The Rice Den is conveniently situated only a few minutes walk away from St Leonard’s station, serving up an interesting take on Cantonese cuisine. We’ve wanted to visit this small restaurant for a while and my girlfriend decided that my birthday would be as good an occasion as any so she made the booking on Dimmi and we were set for the evening.
The exterior and interior are well-designed and clearly thought out to show the heritage of influence at The Rice Den. The traditional implements and ingredients show off the best of the old-school Chinese aesthetic with discreet modern touches.
The bright kitchen is open for all to see and the large service counter really helped to move the food to the tables quickly and efficiently. It was a pleasure to see the food being plated up and whisked away by the effective waitstaff. Many restaurants could take a leaf out of their book.
In the centre of the space is the utensil service station and towards the back is the bar. There were ample service staff and, even though the restaurant was a bit cosy, it felt like it was running at optimum efficiency.
We decided to keep it clean & simple and order the Vegetarian Banquet which would show us the best of what The Rice Den has to offer. It consisted of a good selection for two people; three starters and three mains.
The Mixed Wild Mushroom Pancake with Garlic Chive, Shallot and Hoisin Sauce kicked off our meal. Similar to Peking duck, it was served with pancakes and the different types of mushroom gave the dish a meaty texture while the garlic chives gave it a fresh crunch. The sweetness of the hoisin sauce tied everything together and everything was wrapped up in a soft, delicious pancake.
The Cheong Fun was a familiar dish to me, being a common street food in Malaysia. It was even served on wax paper with bamboo skewers to eat with! The sauces were very well balanced; the saltiness of the peanut sauce was matched perfectly with the sweetness of the hoisin. The cheong fun held together very well on the skewers and soaked up all the sauce. The way they melt in your mouth makes them irresistible.
This was an interesting dish; I’ve never seen salad with rice noodles topped with a prawn cracker. Nevertheless, the waiter was kind enough to tell us to mix up the salad before we dig in to combine the cracker and dressing so we got to work.
The freshness of the cabbage and carrot was accentuated by the sourness of the dressing making this salad pop in our mouths. The rice sheets and cracker added much more body to the salad. Like everything else so far, this was a well-thought out and perfectly balanced dish.
Like clockwork, the mains came out straight after we finished our starters. The Stir Fry Broccolini with Preserved Mustard Greens was a subtly-flavoured side dish. The broccolini was fresh and cooked to al-dente perfection while the mustard greens added extra crunch. Neither were overpowering in flavour and the whole dish was seasoned perfectly.
The Cantonese Vegetarian Fried Rice was a very solid main. The tofu was crispy but not oily while the fresh shiitake mushrooms and black fungus gave the dish an earthy flavour. Where this fried rice shone was a hint of sweetness from what I think was hoisin sauce. These elements came together to make the fried rice a venerable dish on its own.
Last of the mains was the Wok Tossed Mixed Mushrooms with Baby Spinach and Tofu. This mixed mushroom medley, like the mixed mushroom pancakes, took advantage of the textures of different mushrooms and combined it with crispy strips of tofu in a rich, dark sauce. This was probably the saltiest dish in the banquet but left us feeling quite satisfied.
To go with our meal, we got the Antipodes Sparkling Water. This was a beautiful, lightly carbonated and neutral sparkling water that was great for cutting through the oil of the meal.
I ordered The Rice Den Canton Lager to go with my meal. It was brewed by the Rocks Brewing Co in Alexandria that also brew the house beers for Harts Pub at The Rocks. This lager had a slight sweetness and moderate bitterness, which paired very well with the Chinese-inspired dishes.
Everything about The Rice Den feels well-thought out from the decor to the flavour and textures of the dishes. We also enjoyed the high level of service given by the attentive and professional wait staff. They did a great job clearing our plates as soon as we finished, worked with the great kitchen staff to time our dishes perfectly and even replaced our napkins before we asked.
Our experience at The Rice Den was a refreshing change from the dingy, badly lit Chinese restaurants we’re used to with its non-existent service. Well done and thank you for a delicious meal!
Payment: Cash or Card, Amex with 1.5% surcharge