Thanks to the wonderful folks at FCBA: FOOD CRITICS AND BLOGGERS OF AUSTRALIA I was invited to attend a critics/ bloggers dinner/ food tasting at the newly opened store for LAMB & CUMIN at Chatswood Westfiled in the new food precinct, HAWKER LANE.
You will see a lot of reviews from me coming out of Hawker Lane, I work a lot of my days in Chatswood and this food precinct is just sublime. It is like walking the streets of Blade Runner, or what I would imagine the backstreets of parts of Asia would be, minus the smell of the streets and overly humid air. It is street food made gourmet, affordable and delicious. Westfield has obviously thrown in a lot of money to make this entire Hawker Lane an experience, gone are the days of the simple food court (although that is still two floors up) now we have a gourmet experience that will make instagram explode with photos of food and venues, all worth it.
This is the third store to be opened by the peeps at Lamb & Cumin with the first being in Hurstville and another in The Macquarie Shopping Centre. They offer an Asian menu that is small in size and is good at what it does. They specialise in skewers but also serve some “Yumchies” – Chargrilled Eggplant Stack with baked Chilli, pickled radish and coriander – this would be interesting!! They also do a “Char-grilled whole fish banquet” and then they serve “Exotics” but more on these later.
The venue is small and you grab your food and find a seat somewhere in Hawker Lane as all the venues share all the tables, it does appear not enough tables to seat everyone but I have managed each visit. As there was nine of us for our blogger’s outing we all sat quite a way away but the lovely staff brought us food and drinks and pampered us well. I loved watching the staff make the skewers. Lamb & Cumin is Raymond Hou’s tribute to a street food from his childhood in Shenyang, north of China. This is made to order charcoal meat, bought and eaten on the street and usually washed down with cold beer, sounds great!!
Now I had a ball, I got to meet a lot of other awesome bloggers who will remain friends to catch up with at other food venues and to stalk on Instagram and the like. I am unsure how our meal was planned but they generally kept us eating the exotic food and this was not ideal besides the wow factor, for me anyway.
We were first served the signature skewers (below), these are the namesake skewers, the Lamb and Cumin. I enjoyed them the most for the skewers we ate but the meat was a little on the tough side and the top three pieces of lamb were all stuck together with sinew and all came off at once, made it awkward for me. Also, I realised how much of an overpowering flavour cumin actually is.
I see cumin as more of an accompanying flavour but the venue is all about cumin, so unless you are a fan of cumin, I would say this may disappoint. I would have killed to have some of the standard skewers after this: Oregano Roast Chicken Skewers, Teriyaki Wagyu Beef Skewers both sound delightful but instead…………..a trip into the culinary unknown with EXOTICS.
Our second dish might be exotic for some but it was odd for me. I dived right in though to try Braised Beef Tendon Skewers (3 for $6.60). Beef tendon is quite tough raw but when slow cooked it goes very soft, it was like a hard jelly or the same consistency of the fat on a good piece of steak. The consistency weirded me out and I did notice that it was an even stronger flavour of cumin on the skewers, to me it was overpowering in its flavours, and then the next exotic dish came out and we all giggled and got scared because we had to eat it :).
I present to you Kidney Skewers and Testicles Skewers, yep, you read that right, this dish (below) is called the Lamb Grenade ($15.50) and is half lamb’s kidneys and half lamb’s testicles. At this stage a few of the lesser adventurous lost their appetite. I had to try them, it has been way too long since I have had balls in my mouth hahaha – and so went the conversation for 30mins :). The kidneys were quite nice but I would have preferred these with wagyu beef in-between each kidney, a Steak and Kidney Skewer if you will. The kidney was the least cumin flavoured skewer we got and I was quite grateful for this.
But the testicles, soft on the outside and a harder centre, kind of lost it when I had to chew on the hard bit, these were also the most cumin flavoured but they also had a chilli like heat to them, by far the hottest skewers we ate. I ate half of one testicle and I was done, I do not think anyone else at the dinner ate more than this. At this stage I was quite disappointed and was screaming internally for something normal.
And five minutes later it arrived: a dish called Chicken Winner (below); this was a unique dish I just loved. It is the left over chicken carcasses they take the chicken off for the skewers. They collect the carcasses and when they have enough they slow-chargrill the chicken left on the bone. It is a picky dish as a lot of bones but the rewards are worth it, I LOVED THIS DISH. Sadly it is only available by whatever carcasses accumulate, they yell out when it is available and it is snapped up by seagull like diners aware of its joy who might be near by. It was limited in its cumin flavouring and had a chilli and sweet flavour to it. This usually comes with Edamame beans but our plate for the photos did not.
I fear what let my score down was the three exotics, these are dishes for the people who want them, I would have been happier with the chicken skewers, the chicken winner and that fish sounds epic – might have to visit to try that dish so I can try and raise the score up. The venue was pumping with constant queues for dinner while I was there so I know these guys are good at what they do. The staff were lovely and Raymond was delightful. I will return for more, just no more testicles for me for dinner :).
Thank you to Lamb & Cumin and FCBA for my invite to this dinner gathering of food freaks.