Thursday, May 19, 2011

Barbie Kitchen

barbie kitchen

My new favourite - Barbie Kitchen!!!

Yes, I am KIDDING!  It's not that type of Barbie Kitchen I'm talking about, it's this kind:

May 049

Chinese Spicy & Barbie Kitchen is a new Szechuan eatery that has opened in Flemington/Kensington (I get so confused which side of the street is which) and is already one of my all-time favourite restaurants.

May 053

Firstly the menus are gorgeous - big shiny pages with droolworthy pics and not so drool-y names like "saliva chicken" (better translated as "mouthwatering chicken").  So many non-Anglo restaurants have very perfunctory menu descriptions - you know, "chicken on rice" or "spicy fish" - that if you want to branch out and try something new, you're never sure if your dish will be big, small, swimming in chilli or full of offal.  Barbie Kitchen's pics mean it's easy and exciting to try things you might not otherwise place a bet on.

May 072

The fitout is simple but it works - big, satisfying, hand hewn-look wooden tables with low, cushy chairs, perfect for adults and kids alike. 

May 054

Themed tissue boxes, aesthetically-pleasing tableware and decor and the cleanest high chair this side of Chengdu.  With all this relative luxury, it would be easy to assume that Barbie Kitchen is not authentic, too expensive or both, but far from it.

May 055

A complimentary appetiser - thick kelp-like seaweed dressed with chilli, garlic and a hint of sesame.  Gorgeous!  The menu here features traditional Szechuan dishes, what I think of as Northern-Chinese style fat white dumplings, as well as a whole selection of BBQ-grilled meats and vegies (the latter only available at dinner time).
May 057
Dry fried string beans, $14.80

This is a classic - well-fried green beans and pork mince with XO sauce, which is an umami-rich blend of dried seafood, Chinese prosciutto-like ham and chilli.  This was a truly awesome version - sweet mince, fresh beans and lots of rich, satisfying, lipsmacking hum from the XO.  It wasn't too hot for the kids who loved it (this is very easy to make at home although I don't deep-fry the beans!  Fry garlic, brown pork, add beans, add couple spoons XO, season with soy and perhaps a little white sugar, done!)

May 062
Spicy eggplant, $12.80

This is a first for me and I am a total convert.  The eggplant has been peeled and I suspect fried, to emerge velvety-soft, sweet, slippery and luscious.  The sauce is pleasantly oily, sweet, with a hint of vinegar.  If you want to know how good it was, my 3-year-old could not stop eating it.  We had these with bowls of rice for $1 each.

May 061
Leeks, $3 per "string"

The first of our BBQ dishes - these were delish.  I'm not sure what sort of leek they were as they seemed like a cross between a sping onion and a chive, but they were fabulous.

May 065
Lily mushroom pork, $2.50 each and squid, $2 each

These were both lovely - the "lily mushroom pork" (which I wouldn't have ordered but for the photo, which showed it as pork wrapped around enoki mushrooms) was a delicious contrast of textures and flavours, while the squid was tender and tasty.

May 067
Chilli, $1.50

All the BBQ dishes were dusted with a rustic chilli-and-cumin blend which was delicious and seemingly very un-Chinese, but it did get a bit same-same over time.  In my opinion, just order a few select BBQ dishes and round out your meal with selections from other parts of the menu to get the most flavour variety.  Perhaps the BBQ'd chicken skin next time?  Take that, KFC Double Down "burger"!

May 069
Pork dumplings, $7 for 15!!!

LURVED these dumplings.  They are really a huge step up from the likes of Camy - the meat inside is luscious and juicy, like Hu Tong's dumplings - no hard meaty nuggets.  The pastry is just feather-light, not at all leaden or chewy as these can sometimes be.  There's also a vegetarian option (which I always think are best pan-fried).

May 071
Steamed buns, $9.8 for 6

These are somewhat like xiao long bao but are juicy rather than soupy.  The same sweet, tasty filling of pork and spring onion/leek-y vegetable.  Apparently these differ in that they are made with self-raising flour, giving them a more bun-like consistency.  I prefer the former simpler version.  Still, these were delicious!

May 063
Laoshan Haisheng Pie, $2

Yum yum yum - again, the pork and vegetable filling, this time in a large pupusa-like parcel panfried and squished down.  Super juicy, crispy - fabulous!

At the risk of being disloyal to my local non-Cantonese Chinese restaurants, 1+1 and Dumplings and More, Barbie Kitchen is, I have to say, far superior.  I haven't had Szechuan food this good in years - I normally prefer Cantonese as it seems less oily and lighter/more complex in flavour, but this was unreal.  I honestly can't wait to go back.  Even if it had wonky chairs and greasy chopsticks I would love it, so the decor is the icing on the cake.

This is definitely my kind of Barbie Kitchen - although I do like that the Barbie has a glass of champagne on the counter - that much is realistic!

See Billy and Bryan for more thumbs up.  Billy has a new address and look - check it out!

Chinese Spicy and Barbie Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Chinese Spicy & Barbie Kitchen
311 Racecourse Rd, Kensington (map)
Phone:  9372 5218
Hours:  7 days, 11:30am-3:00pm, 5:30pm-11.00pm

Wheelchair Access
Level entry 


  1. We go to 1+1 often - I have always thought it is the most authentic Chinese (closest to the Chinese food I ate in central lemon chicken in sight!) But this place sounds amazing! Thanks for the review.

    I think you're doing a great job on this blog. We read it all the time and my family and I consult it when we are thinking of where to go.


  2. Great post. As a recent former Flemington resident I would argue that all residences/businesses on Racecourse Road are Flem. Kensington is Macaulay Road/Bellair St. Problem solved?
    Massively like your blog!


  3. great post! a wonderful, detailed review. i'm so impressed that your kids liked the eggplant.

    but... i should totally have waited until after work to look at this, because now i'm absolutely starving!

  4. So glad you liked it! Although really, I knew you would. ;)

    We should go for a dumpling lunch sometime soon - and bring the girls. I haven't tried the dumplings there yet.

  5. Oh. God. YUM. Beans and Pork is one of my faves. Can't wait to go here - thanks for the review - and great to know it is kid friendly!

  6. Ooh! I like the look of this place. There seems to be a growing mecca of eateries in Kensington - love it! I was there just last week for brekkie.

  7. Racecourse Road is the boundary between Kensington and Flemington with the southern side of the street - the side that Chinese Spicy & Barbie Kitchen, the library, Social Roasting Company, the awesome kebab shop are on - Kensington and the other side - where the halal and Italian butchers, Verb cafe, the bottle shop etc - is in Flemington.

    Great review of an interesting place. I am looking forward to the soon open Grand Tofu on the Flemington side of Racecouse Road.

    Flemington's restaurants are coming along nicely since Laksa King has moved and shown that decent restaurants with OK fitouts can thrive in Kensington. Though we could do with less Malaysian restaurants - there are three - and more "others"!


  8. the eggplant would be my desert island dish! I could eat that spicy stuff all day! It looks like a great place, am going to check it out very, very soon i reckon!!

  9. Just went to try Barbie Kitchen after your review and enticing pictures. Sadly it is closed until 31st May as the owner has had to go back to China (so says the sign on the door). Thought this might save a few other readers the journey - can't wait until the 31st though - I've been dreaming about those beans!

  10. Was there again last week. The place is too small. And now it is super packed. Better call to book!


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