Here I was thinking my visit back home would be a quiet time of catching up on writing and chilling out. Oh how wrong I was! It has been a whirlwind week of amazing foodie and dining experiences.
No sooner had I touched down after my flight last Thursday and donned my Silver fox fur vest to help re-acclimatise that we headed back out the door for a lovely welcome home dinner at Concubine on Gouger Street in the city with Mama. Awarded the title of Best Chinese Restaurant (South Australia) in 2009 and 2010 and a finalist for Best Chinese Restaurant (National) in 2010 we were excited to finally try a place that had been on Mama’s list for a while.
Once we arrived we felt transported to Asia with lashings of red in the interior styling, rustic wooden shutter lanterns, oriental paintings, concertina fans and prettily patterned pottery.
We were warmly welcomed, promptly seated at a table for two with a window facing view of the street and shown the menus and the specials. As we mulled over the options we ordered our drinks – Mama’s choice of The Samurai cocktail (with Premium Sake, fresh lime, raw sugar, mint and soda) was refreshing and very sake-like, whilst my Juice Cocktail of Guava, Lychee and Lemon was sweet and delicate (although I was hoping for more zing from the lemon).
We had already decided we wanted to share for a more rounded taste appreciation and opted to order most of our dishes from the specials menu. After a few questions and request for recommendations we made our choices. The service was incredibly attentive, informative and friendly throughout the entire evening and made the whole experience faultless. As an added bonus food raced out the kitchen and the wait between ordering and each course was timed to precision. For entrée we chose Crunchy Soft Shell Crab and green apple salad and Smoked Tea Duck Breast with plum compote.
The crab was simply to die for. The outer crunchy golden battered shell with succulent white flesh on the inside was elevated by the fresh, crispy Julienne apple and wedges of sweet, juicy tomato that balanced perfectly on top with a sucker-punch of fresh chilli in the sweeter style, rice wine vinegar based dressing. The combination of light, refreshing flavours topped with fragrant coriander was beautiful.
And the duck? WOW. Never have I tasted such superbly cooked, succulent duck breast with flavours that balanced both bold and delicate. We could smell the gorgeous smoky essence as soon as the plate hit the table. Using the chopsticks to dip each sliver of perfectly pink flesh into the translucent sweet/sour plum sauce and savouring the complex flavours on the palate took a quintessential Chinese food experience to another level. The dish was undeniably delicious in every way and probably stole the show for the evening.
For mains we chose the special of Spencer Gulf Prawns wokfried in a XO sauce with string beans and Spicy Szechwan eggplant with chicken from the regular menu with a side of crunchy Asian salad with sesame sauce. The latter of which was a brilliant accompaniment with a fabulous sour, nutty dressing that shone just as much on it’s own as it did a side dish.
Diving into the prawns we discovered that the XO sauce was Chef’s special combination of caramelised fried onion and shallots, which was both sticky and sweet and had a crunchy almost nutty texture. Together with the fleshy-fanned prawns and still al dente beans and sugar snaps it was a skilfully constructed dish with big flavour that still allowed the freshness of the seafood to shine.
The Spicy Szechwan eggplant with chicken was superb in terms of technique. The translucent, gelatinous green eggplant simply melted away in a pool of tangy sweet and sour flavours as soon as it hit the tongue, whilst the chicken was cooked to juicy, tender perfection. The spice factor though was certainly lacking, which for me let it down slightly, however, it was Mama’s preferred main of the two and did have me going back for seconds.
After four foodie hits with flavours that caused tastebud fireworks there was simply no room for dessert if we tried! The portion sizes are incredibly generous and sharing is wholeheartedly recommended for the ultimate experience.
Concubine is an oriental delight, showcasing unbelievable Chinese food using the best produce South Australia has to offer, with a fabulous customer service philosophy. A definite must try for any visiting Adelaide or for locals looking for a venue to suit a slightly more special dining occasion.
Where do you go for great Chinese food?