The plan was to go to the very popular duck restaurant in Panmure but it turned out they didn’t do duck for lunch so we headed elsewhere. Luckily Queen’s Road has a weath of cheap and cheerful establishments.
If I say Nostalgia restaurant is ‘interesting’ it sounds like a euphemism, but that is exactly how I would describe it. From what I could gather from a Chinese friend, who was with us, it is home-style Northern Chinese cuisine. And geographically that would make sense, as many of the dishes had a distinct Korean influence to them.
Between four of us we ordered the handmade pancake ($5) the Spring Pancake Combo ($10) the Fried Lamb with Cumin ($14) and the Fried Potato ($10). Fourty dollars to feed four people easily definitely makes this a cheap cheap eat.
My Chinese friend also insisted on paying for some cold dishes from the cabinet to introduce us to some things we’d never tasted before and having the advantage of someone who could explain things, we lapped up the education on dishes we would never have dared ordered. Things like Pig’s Ear with chilli ($6) Seaweed ($3) and a combination of celery, carrot, boiled peanuts and ‘fungus’ as they so elegantly put it (it was a mushroom but the texture was close to seaweed and it was actually lovely despite the description) ($3).
The first thing that surprised us was all the potato. My limited knowledge of Chinese and Hong Kong cuisine has not included a lot of potato but according to my friend, especially in the North, it’s quite a common component of family dinners. We had thinly sliced potato which was fried with green chilli. The heat of the green chilli was a little too raw for my liking but ‘interesting’ all the same (there’s that word again). I like my flavours slightly more complex and potato with straight raw chilli heat was not for me.
The pancake was great and the best value for money at $5. A thick roti-style pancake wrapped around pork, thinly sliced dried tofu and thinly sliced cucumber. The sauce tasted like a combination of hoisin and soy to me, sitting bang on the line between sweet and salty. The Spring Pancake Combo was very thin, soft pancakes (not dissimilar to the ones you get when you order duck), lightly fried long strands of potato, some kind of thinly sliced corned silverside, and the same sauce from the other dish. They made great little rolls when all combined.
The lamb was good but could have benefited from a slightly better cut (I guess this is a cheap eat, so I shouldn’t complain). It was slightly chewy but strangely addictive with its cumin seeds, lots of onions, chilli oil and garlic. Despite the chilli oil this wasn’t a spicy dish and we finished the lot. The Pig’s Ears were loaded with spice and had great flavour but were quite crunchy. If you like cartilage, you would love these. One of my favourite dishes was definitely the ‘fungus’. The combination of boiled peanuts, perfectly cooked celery and carrot and the gorgeous mushrooms in a simple sesame oil/salt very light coating was wonderful.
I recommend Nostalgia as a great place to take you out of your comfort zone and try a different type of Chinese food. My, how far we have come from the standard fried rice, sweet and sour pork and wonton menu of 1970s New Zealand.