“I’ve got the day off let’s go eat at China Beach… I’ll drive you home!” came the promise from Lex one email not so very long ago. True, the promise of a lift home may have been a strong factor in attending dinner but it turns out that the food at China Beach (43-45 North Steyne, Manly) is actually pretty awesome, a tad on the pricey side but hey with a waterfront restaurant, location is everything!
It may have been a school night but we couldn’t go past the cocktail list. Shez the drinks monster has already downed some pre-dinner drinks but has decided to try the Fistful of Yen ($12) more for the name I suspect than of the ingredients making up said drink and oh boy was it a doozy. It tasted like alcohol mixed with alcohol and topped with more alcohol. My Apple Orchard ($12) wasn’t quite as boozy so I could actually taste the apple with an edge of spicy cinnamon but boozy enough that some of the dishes later on has become a little hazy in my memory banks.
Betel leaf with house smoked trout, grilled eggplant & green chilli nam jim ($4 each). Hello morsels of deliciousness! Betel leaves are the perfect serving plates, leafy greens just big enough to hold itty bitty pieces of trout marinated in awesomeness, slightly sour and with a chilli kick.
3 huge oysters on a bed of rock salt magically appear thanks to Lex’s connections with the kitchen. Fat, briny bivalves sitting in a row, a dash of rice wine vinaigrette and topped with shallots equals sea bliss.
Sashimi of kingfish & ocean trout with blackened chilli dressing ($20). Now this was an entree I could have ordered x 3! Thick slices of uber fresh, top notch sashimi lying atop crunchy julienned apple and doused in a dressing that had a heat level just above ‘hmm zingy’ and below ‘oh crap the burning’. It was win.
Crispy pork belly stir fried with mama’s curry paste & snake bean, lime leaf & basil ($28). There was an unanimous decision to order the pork belly once we spotted it on the menu. Dude if it’s pork belly and it’s crispy it’s gotta be good right! Hells yes it was good! The plate was a treasure trove of porky goodness which was equal parts juicy tender meat to crispy delectable crackling and a jumble of beans and capsicum to balance out the richness. Don’t ask me what ‘mama’s curry paste’ is. Whatever it was, I’d love the recipe!
Stir fried beef tenderloin with black bean chilli, bamboo shoot & asian mushrooms ($30). I have absolutely no recollection of eating this. Seriously I must have the memory of a peanut but I do not remember eating this. Doo di doo. Moving along now. Nothing to see here folks.
Braised wagyu beef shin in broth of vietnamese mint, chinese broccoli, pickle & chilli ($30). This, however, I DO remember! It was awesome and we ended up fighting over the last shreds of beef and drinking the heavenly broth which was rich, intense and perfect on that crazy cold night. It was like the most incredible bowl of pho you could imagine with baby soft beef just melting away into delicious heaven. I know I sound slightly delirious which may be due to my lack of sleep but that was one dish I will return for. Yeah I would drive all the way to Manly for this.
Spicy southern thai dry curry of goat, green peppercorn, eggplant and holy basil ($30). The goat was tasty but unfortunately the spice level shot way, way past my chili tolerance and into another realm of burning.
Three flavour warm sticky rice in a banana leaf with Thai custard & mango sorbet ($12). I ♥ sticky rice! A second dessert stomach will miraculously emerge if the menu mentions sticky rice! The sticky rice was unfortunately laced with the one spice I have issues with – cardamom. There’s just something about cardamom that makes me twitch. Cumin is also another spice I have issues with but I digress. The layer of cardamom over the sticky rice made it near impossible for me to tell apart the different flavours of the sticky rice other than sensing the different textures. Later Lex tells me the flavours were pandan, coconut, saffron. Tis a shame since pandan sticky rice would’ve been way awesome. The mango sorbet is refreshing and the Thai custard was almost creme caramel smooth.
Crispy pancake with coconut caramel & a warm fruit compote ($12). Totes wasn’t expecting roti! It was a nice surprise, the roti was crispy and flaky, hiding the kaya-like innards within. Wasn’t a big fan of the fruit though think I would’ve liked a scoop of ice cream on the side? Mmm ice cream.
Buddha overlooks the room of hungry diners and we roll ourselves back to the car where an hour’s drive home filled with the sounds of Alanis Morissette soon lulls me to sleep…