Mrs Mi And Her Robot Chef

Joe van der Heide
17th Sep 2015

I wasn’t completely sure what to expect when I first read of Mrs. Mi and her assistant robotic chef. I pondered multiple images in my head of knives fixed to wall mounts and elaborate automated guillotines with intricate pulley systems. However as Issi and I approached the Shanxi Street Food restaurant, there he stood in the main window… glorious.

A Chinese influenced mannequin with the garb of an Italian Chef, a cheeky smirk and a robotic arm. With surgical precision it makes cuts of noodles from a massive loaf faster than even the most expertly trained can achieve. He is programmed to recreate the same knife-shaved noodles that could be found in small villages of Shanxi over 60 years ago. We sat and waited as an order came through for a bowl of Mrs. Mi’s signature Shredded Pork Mince with Noodles and he kicked into gear. He turned and eerily smiled at us as he began shaving noodles off which flew at whipping speeds into the tilted underside of a giant pot lid sending them straight into the bubbling depths of its boiling contents. The whole time he didn’t even look down once… very impressive Chef.

We were greeted and seated by Aaron Mi and Jennifer Du who are the minds behind this quirky new venture. “We had to go and visit the villages in Shanxi to pull even the smallest details and colours for our design” says Jennifer as she refers to the magenta coloured Chinese Lattice embedded within the brick print wallpaper. The kitchen/dining separator is fronted by half cut rusted steel barrels, lattice and sectioned bamboo and holds rolled out striped awnings which cap a hanging shelf full of mixed Asian ornaments. The lighting is bright yet satisfying as pink and green ticket flaps share lines with lights running wall to wall along the black roof representing a dark open sky.

As we’re guided past the open kitchen there are about eight cooks assisting Chef Tan. Each works an individual task but for two to three of them whom roll out fresh wonton wrappers and spring onion pancakes. You also can’t help but notice this place is packed out on a Tuesday night – and would remain this way until they stop service at 9pm – this was a positive indication that we were in for a delicious meal.

I notice there is no tea-pot on the table and Aaron catches my eye signalling toward a copper tea urn perched at the end of the kitchen counter with a separate garden style faucet just near it. Before I can ask what my process is, a woman approaches the urn filling her printed tin mug with a dark brew, then moves to the next tap and gently turns in a dash to top it up. I move to the counter with my Mao-print mug and press the first tap releasing the hot barley tea. After establishing a comfortable level I top it up with the nearby cooling agent and reclaim my seat. Sipping on my surprisingly sweet beverage, I can’t help but look around and appreciate the street-scape décor which is deserved of high praise as I forget frequently that I’m submerged in the heart of Chatswood Chase.

I didn’t know how hungry I was until the food started to arrive. As the first plates were dropped I don a cocky smile and say “I hope you’re ready to experience some impressive eating, I’m somewhat of a bottomless pit” – a statement which I will later retract.

The beginning of the end

With eyes beyond my stomach I look upon Mrs. Mi and Chef Michael Tan’s signature dish, Pork Mince with Noodles. The shredded mince is fried in secret recipe sauce and glistens as it lay next to fresh and crispy julienne cucumber perfectly parted and garnished with lightly fried shallots, garlic and ginger. Sitting on freshly cut and boiled noodles (courtesy of our newly acquired automaton friend) everything looks a bit too picturesque to ruin. After a solid four and a half seconds of appreciation I turn the ingredients into the noodles and serve up, mixing fresh chilli, black vinegar and soy sauce into my bowl. It begins to make sense why Mr. Robot Chef is always so happy.

We’re about halfway through the bowl when the next dish is dropped- Mrs. Mi’s Xiao Long Bao. Minced crab mixed with house secret ingredients wrapped in 18-pinch wonton wrappers. “Be careful, the soup is quite hot” Aaron says to me as my chopsticks move the XLB to my mouth and I relinquish control over my body to the demands of my stomach. It doesn’t require bites as I stuff my face with wonton and my teeth puncture its soft exterior as the soup created from the steam cooking the crab meat spills out and the mouthful disappears before it even had a chance to exist. The next few get a healthy helping of chilli and soy demanding self-control so I don’t polish off all eight on my own.

