Chairman Mao's favorite brasied pork ($16.80)

Oil factor — Chairman Mao's favorite brasied pork ($16.80)

Delicious and spicy chicken dices braised with tea-tree mushrooms ($25.80)

Oil factor — Delicious and spicy chicken dices braised with tea-tree mushrooms ($25.80)

Stir fried leek with five-spice bean curd ($14.80)

Hunan style stir fried rice ($10.80) — had a very smokey flavour bordering on possibly a little burnt tonight

Steamed rice ($2 person) — you could share a single bowl serving between two if not overly hungry

Steamed whole fresh barramundi with red and green hot chilli ($50)

Clean passage way to toilets — so glad they don't use as storage like some places tend to do which can make it an OHS issue

Bill $125.70 for 5 people — Probably could have ordered one less dish


Wall decorations

Awkward leg room under tables which are also a bit low due to underneath wooden shelf area

Outside during the day

Outside at night

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Chairman Mao Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Jen said...

I love Hunan cuisine and can't believe I still haven't dined here yet! I've tried to come here once before but it was a fail on my behalf coz i forgot they don't open on Tuesdays. A shame about the oiliness.

Anonymous said...

Im a big fan of Hunan food having eaten it a lot in China. I must say oily is something that is fairly consistant throughout the cuisine. I have been told that in most dishes the sauce is not meant to be consumed but left in the dish rather than mixed with rice as we westerners would normally do. But anyway I willhave to give this place a try.

joey@forkingaroundsydney said...

I still haven't visited this place because of my aversion to strong chilli, but I agree with anon that Hunan food and a lot of Chinese food in general can be quite oily.

Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

Never a fan of oil pools.... :S even if the fatty pork looks darn good

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Looks good but such a shame about the excess oil!

Richard Elliot said...

Speaking to my relied upon oracle of Chinese food, Hunan dishes are known / supposed to be oily. Chairman Mao gets the thumbs up from him for being pretty authentic.

It's on my wish list of places to visit.

Anonymous said...

The oiliness may be the reason the tea is served pipping hot. I guess that's good if it's authentic Hunan cuisine. On the other hand, they should have chosen tables designed for normal humans to sit comfortably.

Simon Leong said...

hi jen, it's always best to check when a place is open. i think i've done that before.

hi anonymous, thanks for the tip about the oil in the dish. sometimes it's hard to avoid when the left overs are sitting in the bottom.

hi joey, the chilli wasn't too hot but we actually did order things mild so i'm sure if you don't say anything it'll probably come out quite chilli hot.

hi tina, i think i used the rice to soak up the oil but tried to avoid eating the rice :-)

hi angie, not good for the heart but great for the taste buds.

hi richard, thanks for checking with your Chinese oracle. glad to hear it's a pretty authentic place for Hunan dishes.

hi lateraleating, if only they could change the table seating but i guess it adds to the character of the place albeit a bit uncomfortably.

Anonymous said...

Food looks great, but I would never visit a restaurant which pays homage to the world's worst mass murderer. No matter how good it tastes.

Simon Leong said...

hi Anonymous, i understand what you mean. i've always wondered why they would call their restaurant this name. i'm still not sure why.

bob | Jugernauts.com said...

where are the dumpling?!?! neither GYF and your review has dumplings and this was in SMH's top dumplings in sydney. Going tonight :P


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