"Sho me the noodles" screams Rod Tidwell to Jerry Maguire. Well, actually he doesn't say that, but he would if he was invited to a bloggers special dinner at the newly opened Sho Noodle Bar in the Crown Entertainment Complex. Some of you may be wary about going to Crown, but I actually like all the food choices available there. I've tried, and loved, Rockpool, The Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel and Koko. I liked Crown Conservatory, Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons and Bistro Guillaume. I think the restaurants are unfairly lumped together with the casino aspect and some people refuse to go because of that. There are numerous great eating establishments there that can be visited completely independent of the casino.
The newly opened Sho Noodle Bar will test some of you. It's located on the gaming room floor itself, just inside from the atrium. The open restaurant means that all the noise from the gaming floor filters right through it. You'll either love it or loathe it. I loved hearing the adjoining poker room players scream in joy whenever they won something. The restaurant is marketed as casual dining and would appeal to gamers, (or gamblers depending how cynical you are) but judging from the quality of service, food and fitout of the restaurant, it would be a shame if diners were deterred from eating there just becuase the restaurant is within the gaming area.
The restaurant has a calming fit out, with deep seats for a drink of tea in front of the tea displays, to tables for casual dining or the bar seating with a great view into an Iron Chef style kitchen that I wished I had. The little decorative touches around the room like the helped to make it interesting.
The night started off with meeting my fellow bloggers over a tea ceremony. I met many familiar faces in Dan and Mellie (Tummy Rumbles), Jane (Deep Dish Dreams), Jackie (Eating With Jack), Ed (Tomato), Jon (Melbourne Foodie), Neil (At My Table), Elliot and Sandra (1001 Dinners 1001 Nights) and some new faces in Pat (Cooking Down Under) and Ida (A Wok In The Wild Side). While we chatted away, we were served some very good champagne (or Australian Sparkling is my guess) and watched as one of the staff performed a meticulous tea ceremony where the tea was filtered many times. The Oolong tea had a slight tartness to it but it wasn't too bitter and I really liked it.
Next up, Master Pin Tan (head chef of Sho) showed up how to make some very fine noodles. He was very personable and explained that the noodles only contain wheat flour and water, and no other secret ingredients. The key was to get the right consistency and using the correct technique, you'll end up with long thin noodles such as those he made.
Finally, another staff performed a Kung Fu tea pouring show. He flung the long tea pot all over his body and in various poses, poured the tea straight into tiny cup without spilling any. Very impressive indeed.
We were then seated at the bar to watch the chefs cooking away in the kitchen. While our tea cups and wine glasses were filled with a variety of fine teas and wine, the food started to roll out. First up was an assortment of dumplings, Har Gow, Siu Mai and Vegetable Dumplings. All three were very good, with the skin of the har gow being that perfect consistency between being gelatinous but not too thick. I even liked the siu mai, which I usually hate. I think the higher ratio of prawn meat to mince made it good.
The standard Cold Platter of Soy Chicken, Char Siu and Roast Duck was average. The soy chicken was a touch dry and needed more soy. The char siu (which I don't like at any place although some places do it a bit better by cooking it more crisp) was a bit under done. The roast duck was the best of the three, with a crispy skin and soft meat.
The next dish was my favourite. I just adore lobster and the Lobster with Honey Chilli and Spring Onion was a treat. The lobster was fried and tossed in a sauce that tasted to me of sweet chilli, worcestershire sauce, vinegar and sugar (or possibly honey although I didn't really taste the honey flavour). The tang from the sauce coated each piece of tender juicy lobster meat. I even picked out the meat from the head so as to savour the last of the lobster flavour.
The Barramundi with Chilli Oyster Sauce was again a great dish. Fried fish work well with a sweet sour type sauce, as in this case. The chilli helped to give it an extra kick that lifts it even more. The barramundi was served with some wok fried Gailan.
The Beef Rendang was a very hot curry. I'm never a huge fan of rendang but this one was quite good. The meat was extremely tender and not stringy, so that was a plus. The rendang was hot, which I like, so another plus. It probably needed a touch more coconut cream.
The Wok Fried Chicken with Dried Chilli was definitely the worst dish of the night. I didn't like it at all. I've had this dish at other places and usually it's chicken literally fried with just dried chilli. This means the dish is fiery full of chilli flavour. However, this dish had no kick and this rather awful sweet plum type sauce mixed with it. To me, this is a dish that is catered to the Australian palette.
The Char Kway Teow as featured in Epicure was very good indeed. The noodles were cooked very quickly so it had that "wok hei" as Neil and I were discussing. The worse thing to do with rice noodles is to cook it slowly so that it falls apart. With some soy and some plump prawns and chinese sausage, this dish was "yummy" (happy KP, I threw in the word yummy just for you).
The night finished off with a trio of desserts. There was Diced Mango with Raspberries, Mango Pudding and Mango Ice Cream with a Lychee. You can't go wrong with fresh mangos, so that was a refreshing end to the meal. The Mango Pudding had a good consistency and had a good mango flavour, not the best I've had, but nowhere near the worse either. The Mango Ice Cream tasted rather funny and I didn't like that much.
The service throughout the night was fantastic. Dishes were brought out quickly and old plates were cleared. Our tea and wines were topped up constantly. Our head waitress, Annie, deserves a special mention. I recognised her from her days at Koko, when she made our first visit there very good due to her excellent service. I don't know if the normal service is this thorough, so I'll have to see whether that standard is maintained.
Overall, I had a fantastic night. The food was very good and so was the service. The ambience of the restaurant was energetic due to the open kitchen and the noise filtering from the gaming floor. So I would recommend that you give Sho Noodle Bar a try. I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed as the prices look very fair.
Here is the bit where I have to say that the meal was complimentary of Crown. So you can take my review for what you think it's worth. To me personally, there is no conflict of interest as I have confidence in my own values that I would have totally trashed this place if it was bad.
Last, but definitely not least, thanks to Tara Bishop, Media Relations Manager at Crown for inviting me. I had hepas of fun and sorry about the initial scepticism. If there's any further invites from you, I'll say yes without questioning the legitmacy and sending your mind into a spin. :-)