Perhaps better named as +23 café, as the majority of their mains were more than 23 bucks!
I’d read a number of glowing X23 Café reviews about this fusion place, located on a private laneway just behind the Central Park mall (when walking there from the city). It’s highly unlikely that you’d just luck on this place, you really have to be Google maps-ing to find it.
On this Sunday afternoon, they were doing pretty bustling trade, with ¾ of their tables filled with happy chatting patrons, enjoying their fusion meals.
Before entering we had already sussed-out their menu which was posted out-front next to the door, so after settling ourselves in their comfy couches, we placed our orders at the cash register. We opted for the pasta dishes from the Specialty section of the menu (as the all-day breakfast options seemed a bit meh), so my wife ordered the Salted Egg Yolk Prawn Pasta ($29.00), I ordered the Devil Chilli Crab Pasta ($27.00) and the ‘Drink of the Month’ to share (Mandarin Orange Oolong Tea- $7.00).
The interior of the café was warm and inviting (thankfully, as it was a cool day), wooden floors, brightly lit all round, and an English music playlist playing softly.
And in moments our ‘Drink of the Month’ arrived!
Within the glass, waiting for your paper straw to pass over it, was a pool of sago, which was a welcome surprise as you sipped on the lightly flavoured Mandarin Orange Oolong tea. Refreshing was the best word to describe the H2O +Tea!
And not long after, both of our pasta dishes arrived.
My Devil Chilli Crab Pasta included squid ink linguine- which was thin like noodles, but nice and al dente; Spanner crab meat- the crab meat was delightful, but they were morsels of crab meat, like when you use the hook utensil to scrape out all the little bits of meat from the joints; 2 slices of butter glazed mantou- this was the highlight for me, I’m already a big fan of the Mantou, but to have it sliced thinly and toasted…It was very Mmmmm; and the sauce- it was worked into each strand of the pasta, it was a thick, sweet, and spicy sauce, but I did pick-out all the whole chilies from my dish. I’d already skipped church this morning, consuming devil chillies was probably pushing my luck a bit too far for this day.
My wife’s Salted Egg Yolk Prawn Pasta also had squid ink linguine from the same pot of pasta- the pasta was coated in the salted egg yolk, which was tasty at first bite, but it felt a bit heavy and same-same after bites 2, 3, 4 etc.; 4 large king prawns were served up- cooked in butter, it was flavoursome and fresh (the highlight of the dish); however those were pretty much the only worthwhile elements of the dish- 4 prawns, pasta and a same-same sauce. The garnish included whole chilies, decorative flowers, and some curry leaves- but all of these elements were inedible so the $29 dish was unspectacular to say the least.
And that was the opinion from both of us, as half way through our dishes we did a swapsies. My wife enjoyed my dish more, finding the entire dish more complex in flavour than hers, and likewise I enjoyed the first bite of her salted egg yolk sauce, but after bites 2-3 it was all same-same.
Our end verdict? 3.5 Stars from 5 (2 from 3 for Food (the food was interesting enough, but the menu was a bit limited so we kind of felt that we were steered towards ordering the pasta, otherwise everything was too easy to replicate at home for a fraction of the price); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the staff were men/women of a few words, but efficient enough); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (the place is off the beaten track, but it felt really inviting); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for Money (we did have dishes with premium produce, but the crab dish basically had the equivalent of a crab leg’s worth of meat, while $29 for 4 king prawns and pasta was a bit Ex-y)).
I think X23 Café has a uniqueness, western café drinks and meals with a Malaysian/Asian twist. However as we probably tried the 2 most interesting dishes on their menu, and we weren’t blown away by it, I can’t see ourselves returning for a second piece of the fusion pie. To this day I still don’t understand the store’s name? Why X23? Perhaps it should be named +23? As everything was overpriced! Or maybe -23? As it lost points from us all round? Or maybe it should be called /23? As 23 divided by 0 is a big fat 0? Ok, ok, that last one is a little harsh (and also mathematically incorrect)….
X23 Café- Sunday 14 July (3.5 Stars)
PH: (02) 9056 5138
102/18 Park Lane, Chippendale
Mon 10am – 3pm
Wed-Fri 10am – 3pm
Sat-Sun 9am – 4pm