There is a perception that fusion cuisine is something that has been conceived by the minds of chefs in high end restaurants in relatively recent times. But the truth for people like myself who have grown up in or grown up eating food of a colonised land, this is the only food that we know. Over years of rule by governments and people of a different racial background comes a marriage of foods from both cultures – you see it in Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Macau and Hong Kong to name just a few.
The fusion influences are sometimes obvious and, at other times, subtle. Think Vietnamese pork rolls, kaya toast and Portugese egg tarts. An example of this type of food in an eatery is the ‘sai chaan teng’ (西餐廳) or ‘western restaurant’ that serves Cantonese-ified western food. You will often see spaghetti stir-fried with beef in black pepper sauce on the menu as well as mixed seafood in a white sauce baked atop rice gracing the menu.
A place that does this variety of food rather well is Excelsior at Kogarah. It’s been around for around ten years now and is family run, I understand, so it closes for extended periods around public holiday occasions. If parking cannot be found on nearby streets then there is a handy underground carpark around the back of the building, which also happens to be free on weekends.
I’ve eaten here countless times over the years and one of their standout items is the ‘Prawn Bisque’ which is creamy and very prawny and is served with a small crusty bread roll with butter on the side.
If you’re looking for a puff pastry fix then I would recommend the ‘Bouillabaisse with puff pastry’. Although it’s definitely not a French bouillabaisse by any description, it doesn’t skimp on the seafood and is fresh with its tomato-ey flavours.
I quite often have the ‘Baked linguine Bolognaise’ as the herb-less but slightly sweet tomato mince sauce is comforting after being baked on top of pasta and developing a crusty top. The serving is generous and I usually find that I can’t finish it.
On one occasion, Monsieur Poisson has the ‘Curry chicken with rice’ which is a very mild yet fragrant but not overly yellow Cantonese-style curry. The pieces of chicken served are on the bone and are usually a mixture of thigh and drumstick. There’s a piece of potato or two thrown in for good measure and the sauce is lovely mixed through some plain rice.
And on another of our visits, I opt to order items from a set menu while Monsieur Poisson orders just a main dish. His is the ‘Lamb cutlets with chips’ which comes not only with chips but also a side of vegetables and a thin gravy-type sauce.
My spread starts with the ‘Seafood ravioli in prawn sauce’ where the ravioli wrappers are definitely white gow-gee (dumpling) ones instead and the sauce tastes like a thinner version of the prawn bisque described above.
Next is a ‘Spicy vongole soup’ which has a moderate but not overwhelming amount of heat and features plenty of clam meat and no shells. Alongside is the usual bread roll with butter.
For the main meal I’ve chosen the ‘Minute steak with garlic mushroom sauce’ which is intensely garlicky and comes with vegetables as well as a small serve of potato gratin.
The included dessert is never the highlight for me as it’s usually a cold, gelatine-set panna cotta type of thing – not my favourite. On this occasion it is a ‘Papaya pudding with azuki’ which is smooth and served with a drizzle of evaporated milk on top. The best part of course is that the set menu costs only around $19 and includes a hot drink as well!
Kogarah Town Square, AR16, 7-9 Belgrave St, Kogarah NSW
Tel: (02) 9553 1866
Opening Hours: Mon CLOSED
Tues-Sun around 11:00am-10pm, I think…