Going it spicy at Spice Temple, Sydney CBD

Saturday, June 27, 2015

It amazes me how interior designers are able to integrate alluring spaces into the most unsuspecting areas. Spice Temple’s inconspicuous entrance - a hologram-like doorway tucked into a crevice to the side of Rockpool’s grand façade on Hunter Street - is a case in point.

Walk down the yellow-tinted stairwell to basement level, where you’ll emerge into a dimly-lit abyss marked by red slat screens and dark mood lighting. It’s instantly calming, and one can be forgiven for forgetting that busy Sydney city sits only a few stair flights away.
A little more sophisticated than your average Chinese restaurant, Spice Temple’s lunch time yum cha menu centers around dim sum and a la carte options for sharing, tagged with slightly more up-market prices that go hand in hand with a fine dining atmosphere. It’s billed on their website as a restaurant that aims to avoid ‘standard Cantonese fare’, through an array of dried spices and different types of chilli (fermented, salted, dried...) which are weaved into their expansive menu. 

 Prawn and scallop siu mai with flying fish roe ($12)

Plump, roe-studded siu mai arrive in a cute mini bamboo steamer, filled with a substantial prawn and scallop filling. These are a both little larger and lighter than the typical yum cha siu mai, although the tastes are not dissimilar. 

 Northern style lamb and fennel dumplings ($11)

These cute little bundles are golden brown on one side and flawlessly folded on the other, arriving with a fiery, deep red chilli dipping sauce. The lamb and fennel filling, despite sounding a little unusual, delivers a warming aniseed flavour which makes for a delicious dumpling. This tasty filling makes it our favourite yum cha item of the day – it’s warming and leaves us wanting more. 

Gua Bao with White Cut Chicken and Pickles ($8)

Everyone’s favourite Asian bun is filled with moist strands of poached chicken inside an elongated bao. While the bun is not as light or fluffy as some other versions, the cucumber and tomato pickle adds a welcoming sour zing. It’s easy to tuck into without falling apart or spilling everywhere. As this was the only non-chilli bao on the menu, the flavours were clean and fresh, although the tempting roast pork belly and chilli paste and prawn with XO and pickle options are a must try for next time.

Stir fried spanner crab with leek, salted chilli and lup yuk ($55)

Luscious chunks of spanner crab are tossed with tiny slivers of lup yuk (Chinese preserved pork – think Chinese-style bacon), savoury, hot chilli and sweet leek, leaking a fluorescent, spicy orange sauce which is perfect for mopping up with jasmine rice. The dish combines salty, umami and luxury in one dish that is all textures and bold flavours. Of course, the addition of highly-priced crab bumps up the price a bit, but there is a generous amount of it tossed with the fatty, salty lup yuk.

Baby greens stir fried with bamboo pith and garlic ($16)

Sweet, fresh baby bok choy is stir fried with garlic and squares of bamboo pith. The greens retain a good crunch, but it’s the bamboo pith that interests us – it’s texture is spongy, and the way that it soaks up all the flavours of the sauce reminds us of soft, deep-fried tofu sheets.

Stir fried grass-fed beef fillet with cumin and fermented chilli ($45)

Unctuous cubes of beef are stir-fried to an alluring brown, with bits of caramelisation on the outside, while biting into it reveals a slightly pink, moist meat. It’s wonderfully tender, along with crunchy, sweet onion and ribbons of spring onion. It’s salty and sweet, but the cumin flavour is not very noticeable, although a degree of depth is added by the fermented chilli, which isn’t too spicy.

These larger, main style options, as well as many other items on the menu, are best enjoyed as share dishes so that one is able to sample as much as they can from the delicious menu. Although considerably higher priced than many other Chinese restaurants, dining at Spice Temple provides a warming, delicious experience that delivers spice and chilli in a myriad of flavours and textures if you're prepared to pay that little bit extra.


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  1. Love the complexity of spices here. So much fun when your tongue starts to go numb from all the Szechuan pepper!

  2. Hi there! Spice Temple looks so good. I was hoping to ask you a question about your post, would you mind letting me know where to reach you? Thank you!

    1. Hi Paulina! Thanks for reading! Feel free to say hello and send me an email at maddiekwong@gmail.com :)