Here's Master Bowl, a Chinese restaurant that just opened in Chatswood. Is this another typical Chinese restaurant? No. They don't serve the usual dishes that you'd expect at a Chinese restaurant. Let me assure you, at Master Bowl you are in for a spicy experience.
This restaurant caught my attention when I saw a swarm of expectant diners waiting to be seated. I was curious so I joined the crowd to see what the fuss was about. The only fact I could gather was that the restaurant was offering a grand opening promotion of 20 per cent off their dishes. This reason alone was good enough for me to make a few calls and gather up some fellow keen eaters.
Unlike your typical Chinese restaurant, Master Bowl serves your meal in a large stainless wok. Yes, you heard it right, you eat right out of a wok, not bowls or plates, a whole, huge wok - this is definitely a place for the very hungry.
I need to clarify two points from the get-go. Firstly, you only need to order one wok dish to share, so I highly suggest you have a good understanding and similar dietary preferences as your dining companions. Secondly, this is Sichuan-style cuisine, which means red hot chilli and spices all the way. If you are chilli-intolerant, don't come near this place - you might faint at the mere sight of how much chilli they use.
The menu at Master Bowl is fairly limited in English, so I recommend you dine with someone who can read Chinese. Alternatively, you can read the tutorial guide on how to order.
All wok dishes have a $5 fixed cost to cover the base ingredients such as chilli, onion, ginger, garlic, shallots, celery, spices, peppercorns and more chilli. Then you will be given an A4 DIY menu order form and a pen to fill in your selection.
They have over 40 ingredients (each with an associated price tag) to choose from, so essentially you are creating your very own meal in the wok. Along with the standard vegetables and meats there are also some adventurous selections, such as duck gizzard, beef tripe or blood jelly for those who are game enough to try.
After marking at least five ingredients be sure to check the chilli strength and the spice level on the top left corner. I highly recommended the mild or micro-chilli level for the first timers, then simply hand your order form to the waitstaff and wait.
While waiting we looked around and every diner seemed to thoroughly enjoy their wok meal. Some woks had so much chilli they looked like a sea of fire.
We also ordered a Sichuan style bean jelly noodle salad ($6.80) and garlic pickled cucumber ($6.80) as entrées to start us off.
I really liked the bean jelly noodle salad. It was cool, refreshing and very slippery. The chilli factor was quite high and I could not help but hug a jug of water as a safety blanket.
Despite the spiciness, I kept on going. Yes, I know it sounds strange, but apparently that is the allure of this place. You will keep on eating because the flavour is just that good, even when your tongue starts going numb.
The garlic pickled cucumber was a welcome change. It was sweet, vinegary and perfect for soothing a numb tongue before diving back into the chilli wonderland.
Soon, our large wok arrived. It smelt fragrant and looked very appetising.
In this wok, we'd selected beef fillets ($7), pork belly fillets ($6), king oyster mushrooms ($6), lotus roots ($4), soy bean curds ($4) and noodles ($3) in micro level chilli and spice.
The wok dish actually tasted very good. It was loaded with heaps of vegetables and a good balance of protein. It was a very hearty and comforting dish.
Careful not to bite into any peppercorns like I did though, as my tongue quickly returned to a state of numbness.
All in all, there was a lively, upbeat atmosphere at Master Bowl. Whatever you order will be delicious and memorable and at just $10 per person for a ton of food a great night is sure to be had by all, especially if you're a chilli fan.
Rating: 6.5 /10
Where: 306 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood, 2067.
Cost: $10-$15 per person.
When: Open every day from 11am -10pm.
Good for kids: Probably Not - too spicy for them.
Take away: Yes