Sun Wah Chinese Restaurant – 13 Bant St, Whangarei

BY JODI BRYANT

Many of us associate the red building on lower Bank St as the King Dragon but it is now called Sun Wah Chinese Restaurant.

I was asked to review it during school holidays so it was a family affair. The kids have been learning Chinese at school so were only too happy to try out their new lingo while having a treat dining out.

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My memory doesn't stretch far enough to remember the décor from the first time I visited this restaurant on a school trip in the 1980s but I'm guessing there are still some original features.

The large wall hanging depicting an Asian village kept the kids entertained as they carried out their own rendition of 'Where's Wally'.

"Spot the baby", "Spot the man in the hut".

Meanwhile, a water feature, complete with gold fish trickled in the background, along with soft music.

Our two waitresses were attentive and informative, explaining the menu and popular dishes. They giggled when Master Nine called out "xiexie" (thank you) when his drink was delivered and smiled patiently every time he insisted on calling it out thereafter.

We decided to get a mixed platter for entrée to sample several of the items. The Cabbage n Pork Mince Won Tons and Rohan Vegetable Spring Rolls went down a treat with the kids and we adults really enjoyed the Siu Maai, Haa Gaau and Pan Fry Sweet Corn Dumplings, which were exquisite. The former was arranged with a display of upright dry noodles, which was promptly knocked over by a flailing arm of one of the kids as the waitress carried it out. Perhaps this would've been the prime time to practise the word sorry (dui buqi) they have also been learning in Chinese!

Although we loved our entrée, in hindsight, we probably shouldn't have ordered it for, when our meals arrived, the kids' eyes bulged. We had no idea they would be so large!

At Sun Wah, there is the option of a buffet or menu. As well as entrees, the menu includes a range of Cantonese style fried dishes, casseroles, soups, vegetable dishes, spicy dishes, seafood, steamed food, siu mei (barbequed meats), delicacies and desserts.

The oldest, a huge fan of pasta and with a typical huge pre-teen appetite, ordered the Fried Beef River (beef fried rice noodle) and even he could hardly make a dent in it. His verdict: "Very spectacular dish."

Miss Nine, with a much smaller appetite, ordered the Sweet Corn and Chicken Soup and enjoyed spooning rice and mixing it from the large bowl we ordered. "Yum!" she declared.

Master Seven ordered the Garlic Roasted Pork Ribs, which I was eyeing up and eventually tried – delicious – and Master Nine's eyes almost popped out of his head when a whole fish arrived on a plate. He had ordered the Pine Nuts Deep Fried Whole Blue Cod and enjoyed picking off all the nuts but I'm not sure he knew what to do with the rest of it! It didn't matter because several spoonfuls in, came the "Mum, I'm full!" from round the table.

I liked the way the kids' meals were brought out first and ours were straight after: the Sweet n Sour Pork with Pineapple. This was a definite hit and no ordinary sweet n sour pork. It was an authentic recipe with an aromatic flavour and declared "Next level!". I had ordered the Chinese Eggplants with Pork Minced. I've been buying eggplant (aubergine) a bit lately and mine always turns out chewy but clearly these people know how to cook eggplant – it was cooked to perfection and true melt-in-your-mouth material.

There was no way we were going to waste this delicious food and the waitress delivered us containers to take it home for the following night's dinner – even the soup and the fish!

Although the desserts menu looked delicious, we were all so full that no one even asked if they could have dessert!

The restaurant was quite lively for 6pm with another family celebrating a birthday, complete with singing and cake. The dress code is casual and the drinks are cheap. With our doggy bags, we filed out of the restaurant full, happy and amid a chorus of "xiexies".