I feared for the fate of one of my favourite Asian cheap-eat joints in Parramatta when Taste Gallery opened right next door to it. Occupying the space that was previously a harmless Italian take-away, Taste Gallery offered a similar Shanghainese menu and had a much more modern design, and of course, a pricier menu to follow. And I didn’t like the sound of it.
Interestingly enough, the restaurant caters to a much different group of diners, and its existence does not have as great of an impact on its neighbour as you’d expect. I know this, as I’m sitting at Taste Gallery, browsing through the menu, whilst a continuous stream of customers enter both restaurants.
We’re here to check out the competition, because of a great Groupon deal, though at $65 for the four of us, it’s still more than what we’d normally spend next door. This offers much more than we’d normally order, with an entree, main and dessert each and we don’t hesitate to pick our own favourites, starting with the salted duck, which is a little bland and boring.
The chicken in chilli sauce is the polar opposite, with a strong hit of flavour with every bite from the chilli sauce, which is not actually as hot as it may look.
Rather large for an entree, we had trouble finishing this pig ear and stomach dish which, like the chicken, is packed full of spiciness(thank-goodness of takeaway containers!). I’m personally quite a fan of pig ears, with their delectable crunch, like the texture of the rind I love of bacon, only without the fat!
We’ve barely had a chance to even make a dent in the entrees when, unexpectedly, the mains start arriving as well! There isn’t really enough space to fit all the entrees and mains on, and by the time we do, we look like we’re having quite a feast!
The basket of salt and pepper prawns are a slightly different version to the ones we’re used to, the punch of flavour mostly coming from the added sprinkle of deep fried garlic and shallots. The prawns are not as crispy as we’d hoped, though still tasty but are definitely overshadowed but what came to the table next…….
The Sweet and Sour Squirrel Mandarin Fish is one of those ‘must order’ dishes, and with almost every table one it’s difficult to miss! Unfortunately, the conditions of the groupon did not include mains over $20.80, but we were told by the waiter that we could still order it and just pay the difference.
The de-boned fish is sectioned into small cubes, deep-fried and covered in a sweet-and-sour-like sauce. The balls of fish can easily be picked off- the batter is incredibly light, though still having a slight crunch. And though it’s delicious enough to be eaten as is, it’s even better with the sauce, slightly sweet and sour, though with a heavier tomato taste and greater depth than your average sweet and sour sauce. It’s amazing. The best fish dish I’ve had for a long time. So good infact, that we ate everything on there that could possibly be eaten, I even had a go at the head!!
The crispy rice is light and crispy, with a slight resemblance to corn thins (but definitely better!). We find the tomato sauce to be quite similar to the sweet and sour sauce on the fish, only a tad more tomato-y- we much prefer the sauce on the fish and attempt to dip into that instead- not that there’s much left!
Though the dessert menu offers a wider variety than your average chinese restaurant, most of our first options were not available on the day (fried ice-cream, and mango based desserts). Apart from the ice-cream, there were only about 4 dessert options left, so we had a go at each of them. All were rather bland and not sweet enough, even for our Asian palates. On a subsequent visit, we ordered the deep fried ice-cream instead which turned out to be a much better way to end the meal!