The minute you step inside The Rice Den, it’s clear this is not your standard neighbourhood Chinese.
From the funky décor to an innovative menu influenced by — but barely resembling — southern Chinese comfort food, this is clean, fresh, affordable, farm-to-table Cantonese eating to live — not die — for. After several visits, here are our picks:
From the Small Eats menu
This is tricky. We adore the hand-made cheong fun, sesame, hoisin sauce, but it’s very filling and there’s so much ahead. Maybe opt for stir-fry roast duck sang choi bao instead. Not sure where lamb sits on a Chinese menu? Check out the crispy lamb spring roll with sour plum sauce and wonder no more. If fish is your thing, try the rice wine-cured ocean trout with picked fennel, ginger and soy sauce.
From the Bigger Eats menu
The tea-smoked chicken salad with rice sheets, sesame and soy dressing and Chinkiang vinegar is sublime (especially at $16!). A more exotic alternative, for some, is the crispy soft shell crab topped with spicy spanner crab and mung bean noodles (we thought that might get your attention). For something more robust, it’s hard to go past the slow braised Chu-Hou beef cheek with kohlrabi, baby carrot and corn.
Rice and Noodles
Try the Rice Den fried rice with Chinese sausages and shiitake mushrooms or, wait for it, braised shrimp roe egg noodles with ginger and shallot.
Wok-tossed vegetarian Singapore noodles (and the fried rice) may be the closest dishes to old school Chinese on the menu, but in the most delicious way. If carb loading is off the agenda, choose steamed broccolini with preserved mustard green or wok-tossed mushrooms with baby spinach.
French toast with dulce de leche, peanut crumble and mascarpone, and Ovaltine pannacotta with whisky glaze and roasted chestnut are about as Chinese as Winston Churchill. Who cares?
The Rice Den | 30-32 Chandos Street, St Leonards