Changing and adapting seems to be the smartest way to stay afloat in the restaurant business. The owners of James St Bistro in Fortitude Valley realised there were many new shops and restaurants on the way in James Street and so have closed the bistro and reopened, refreshed and with a new look in Chow House.
The new menu is inexpensive, and has an exciting section of “Street Chow”. Having eaten street food in both Thailand and Vietnam, L and I loved the sound of this. Other parts of the menu certainly venture into nontraditional asian fusion, with french fries, baked potato and eye fillet steak all appearing.
We ordered small dishes to share from the Street Chow part of the menu to begin with.
Sichuan pepper deboned quail was our first dish, and our waitress immediately informed us that although the menu states the quail is deboned, it still actually has bones. The intention is to mean that the pieces of quail are removed from the main frame of the bird, however the menu is definitely misleading. Undeterred, we still went ahead. The sichuan spicy flavours that were expected were unfortunately completely absent which was disappointing. The quail was presented with ‘rice cakes’, rice pan fried into a crusty bottom, and topped with two fried quail eggs that were very cute.
Lemongrass chicken satay sticks were on the other hand full flavoured and delicious. The chicken was neatly threaded on lemongrass, and the satay sauce was thick and crunchy with a spicy bite. Chilli coriander bread was also served with this dish, part of the asian fusion idea we suppose, which was great to mop up leftover satay sauce, but doughy and dense.
Our larger dishes began with Green tea smoked duck breast with steamed bun and hoisin. We could see immediately the duck breast was overcooked, however it did retain a tea flavour. The steamed bun was another disappointment, appearing like a large chunk of Turkish bread rather than a traditional smooth steamed chinese bun. The dish ended up being quite dry all round.
Caramelised pork belly with star anise, crisp pigs ear, watercress, lychee and orange salad was our final dish. The pork belly piece was large and immensely sweet, especially when drizzled in honey and accompanied with lychees, but the crackling on top was nicely crunchy. The accompanying small parts of pigs ears were really chewy rather than being crispy and weren’t that pleasant to munch on.
We decided to share dessert, and were lucky that we did so, as the banana fritters with caramel icecream and molasses were very filling. The batter was light and the combination of rich caramel icecream with a drizzle of molasses and sprinkle of coconut made for a very indulgent (although heavy) dessert that we really enjoyed.
Chow House didn’t quite hit the mark with us that evening, but we do like the sound of asian street food on a menu. The fusion parts of the menu must be designed to appeal to all, but we kind of wished they would stick with the traditional instead.
CChow House 39 James Street Fortitude Valley Ph 07 3852 5155 Open Breakfast and Lunch 7 days, Dinner Tues-Sat www.chowhouse.com.au