Ding Hao – Chinese Restaurant, Gouger Street

20150116_175047 chilli beef

date of visit: Friday 16 January 2015

Regular readers will know that I am not that big on Chinese food. I loathe saying that because I know that China is a huge country and has a vast range of regional cuisines. I also know that I love Uyghur and Szechuan food so saying that I don’t like Chinese food is a nonsense on so many levels.

However, as a rule, I find the food served in what are usually called ‘Chinese restaurants’ to be a bit bland, a bit same, a bit sweet and a bit alarming in colour. So if we’re eating out, it’s not our number one go-to cuisine. But we have a small child and I am adamant that I should not pass on my culinary peccadilloes to him. So far I’m doing well – he usually loves bananas and I loathe them.

Being school holidays, there were plenty of activities on in town so we headed in to the city and amused ourselves until Andy could meet us after work. We were in Victoria Square, Andy found a sweet park on Gouger Street and we set off, Entertainment Book in one hand and small child in the other.

Master 4 had already announced he wanted salt and pepper squid for dinner so that was our sole requirement (Entertainment Book a bonus!). We didn’t have to walk very far before we came across Ding Hao – on the northern side of Gouger Street and pretty much literally around the corner from the Sir Samuel Way Building. Andy and I have both been to Ding Hao before (for yum cha, on his very first visit to Australia) but it was a long time ago. I have been a bit wary of it due to reports/allegations (that I have been unable to verify) that it serves actual shark fin soup but when you have a small child who has been bellyaching about how hungry he is for over an hour … you manage to push those kinds of concerns to the back of your mind. Hopefully karma doesn’t bite me on this one …

It was only 5:30pm but there were already quite a few people in Ding Hao, even though it looked almost closed from the outside. Without a reservation we were seated, no problems, but I’d recommend booking – especially if you are a larger party or heading there later in the evening. Ding Hao has a reputation as one of the better Chinese restaurants and is definitely popular.

20150116_175052salt & pepper squid

We sat down and had a look at the menu while Master 4 wondered where his S&P squid was … Not entirely sure how spicy the S&P squid was going to be I decided to order something mild in case it proved too spicy (a moveable feast), so I opted for the red pepper beef and Andy chose the chilli beef and we ordered a large serve of special fried rice.

The food came out quickly, and Master 4’s head was blown by the fact that is was all put in the middle of the table rather than handed out to the individual who had ordered it. “But you’ve got mamma’s!”. He kept a fierce eye on his salt and pepper squid, which was too hot to eat so he had to satisfy himself with some rice while it cooled down. Offers of trying the beef were turned down emphatically and any attempt on our part to try the squid was smartly kyboshed.

20150116_175057red pepper beef

While Andy’s chilli beef definitely did have some chilli in it, both beef dishes were rather loaded with capsicum and onion and mine did have a slightly alarming colour to it. The portions were a very generous size and the large special fried rice was also a good size. The three main dishes plus the rice was the perfect amount for the three of us. If you have three very hungry adults, you may want to consider ordering an entrée or two to start though. The salt and pepper squid was actually pretty good – it wasn’t particularly spicy although it was topped with some sliced chilli and onion (and I understand you can request fresh chilli from the waiting staff). The squid was tender but my one criticism would have to be that the pieces were cut ridiculously for something you are expected to eat with chopsticks! Master 4 was both super patient in waiting for the squid to cool down and super deft when it came to eating it – although with plenty of help from both his fork, his fingers and his mother waving chopsticks around and feeding him.

After our Entertainment Book discount, our dinner (three main courses, large rice, two beers) came to just $47 for three people which I think is not bad money at all. I can’t describe the food as revelatory, and the service is nothing special (it’s also not especially awful which is what some online reviews may lead you to believe) but for a decent feed for not a lot of money Ding Hao can indeed hit the spot.

Personally, I won’t be rushing back there but neither will I throw my hands up in horror if compelled to return.

Ding Hao
26-28 Gouger Street
Adelaide SA 5000
phone: 08 8211 7036

Ding Hao Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Paul’s Seafood on Gouger

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date of visit: Wednesday 24 July 2013

Almost four years since our last (blogged) visit to Paul’s. Andy loves this place and, in amongst the many many Asian eateries on Gouger Street, Paul’s is a blast of fresh sea air.

