Spidar, Castle Hill
- guest post from Netra Chetty
(all images by @netrachetty)
Now, I'm not saying there's a sneaky a secret passageway into Spidar, but I've walked past its front door twice now without realising it. That's how tucked away on Old Northern Road in Castle Hill it is. Not to mention, really cosy and intimate inside.
On one recent occasion when I made it through the hidden door, I was with my partner, as well as my cousin and his wife who were visiting from Perth. They like Asian food, and Spidar was the perfect destination for a midweek dinner and a catch up. Luckily I called ahead and made a reservation - this must be something new as I recall waiting for a table the last time we tried to dine there. I made sure to get a table right at the back as Spidar is very long and narrow, and the front looks like it gets very cramped when the place is full.
The menu has been designed as a collection of small plates of tasty morsels for sharing. Sort of like tapas, but Asian fusion. The service can be a bit slow when the restaurant is full, and dishes come out individually or in pairs, but we didn't mind this as it gave us a chance to chat and catch up.
Right off the bat we ordered the 5-Spiced Braised Pork Belly Bao ($7.50ea). And settle in because attention must be paid to this bad boy. If you're used to bao, you might think these are similar to the steamed doughy buns we've come to know over the years. Spidar takes these to the next level. The chunky cut pork belly is slid onto half of the circle of dough, before it is folded into a taco shape and topped with fresh herbs and other wonderful things I couldn't identify. The dough is the most incredible texture, light and substantial, steamed but not sticky, and satisfying without being stodgy. They are so light and pillowy in fact, there may or may not have been a few comparisons to 'bosoms' made throughout the evening. The pork itself seemed to melt and disappear in my mouth while chewing. In all honesty, I could have eaten all four servings myself.
We also tried the Soft Shelled Crab Bao ($7.50ea), which was also incredibly delicious, but simply outclassed by the Pork Belly version.
Next up we shared the signature dish, the Spidar Fried Chicken, marinated in buttermilk and served with Sriracha Mayo ($14). The first time I tried this dish, I called the waitress over and ordered a second serve before I'd finished with my first mouthful. The chicken is cut into generous chunks, spicy and crisp on the outside, and not at all dry inside. Dipped into the mayo, the heat and tanginess complement each other beautifully.
We also ordered the BBQ Lamb Ribs ($16) and Charcoal Grilled Beef ($17). The lamb was incredibly tender and served with little rice cakes (I think). The beef was really well cooked, perfectly pink in the middle and packed with flavour. Both dishes were tasty, but the bao had set our expectations very high.
After dinner decadence
For dessert, those of us who still had room tried the Ginger Creme Brulee ($10) and the special which was Caramelised Pineapple, Coconut Sorbet with sago pearls and palm sugar syrup.
I knocked back a Mango and Chilli cocktail (another special) which sounded great in theory but didn't quite do it for me in terms of flavour. Also the addition of a raw chilli slice on the edge of the glass made for a fiery spot on my lip that stubbornly kept stinging long after the drink was gone. The Espresso Martini however, was deliciously on point.
We left, stuffed but satisfied. Though next time I suspect elastic-waisted pants might be a more strategic choice of dining attire.
250 Old Northern Road, Castle Hill
Tuesday, Wednesday,Thursday, Sunday: 6–10pm
Friday, Saturday: 6–11pm