I have to admit, I had my doubts when Hong Fu, the hugely popular Chinese restaurant in Parramatta, moved up the road, away from the crowded Church st and into the outskirts of the corporate area near Colonial Tower.
But the corporates must have an almighty appetite for Asian food, because not only has Hong Fu continued to thrive (despite it not being as good as many people say, in my opinion), but a new takeaway and dine-in Chinese restaurant has opened only two doors down to plug the apparent gap and is already getting a steady following.
The dreaded and non-committal "Asian" in it's name belies the quality and authenticity that Tianyuan Asian Fast Food has sitting alongside the western favourites like honey chicken and sweet and sour pork. While the entrees like the shallot pancake and dumplings appear to come from the freezer and aren't anything special, the mapo tofu ($10.80 or $7.80 with rice) is extremely solid. So too are the dry-fried beans with pork ($12.80). Both dishes are available as part of the bain-marie lunch special, which is top value at $7.50 for 2 choices with rice or $8.80 for 3.
It's the dine-in food, though, that is the best bet. The versions of the above dishes benefit heavily from being freshly made, and you open up some of the better dishes. The beef stir-fried in cumin sauce ($12.80) is delicious with a brilliant clarity of flavour. The kungpao chicken ($12.80) is also well worth your ordering. The dry-fry shredded beef in spicy sauce ($18.80) isn't bad either.
Service is fairly typical for a cheap Chinese restaurant, though with their mix of bain-marie specials, take-away and dine-in available, it can get a bit busy.
I'm interested to see how this place evolves. For the first week or two it was mostly people popping in for the lunch special to see if the food was any good. A few weeks later and nearly all of the tables are taken for Friday lunch, almost to the surprise of the staff. And I was a little surprised too. What was sterile and boring when empty is exciting, loud and vibrant when full. Catering to both the westernised tastes and those of people looking for more authentic flavours is smart, and I can't wait to go back and find more dishes that I personally enjoy.
RATING: Will return to [?]