The Rice Den 2023

Jackie McMillan
26th Mar 2023

It was impossible to find fault with The Rice Den. This contemporary Cantonese restaurant has been serving St Leonards since 2015, weathering both the pandemic and the resulting variations hybrid work has made to how and when we eat out. With the crash of woks the only noise emerging from the efficient, fast-paced kitchen, I was particularly delighted to see the chefs taste every fried rice dish to ensure balance. It showed in our XO chilli pork and prawn fried rice ($29) that tickled the palate with heat and impressed with good quality, delicately-cooked king prawns.

Dainty bite-sized dumplings were another Rice Den surprise. If I’d known the neatly-pleated spicy BBQ pork and zucchini dumplings ($16/4) would be single bite flavour explosions, I would have ordered a second type, secure in the knowledge that they wouldn’t spoil my main. Prawn toast ($16/3) is cleverly updated with greens, impressing with better texture by not mincing the prawns. Hervey Bay scallops ($8.50/each) are steamed and simply dressed with slivered shallots and house-made XO.

From an excellent wine list with good descriptions, some of the lowest markups I’ve seen, and no cheap clunkers to avoid, the 2022 Clarence House Reserve Chardonnay ($55) also impressed. With a salty lick and stone fruit, it worked well with our entrees, standing up to the Sichuan chilli lamb backstrap ($38) we shared over fried rice as a tender, tasty main. Buoyed by a successful meal, and our interactions with the engaged floor team, we ordered dessert. The airy Hong Kong French toast ($16) with silky vanilla ice cream, roasted peanuts and a restrained drizzle of dulce de leche was the clincher at a restaurant I know I will revisit.