THIS sounds like a really trivial sort of thing but I have a thing for those hot towels that waiters hand you at the start of a meal at Chinese restaurants.
You know those ones that smell a little bit like dettol — but in a good way?
I put those towels right up there with things like cake and shoes — ie: You can never have too many.
So imagine the joy upon discovering a little family-run gem at Mortlake where I was handed said towels after every course and before the entree. It was like Christmas and Easter all rolled in to one!
Grand Terrace, located in what can only be described as a very unpretentious space opposite that super-flash waterfront development The Point, opened its doors just three weeks ago and has since had the locals flocking.
(We were there on Tuesday evening and it was packed. They must all have a hot towel thing too).
Owners Sam Tan, wife Courtney and business partner Terrence Tang all have a history that spans back to days waiting tables at various Chinses joints around Rouse Hill and Castle Hill, including Grand Lotus.
Jack Chen, chef George Liang, Sam Tan and Terrence Tang at Grand Terrace Restaurant.Source: News Corp Australia
The lofty dream was to one day go into business together and eventually this site on Tennyson Rd became available following the closure of its previous incarnation, Mediterranean bistro Tennyson Bistro.
What you wouldn’t describe as “lofty’’, however, is the very traditional fare to be found on their menu — the sort of dishes that take you back to those first Chinese restaurants you sampled with your parents.
Long and short soup, mixed entree, sesame toast, Peking duck, salt and pepper king prawns, fried ice cream (!). Yep, it’s all here people.
The decor, too, is a little bit like jumping in a time warp.
Like the days of old, the owners work the floor and the whole operation is like a well-oiled piston engine
White table cloths and a big bowl of prawn crisps waiting at every table, carpeted floor, traditional Chinese knick-knacks adorning the walls.
Yes, it sounds corny and maybe it is a little but there’s something really comforting and familiar about it, even the waiters in their white shirts, black slacks and kicky, old-school black waist coats.
But the best part about this old-school vibe? The service.
Like the good old days of old, the owners work the floor with the wait staff and the whole operation is like a well-oiled piston engine.
Menus are quickly dispersed, wine poured (which is limited to a totally drinkable house chardonnay until their full licence kicks in) and the specials reeled off in meticulous detail.
Yum…. The Mongolian lamb pancakes. Source: News Corp Australia
We decide to take a sampling from the chef suggestions and the regular menu, opening with a short soup (for old times sake), the seafood sang choy bow ($11 for three) and an early house specialty, the Mongolian lamb pancakes ($10 for four).
The latter is a hit with locals for a reason. The pancakes are paper-thin perfection and filled with a giant juicy chunk of lamb and Mongolian sauce.
The soup takes me back to being 12 and about to get a backhander for toying with the lazy susan (but, you know, in a good way) and the sang choy bow, made of crab and scallop chunks, is a nice take on the traditional duck and pork combination.
Old favourite… The salt and pepper prawns.Source: News Corp Australia
Next, after a towel hit, of course, is another chef suggestion: crispy fried tiger prawns, which come done either salt-and-pepper style, Peking style or with soy sauce (all options $28.50).
We opt for salt and pepper and keep the shells on which, of course, are entirely edible and delicious.
So too is the chicken cooked in three kinds of Chinese wine ($20.50) which is served in a hot pot and served with either salt-and-pepper or drizzled with ginger and shallot sauce.
It tastes fine — though it’s hard to make out the wine flavour among the strong-tasting sauce.
Classic…. The.BBQ Roast Duck Source: News Corp Australia
Finally it’s an old Chinese/Australian classic roasted duck ($22.50) with a Grand Terrace special fried rice.
Having recently dined at Golden Century in Sussex St and ordered the same duck dish it’s actually hard to differentiate between it and the Grand Terrace version.
Perhaps the skin at Golden Century is a tad crisper? But not by much.
This one is equally as juicy and aromatic and a highlight of the meal which, including wine and a few rounds of cookies and a complimentary chocolate lava cake which just appeared out of nowhere, all came in at just $200 for three.
Timeless dish…The deep fried ice cream. Source: News Corp Australia
The locals at Concorde might be moving up a few socio-economic rungs of late thanks to a property boom and a rash of blue-chip real estate developments but they won’t be purging their bank balances by eating here.
Sure, it’s no Spice Temple, but it is good honest, unpretentious suburban fare which definately wouldn’t be out of place in any more famous Chinatown eatery.
Rating out of 10: 7
58 Tennyson Road, Mortlake.
Phone: 02 9743 1880
Open: Lunch and Dinner, 7 Days.
Highlight: The mongolian lamb pancakes and the impressivly spotless interior.
AMY HARRIS CHIEF FOOD CRITIC
From: The Sunday Telegraph