According to the 2011 Census, roughly 25% of residents in the Sydney Burwood Council Area have a Chinese ancestry. You can feel this statistic come to life when you take a walk down the “Chinatown” strip of Burwood Rd. Chinese restaurants are aplenty, Chinese Characters nearly outnumber English ones and business names such as “Friendship Asian Groceries” and “Good Luck Butchery” stumble across your view. In this competitive hub of Asian cuisine, one newly opened restaurant has risen from the ranks and is fast becoming a fan favourite. The name’s Stonebowl. Mr Stonebowl (or 石锅先生 in Chinese). The interesting thing, despite Mr Stonebowl’s popularity, is when I do a simple google search, they have virtually no online presence. I couldn’t even find a menu. So after a discussion with a Burwood local (a Chinese friend who introduced this restaurant to me) and a couple of visits later, I feel qualified enough to introduce Mr Stonebowl to you and include a menu (scroll to bottom).
Only a few months old, Mr Stonebowl has amassed a large following evident by the crowds of people lining the footpath. A strong competitor for crowds is Tea Plus, a Taiwanese restaurant a few stores down with cheap food and nice looking milk teas. However, their crowds seem sporadic whereas the crowds at Mr Stonebowl are consistently present all the way through the lunch service.
Authentically Chinese restaurants sometimes have a language barrier with waiters and menus in Chinese but Mr Stonebowl has overcome this challenge with a bilingual menu and ordering system. Using additional photos from the menu, you simply fill out your selections on the order form and hand it to the waiter.
A popular theory doing the circuits is that Mr Stonebowl’s Xiao Long Baos are better than Din Tai Fung. So that’s exactly where we start off.
Xiao Long Bao can be difficult name to pronounce for non Chinese speakers but the derivation of the name is simple. Xiao Long is the Chinese name of the bamboo baskets the dumplings are steamed in and Bao means “package”. Visually, they are easy to identify from other dumplings as they have translucent skins and are packaged in a way they can hold soup (hence why they’re known as “soup dumplings”).
In my opinion, there’s a 4 step beginners guide to successfully eat a Xiao Long Bao.
- Use chopsticks to carefully peel them from the basket, ensuring you don’t puncture the skin and let the soup run out
- Select a dipping sauce usually soy or vinegar and depending on the restaurant, with the option of chilli or ginger. My preference is vinegar with slivers of thinly sliced ginger.
- Place a small amount of your sauce of choice on a Chinese Soup Spoon, followed by the Xiao Long Bao.
- Now this is where most inexperienced eaters fall victim to burnt mouths and yelps of pain. Xiao Long Baos hold hot soup inside so you need to nibble around the edges to let the hot steam out. Wait a few seconds for the steam to escape before carefully eating the Xiao Long Bao, where the soup and sauce should now be mixed in your spoon.
I followed this method and safely delivered the dumpling basket to mouth without incident. And they were fantastic! The soup is full of flavour, meat well cooked and skin just the right level of thickness, I think the rumours are true. They’re a touch better than their Sydney competitors.
In our excitement of eating more dumplings, we order the Pan fried Pork Dumplings and Pan fried Pork Buns which have essentially the same flavours.
The Pan fried Pork Dumplings fit the mould of the stereotypical dumpling. These particular ones are called “pot stickers” in Chinese referring to the last phase of the cooking process. The dumplings are steamed in a covered pan with a small amount of water, which, once evaporated, is fried in oil turning the bottom of the dumplings golden brown and crispy. These crispy bits can sometimes stick to the pot, hence the name.
These dumplings were good. I liked the crispy bottoms but they weren’t as flavourful as the Xiao Long Bao. The Pork Buns were almost identical in taste but encased in a bun that was denser and fluffier than dumpling skin.
Next we moved on to the mains, starting with the Preserved Egg & Pork Mince Congee. Preserved eggs, also known as century eggs, are a delicacy in China. They are eggs preserved in a salty solution, which over time, results in a chemical reaction that changes the texture and flavour of the eggs. The egg whites turn dark brown, translucent and gelatinous and the yolk changes to a dark grey colour. They’re not the prettiest sight to see but the Chinese love them. I’m personally not a fan of these types of eggs but this congee was delicious. I steered clear of the egg but the mince and porridge was full of flavour and something I would love to have on a cold winters day.
The Stir Fried Oyster Mushrooms with garlic shoots seemed healthy enough but were definitely on the bland side. Unless you’re looking for a vegetable boost, I wouldn’t recommend this one. Small photo for small impact 🙂
The dishes started to step up a level with the Stir fried Shredded Beef which was covered in a sweet, sticky glaze and had a slight crunch. The beef was well cooked and went well with the glaze. Just how I like it.
The surprise dish of the day was the Garlic Prawns steamed with sticky rice. Aesthetically, it’s not appetizing to the eyes at all. I was almost tempted not to try it but I’m glad I did. Every part of this dish rated well with the taste buds. The prawns were so juicy they contrasted well against their crunchy batter. The sticky rice was a big hit at the table so much so that everyone was happy to forgo their serving of white rice for it.
The best presented dish came in the form of the Deep Fried Eggplant in bread crumbs & dry garlic. As great as they looked, they tasted even better! I had to shake off some off the bread crumbs but the moment I bit through the crispy outer shell, a wave of soft, flavourful eggplant hit me and moans were heard around the table as the table tried this dish. Word of warning, similarly with the Xiao Long Baos, be careful with this dish. It’s very hot upon serving so do your mouth a favour and proceed with caution. Conversely, the best flavour comes out when it’s hot so don’t let them go cold.
My favourite dish of the day was the Deep Fried Chicken Fillet with dry chilli. The deliciously spicy flavours brought me back to the several months I spent in China earlier in the year. The key ingredient here is the Sichuan Peppercorn, that gives a numbling/tingling sensation as well as a crunchy texture. Combined with the heat, the seasoning and the chicken, this was an authentically tasting dish that is a must try.
Comparative to other Chinese restaurants in Burwood, Mr Stonebowl is a little more expensive but worth it. They balance out crunchy and soft textures very well in their fried dishes and successfully maintain an authentic Chinese flavour. They’re a good representation of Chinese food. I’ve been recommending this place to my friends a lot lately and will absolutely be returning, if anything, for more Fried Chicken fillets.
Other information that may interest you:
- Mr Stonebowl is at the former site of the “Kwok Doo” Chinese Restaurant
- To avoid the lines, best times to go are at the start or end of the lunch service (11am or 1.50pm)
- Nearby parking is metered (around $3.60/hr). For free parking, you’ll have to park much further out. Alternatively, catch public transport. Burwood train station is a short walk away.
- BYO Corkage: $5/bottle
- Add Mr Stonebowl using the Wechat app & you can get a free pot of hot tea
- For the authentic Chinese experience, order the Chinese Herbal Tea which is basically a cold, sweet chinese tea served in a can. It’s what locals drink and what loved to drink growing up
Mr Stonebowl (石锅先生)
185C Burwood Rd, Burwood NSW 2134
Ph: (02) 8970 9605
Written by Brian (@brhinos), Sydney
MR STONEBOWL MENU