"I'm coming down with something," Mr NQN said to me one night miserably and dramatically. My cure for everything is usually to do with food so I told him that I had just the cure for his winter cold - a massive steaming hot pot Taiwanese style.
Bistro Hulu came from a whisper from my dear friend Queen Viv over dinner the night before. She told me that a foodie friend of hers had recommended it to us. Hulu? A Taiwanese bistro? We were intrigued enough to make our way there the very next night.
Bistro Hulu is located on Liverpool Street, just around the corner from the George Street cinemas and is just two months old. Hulu refers to a curved vase that is narrow at the top and wide at the bottom but also means luck and wealth.
Most of the diners have a gas burner and a large pot on top bubbling away. The decor is simple with a wall of specials. Curiously, tins of condensed milk are displayed instead of stowed -we presume it is because they're a bit short staffed this evening. Still, our waitress who were ascertain is one of the owners deftly handles requests.
The menu has a fascinating range of menu items from pork ribs with grapefruit and honey, Szechuan style pig gut, oyster fried omelette and classic Taiwanese dishes like three cup chicken and when we ask for recommendation she steers us towards the pork telling us confidently that we should try the prawns next time.
Home made soy drink $3 and red bubble tea $3.50
The first order is red bubble tea and a home made soy milk served warm. The red tea is more a sweetened iced tea without many bubbles (although there is foam on top). The soy milk tastes just like the kind that my father used to make at home. It's slightly sweetened and comfortingly warm.
Pork ribs in grapefruit and honey $14.80
Although there are pictures next to many of the items, they actually don't really look like the pictures at all. Our food comes out quickly and the pork ribs in grapefruit and honey come as small bite sized pieces on the bone, seasoned and deep fried and then dunked in a sweet, tangy sauce. They emerge from a foil packet and there's a good amount of them soused in the well balanced sauce.
Spicy Head to Tail Beef Hot Pot with Wagyu $38.80
The hot pot is set down and they tell us that we can start eating from it straight away. There is also a plate of thinly sliced wagyu that we can cook in the bubbling soup. They asked us about the level of spice and we went with her recommendation of medium. We're glad we didn't insist on hot because medium is actually quite fiery.
There are pieces of daikon radish and plenty of different cuts of beef in this from delectable slices of mild flavoured, tender tongue, gravy beef chunks and tripe and the thin strips of wagyu take no time to cook in the rapidly boiling pot that also serves as a mobile fireplace. Towards the end of our meal much of the water evaporates and it becomes an intensely flavoured sauce.
Eggplant Fisherman Style $13.80
Our vegetables amongst this rather meat heavy meal are chunks of eggplant with a sweet and spicy sauce with minced pork on top. The eggplant is soft and delicious and we both agree that an order of steamed rice is necessary to soak up the sauce.
Matcha beef tongue $5.80
The menu reads mocha beef tongue but it's actually matcha wagyu tongue. And just as the name suggests it is thinly sliced grilled wagyu tongue with a light sprinkling of green tea powder on top. The tongue is smoky and delicious while the green tea adds an interesting and delicious flavour to it!
Thick cut female pork jowls $6.80
I do have this thing about female pork. It tastes and smells better but it's hard to find in Sydney whereas in Melbourne so much pork is labelled "female pork" - perhaps we are getting much of it! In any case, the pork jowl is like bacon except fattier with each slice about two thirds fat and remaining one third meat. Some slices are a bit chewy but when you hit a good slice then it melts.
Beijing Red bean pancake $8.80
We both saved room for dessert and we share two of the desserts on the menu. On the menu the red bean pancake looks like a McDonalds Apple Pie but in real life it's a bit different. It's moreish in the way that deep fried food can be and the thin crispy shell is filled with a spread of sweet red bean paste and dusted with a sprinkle of icing sugar.
Rice balls in sweet ginger $4.80
I love these black sesame filled rice flour dumplings although Mr NQN complains that the filling is like sand. The soup could be a bit sweeter, it's just like home made unsweetened ginger tea but I scoop up one of the plump, slippery dumplings in my spoon and take small bites savouring the sweet black sesame filling.
So tell me Dear Reader, what is your best cure for a cold? And are you disappointed when things don't look like the picture menu suggests?
This meal was independently paid for
2/88 Liverpool Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Tel: +61 (02) 9261 2328
Open 7 days until 2am (except Sundays, closes at 10pm)