Mr Stonebowl is a very popular Chinese restaurant on Burwood Road, the main drag of Burwood. The last time we walked past it there were so many people standing outside waiting to get in that we thought that a celebrity was dining in the restaurant or they were filming something!
I will do almost anything to avoid queuing. Time is precious and I loathe waiting it in a queue so usually I avoid queues by dining at odd hours. And if that means eating dinner at 5:30pm on a Saturday night so be it. We're meeting Miss America at Mr Stonebowl and when I reach there at 5:20pm he is already there reading the menu.
There's a system to ensure that the small restaurant feeds as many as it can in a night. First you write the number of people of your party on the sheet of paper taped to the window and then tear off a number. However you can't sit down until everyone in the party has arrived. We wait for Mr NQN to arrive and in the meantime we grab an order form. You also need to complete the order form and hand it to staff on your way in.
"What should we order?" I ask one waitress. They look very busy and I expect her to recommend a couple of dishes and then disappear inside but instead she takes a pen and patiently explains what is the best to order from the menu at each section including the most popular and her favourites. And by then our table is ready.
It's a pragmatic system that somehow works although obviously I would say that this isn't the place for a date night. Rather, it's a place to be fed large servings in a fast and furious fashion (and actually the mostly female floor staff are super lovely and sweet).
The drinks hit the table first-the sour plum drink is sweet and smokey. Not a typical prune drink at all despite the name.
And then the food comes out. It's so fast I barely had time to wash my hands before the eggplant with breadcrumbs arrives. It's enormous and looks like a huge serve of crispy eggplant batons covered in sawdust like crumbs. It's a bit dry and the crumbs are slightly sweet but I keep thinking how nice it would be with a sauce.
The chicken is a cold appetiser-sort of like a chicken salad with large cloves of garlic, spring onion, chilli and bone-in chopped up chicken. It's spicy but not overly so but full of flavour.
The next dish is the number one dish on the menu. It's a huge, deep cast iron pot filled with squid ink rice topped with battered prawns and what we guess is hot mayo. It's quite mildly flavoured and I think I expected a stronger flavour and I think I would have loved a bit more garlic or flavour in the rice itself. And try as you might, I don't think you could even reach the depths of the bowl with your spoon.
The number 2 most popular dish on the menu is actually the Singapore chilli barramundi but as I now allergic to it, the waitress suggested the chilli crab version along with some serious and sincere commiserations ("Oh no, I feel bad that you can't eat barramundi" she says gravely and I get the feeling that she means it). The mud crab is a very reasonably $65.90 a kilo and they get us a small 0.9 kilo one which suits us perfectly. The crab is meaty and comes with a sweet and sour style Singapore chilli crab style sauce and 6 deep fried mantou buns on the side. And there is so much sauce there is enough to dip the eggplant batons into.
Miss America and Mr NQN are a huge fan of dumplings and especially soup dumplings. These come out piping hot so a bit of patience is needed before we tuck in lest we burn our tongues or lips. The reward after biting off the top or nipple is all that soup that bursts from inside as well as a pork mince filling and finally the burnished, crispy bottom.
There's no dessert on the menu but we are so stuffed full so we're not worried. They offer to pack up our food for us and we pay at the counter. The bill is an incredible $42 a person which is remarkable given how much we've ordered and that it included crab. And we check the time-it's not even 6:45pm and the crowd outside has amassed further.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you like restaurants like this that are fast with service? Do you have any food allergies?
This meal was independently paid for.
185C Burwood Rd, Burwood NSW 2134
Wednesday to Monday 11am–3pm, 5–9pm
Phone: (02) 8970 9605