Paul’s is not a flashy, first date kind of venue. From the street, it looks like a fish and chip shop and that really is what it is. The fryer sits at the front of the shop, with a fridge of fish in front of it. Tables and chairs are basic and there is a tiny bar at the back, from behind which comes not only drinks but plates stacked with the basic salad, ready to be filled with fried, battered, crumbed or grilled seafood.

If you’re not in the mood for seafood, you don’t go to Paul’s: pretty much the only non piscine option is the garlic bread. The laminated menu lists the fish you can have (snapper, barramundi … you know the drill) and a basic specials menu might list things like salt and pepper soft shell crab or grilled moreton bay bugs.

Service is swift, making Paul’s an ideal venue for those with small people in tow (oh wait! that’s us!) or with somewhere else to be. We arrived around a quarter past five and while the restaurant wasn’t technically open yet, we were able to sit down, scan the menu and feed the toddler sultanas.

For the toddler, we chose the entrée portion of whitebait, while I had the salt and pepper squid (main portion, but I really could have done with the small option) and Andy had the soft shell crab. The whitebait came with some lettuce while the main courses came with lettuce, tomato and cucumber as well as Paul’s hand cut wedges.

I really like that the food is basic. The salt and pepper squid, at $20 a portion, tears strips off that which you’ll find similarly priced in a pub. I also much prefer the simple salad which is obviously crisp and fresh and NOT drowned in dressing. And the wedges are better too. Given that Andy always orders the soft shell crab when it’s on the menu, that must be good too. And the toddler rated the whitebait highly.

Service is relaxed and casual but efficient. Last night we were in the fortunate position of finishing our food before the toddler had finished his. The waitress cleared Andy’s plate, asking him if he had finished first. The toddler, clearly concerned that his little fish were about to disappear wailed “I not finished eating!” as she disappeared. Rest assured, the staff at Paul’s won’t allow your food to disappear …

For the three of us (food, a Boags and a glass of Skillogalee Riesling), after our Entertainment Book discount, the bill came to $55. A cheap, cheerful and tasty night out.

Pauls on Gouger on Urbanspoon

Mesa Lunga

Mesa Lunga Chandelier
photo of Mesa Lunga’s chandelier by Theen Moy

date of visit: Wednesday 22 May 2013

It’s been just over a year since my last visit to Mesa Lunga and I actually had no intention of writing about this visit (so no photos), but, in retrospect, I also think it’s fair to update my opinion.

I popped into Mesa Lunga before the Loft launch party. My friend suggested it because it was somewhere she wanted to try and, fortuitously, it was right next door to Loft. I kept my mouth shut about my last visit and arrived with not only an open mind but a determination to avoid churros at all costs!

Being super early on a weekday, we had no problems being seated in the restaurant without a reservation. We started with glasses of The Lane Pinot Gris while making our decision about what, and how much, to order.

We decided to order a few small plates, as well as a carciofi pizza (I really love artichokes). I still think it’s weird for a venue which styles itself as Spanish/tapas to serve pizza, but the pizza was actually pretty good, with a crispy base and enough topping but not so much that everything sagged.

We also ordered the prawns with garlic, chilli and sherry vinegar, the pork belly with quince aioli and the patatas bravas. We might have ordered a bit too much …

For me, the pork belly with the quince aioli was easily the stand out dish. The crackling was really crackly and the quince aioli was amazing. I would have been quite happy to have some crusty bread and that by itself. It was a lovely combination of sharp and garlicky with a texture that was somewhere between thick mayonnaise and a sauce. The sharpness worked really well with the pork and made me wonder why we don’t see pork and quince as a more common combination.

The prawns, and in particular their sauce, got a big thumbs up from my friend and we both liked the patatas bravas, although the chilli heat of the tomato sauce seemed a little inconsistent. The potatoes themselves were super crispy and the aioli was suitably garlicky.

The bill came to $84 which, while we had ample to eat, I felt was a bit on the pricey side. As with my last visit, I also felt service was a bit uneven. It’s definitely something that needs tightening up, especially around the end of the meal. I think it’s reasonable to assume that people who are dining early (and who are all dressed up!) are probably on their way out to something else, so being sharp with both bringing the bill AND collecting it, is important.

The visit definitely improved my opinion of Mesa Lunga, but it’s still not somewhere I’d be suggesting as a destination venue.

Mesa Lunga on Urbanspoon