Neil Perry has long been a innovator when it comes to Asian-Australian flavours, and his knowledge and love of Chinese cuisine has never been more evident than at Spice Temple, opened in 2009 (it became part of the Urban Purveyor Group in 2016), around the same time he launched Rockpool Bar & Grill upstairs.
In this intimate, underground restaurant, you’ll find some of the best regional Chinese food in Sydney. The dining room features dark timber tables, padded red leather bench seating and dim, though dramatic lighting. There’s incense in the air and moody portraits of Asian women along one wall (presumably to add a sense of exotic sensuality, but which ensues an eeriness).
Designed to share, the food is stylish, vibrant and balanced – it’s this harmony that’s vital in Asian cooking. The menu draws inspiration from the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangxi and Xingjiang – no Cantonese here. Dried spices and fiery chillies (dried, fresh, salted, pickled, brined and fermented) add warmth and excitement to a variety of dishes, tempered by sour, sweet and subtle flavours. Perry also plays with texture and contrast, from the silkiest tofu to crunchy fried onion and crispy pork belly. Perry’s passion here is infectious, and this is one temple that deserves devotion.