How much deep fried is too much? I say, never too much.
These salt and pepper nasu are simply the best, wedges of eggplants are battered in a spicy five spice mix then deep fried to a golden crunch on the outside and comfortingly soft on the inside, a splash of Shaoxing wine on the eggplant is like vinegar on fish and chips, it just has the right amount of acidity to cut through the richness. If you want some of this stuff, then you will have to cross the bridge to get it – at The Rice Den in Chatswood to be exact.
Chatswood used to be my neighbourhood before we moved up to Central Coast seven years ago. It is quite amazed to see how much changes and development happening in this part of town, even our old house has been demolished and now a tall apartment block is being built on top of it! The food scene used to be mediocre where I found myself hanging out in food courts more often than in restaurant. However, how things have changed, Chatswood has certainly became a buzzing metropolitan of its own and now the choices of restaurants are endless. A quick search of UrbanSpoon and landed ourselves at The Rice Den.
The tiny little restaurant is tucked away on Archer Street, not far from Chatswood Chase shopping mall. It is super cosy inside the restaurant, probably sit no more than 20-30 odd people. The decor is simple but yet I instantly fell right at home with the old school 80s vinyl records on the wall.
The menu is an eclectic fusion of Asian cuisines with some Australiana twists to it and so we give the crocodile meat a try. We order some chargrilled crocodile skewers for entree, the thin slices of white meat indeed taste like chicken with a slightly yielding texture. The flavour is subtle but heavily masked with lots of ground black pepper and a sour dressing.
Only if we knew, we probably wouldn’t have ordered two dishes look and taste almost identical. While we are crunching away on the golden nuggets of eggplant, we are greeted with more deep fried. A plate stacked with small tiles of deep fried pork belly landed on our table; each tile of pork meat inside is melt-in-the-mouth fatty, encased inside the golden shield with the most delirious crunch. I love how the sauce is served separately to ensure no soggy pork belly.
For the staple, we both share a big plate of roast duck fried rice to off set all the deep fried. The wok-hei is fierce here at The Rice Den, the fried rice is smoky and full of flavours, studded with cubes of duck meat and lots of greens for the crunch.
The Rice Den is a nice hidden gem on the lower north shore. Despite the restaurant is tiny, but it packs with big bold flavours. Service is tentative and friendly, but I secretly want to steal the Paula Abdul’s “Straight up!” vinyl record on the wall if I tell you the truth.The Rice Den
3/77 Archer Street
P: 9411 2001 opening hours: daily, 11am – till late