My family and I are all the same. We hate to waste a meal. And usually when a restaurant's menu has a few different offerings from different countries, that can be a slight cause for concern. But Blue Ginger in Balmain is a place that caught my mother's eye as we were looking for somewhere to eat out. Open for 13 years which is something of a miracle in fickle Sydney, we had heard great things about it.
We arrive at 6pm on the Sunday night and park right outside the restaurant. There are three outdoor tables and a long rectangular room with an outdoor area at the back. Service is friendly and the menu is made up of dishes from Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore. The most popular dishes are marked "Blue Ginger Favourite".
Ever cognizant of my father's early bed time of 8.30pm, we order and the food comes out quickly. My mother loves deep fried items and I knew that she would love these wontons. They come six to a serve and are freshly fried and crispy, the skin blistered from the hot oil and the prawn filling bouncy and juicy. It comes with a very sweet dipping sauce.
*Salad of crispy braised pork belly with green papaya mint kaffir lime leaves fried shallots chilli & lime dressing $18 *
The salad arrives a few minutes after and it's a fresh, crunchy salad with a great zing from the mint and kaffir lime leaves. Some of the pork belly is a little dry but the juicy pieces are delicious.
I have to admit that whenever I see beef short ribs, I tend to order them because I know how long they take to cook well. These come with a delectably sweet and viscous sauce in a generous serve of soft, yielding rich beef slices. We also like the fresh relish made up of large red chillies, onion, cucumber and tamarind that comes on the side.
The chicken pieces with two drumsticks come cut into pieces on the bone. We make sure that we dunk the crispy pieces in the black vinegar and sesame oil sauce and they're perfectly seasoned and worth every type of balancing act to get the meat off the bone while propping them up with chopsticks.
Fish is a must order if my father is around. Usually we order a whole fish steamed with ginger and shallots but we suspect the clientele here prefers fillets. It comes out as a large, thick barramundi fillet sitting on a bed of steamed wombok with plenty of ginger, soy and shallots on top. The sauce is a thicker sauce than the thinner soy based sauce and I prefer this which is ideal for the rice.
I have a soft spot for char kway teow. I always gravitate it over other noodle dishes (there was also Pad Thai). The char kway teow doesn't have that charred breath of the wok flavour but it's pleasant enough and quite sweet. There's lots of lup cheong Chinese pork sausage as well as fried egg and three enormous, perfectly cooked prawns and sliced chicken.
Dessert time! Although we had three boxes of takeaway and we asked for one recommendation, we felt a little pressured by the waitress to order this. It's fine but not something I'd go for again. I love kaffir lime but not so much in sweet items.
The pandan pancakes are two small round pancakes flavoured with pandan, that hard to describe almost coconutty leaf that colours everything bright Hulk green. They're folded over and unfilled and there's a sweet palm sugar syrup on top as well as a praline ice cream. The pancakes are nice enough but the ice cream is a disappointment as there's only a couple of tiny bits of toffee nuts in the whole scoop. "Better stick to mains," my mother says wisely.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you always order dessert when dining out? Or only if something catches your eye?
This meal was independently paid for.
241 Darling St, Balmain NSW 2041
Tel: +61 (02) 9818 4662
Sunday, Tuesday to Thursday 6:00-10:30 pm
Friday & Saturday 6:00-11:00 pm