Tucker Time – Happy Chef
For a restaurant to survive over 30 years in the heart of Newtown it has to be doing something right. Happy Chef seems to have found the right formula with its combination of “old favourite” Chinese dishes and Southeast Asian fare. The servings are generous, delivered quickly and with a smile. Always being busy means the food is fresh and the chicken broth, a free accompaniment to many meals, is a rich reduced consommé that would be satisfying by itself. I’m guessing that the broth forms the basis for a hot, rich and spicy laksa. The chicken was a little blanched and the noodles plain but the soup itself is a treat.
Lemongrass pork is typically offered here with a wonton soup but the thought of fried pork drowned in a broth didn’t appeal so I opted for it served on rice. The pork is zesty and delicious but seemed unfulfilling on plain rice so I’ll ask for fried rice next time as the pork was a winner. The salt and pepper squid was enticing but just missed the mark as it was oily. The staff recommended black bean sauce as a best seller so, although not my favourite as often I find it over seasoned and salty, I gave it a try with chicken and was pleasantly surprised. It was nicely balanced and full of fresh but not over cooked veggies. My one criticism was that it did contain MSG, perhaps a legacy of opening in the ’80s.
Value: Nearly all meals are under $20 a main with generous servings.
Staff/ambience: Staff are friendly and the venue has a fresh coat of paint.
With family: Kid friendly with an extensive menu that should appease the fussiest nipper. Noise tolerant and you can linger longer.
With friends: Great place to meet up and share dishes. The party table seats around 10 people with a lazy susan to facilitate serving. It might be worth a booking call for big parties.
With a date: This place is as romantic as a boxing gymnasium but if it’s a quick feed before the main event it would suffice.
Summary: Despite the minor issues outlined above this place is perfect to satiate any hunger pangs particularly before a big night out.
In coming issues I would love to review your favourites. Particularly restaurants where you are seated and served. I’d love to hear from you. Get out, enjoy and tuck in!