Starting to warm up now…

Before moving on to the next dish our waiter drops a curious palate cleanser. Peeled cherry tomatoes pickled with plum juice, vinegar and sugar. The tang of the tomato had nearly completely vanished and the plum and sugar subtly transformed them into delicious and explosive orbs of joy. Served chilled they were a VERY cool way to transition our dishes.

Stir-Fried Beef with Chilli Noodle is an absolute dream. Now it wasn’t particularly spicy but Chef Tan’s seasoning didn’t require any further dosage. Fresh, sticky noodles sit mixed with green and red chilli and soft, marinated thinly sliced beef. A beautiful orange chili based liquid binds itself to the noodles and I eat them in such a way which prompts Aaron to turn to Issi and say “Don’t worry, in China we also eat fast and not always politely”. Absolute gentleman.

Couth in my demeanour, I stuff noodles in the direction of my face until the next dish is slid towards me- Taiwan Style Fried Chicken. A thin, tempura looking coat makes the chicken unbelievably crispy and as I fumble my chopsticks at it life adopts slow motion and I watch pieces fall over each other lightly puffing fine clouds of salt and pepper seasoning into the air. By this stage I’m onto my second mug of barley tea which is becoming increasingly pertinent as the level of food increases.

Sure is hot in this Shanxi Street...

The Chinese Style Chive Pancakes are halved and dispatched. Folded over and browned in a pan, they hold a beautiful chew and are filled with chives and egg making them a nice half-time snack to install confidence in my ability to gorge.

With my shirt tightening we’re gifted with Frost Flower Pan-Fried Chicken Dumplings and Stir-Fried Beans with Pork Mince. The dumplings are fried eight at a time and turned upside down on a plate to serve connected by a netting of oil and dumpling dough making picking it off and eating it irresistible. They’re packed full of flavour and served hotter than the fires of Hell so I suggest letting them cool a touch. Without hindsight to guide me however I whip through about three of them and very quickly begin to realise I do in fact have limits. Because pride overwhelms me I start on the stir-fried beans which do not disappoint. They’re slightly shrivelled with seared highlights and pack a wallop of a crunch. Garlic and ginger galore as it marries up with the super soft pork and I sit back very impressed with myself and the gluttony that had driven me thus far.

A sense of victory paired with relief washes over me, short-lived as Jennifer asks “Are you ready for the next one?” I couldn’t possibly eat any more and then I get a glimpse of Szechuan Style Shredded Pork with Golden Bun. An absolute mountain of beautifully marinated semi-spiced pork fills a bowl with four bright golden domes creating corners. I turn one over and fill it with the pork mixture and biting into it is reminiscent of Yorkshire pudding yet twice as dense and definitely plenty to tip me over my capabilities. Managing half the serve I flop back into my chair defeated and satisfied.

The sweets…

I’m near tears as Jennifer asks me if I’m ready for dessert. An icy beverage of sweet coconut milk with diced watermelon and sago is a cool and refreshing way to cap of our beautiful savoury adventure.

I’m pretty sure I passed out here but I remember the Deep Fried Chinese Milk Dough being a little bit special. It’s served as two sliced up loaves of doughy buns with a small saucer of viscous sweetened condensed milk for dipping. It’s almost like dunking doughnuts in white chocolate; incredibly rich, delicious and filling.

A meal fit for royalty yet prepared in the art of street-food, it has to be among the best Chinese cuisine I have ever had. With amazing flavours and ingredients so fresh, it is a true credit to Asian fusion and gives it’s odd yet exciting concept plenty of substance to carry it through. The fitout gives you a taste of its Oriental origins, packed full of history and culminated in a tasteful homage. It was a perfectly positive experience and I would highly recommend a visit and I will definitely be back for many, many more rounds.

Mrs. Mi and Her Robot Chef is open Sunday - Thursday 11am - 9pm and 11am - 10pm Fridays and Saturdays. When dining with a regular appetite you can expect to spend around $15 - $25 per head and each serving is extremely generous. High quality food at a very affordable price.


The team at Mrs. Mi have decided that they want their customers to be a part of their experience and are asking everybody who comes in to have a crack at naming their super-speed slicing machine chef.