A Gold Coast hotel restaurant grabs Schezuan pepper by the horns and expertly wrangles it onto the plate
When you first walk in through SIFU’s sleek lounge area your first move should be to stop for a drink and enjoy the view out to the glorious Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise hotel pool. There’s a brand new menu of experimental cocktails made with house-infused spirits. A Negroni with Oolong-infused gin and a yellow chrysanthemum-infused vodka Martini stand out among a list of 11 with names that could be the titles of Hong Kong wuxia films: Dragon’s Heart; Empress of Blood and Fire.
You can also admire the vast towers that are the live seafood tanks – they’re much cleaner than any you’ve seen at your local Chinatown, and a testament to SIFU’s focus on prioritising fresh produce. If you don’t make it past the tanks, the Street Eats menu offers a dozen different tapas such as salt and pepper prawns and duck pancakes to accompany more pool-gazing. If you arrive in the dinnertime rush, though, the smell of sizzling ginger and the lively din from the kitchen will most likely reel you in for a full meal.
The concept here is Schezuan-meets-Cantonese, under the auspices of chef Kyle Bu. As an entrée, two crisp legs of salt and pepper quail piled high with fine slices of onion, capsicum, coriander and a little chilli start your meal with a bang of flavours and textures. The colossal bowl of Fujian ‘wet’ fried rice (a Cantonese specialty) delivers fried rice next to chunks of prawn and chicken in a rich brown sauce, and could easily be a meal in itself for only $18.
Deep-fried Schezuan beef sits in a pool of chilli oil with plenty of fresh lime. Schezuan peppercorns are famous for their unique tongue-numbing effect (málà). Meals with Schezuan pepper can easily have the unsuspecting diner sweating and reaching for a second cold Tsingtao, but staff at SIFU are super friendly and will help you find a meal that matches your threshold for heat.
To finish, deep-fried ice cream is best paired with some super-sweet strawberry topping, and if you let your pot of lychee black tea sit and infuse properly you’ll be able to smell it brewing from your seat. There are ten teas on the menu ranging from a safe green through to several unusual oolongs, all sourced from a tiny store run by an old Chinese woman down at Mermaid Beach. That’s pretty representative of SIFU overall – undoubtedly authentic, and a little bit fancy.
Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise
2807 Gold Coast Hwy
|Opening hours:||Tue-Sat noon-2.30pm & 6-9.30pm|