I’m going to tell you about a restaurant that’s a four-hour drive from Sydney, and how the people of Orange are extremely fortunate to have a local restaurant serving such incredibly good food.
While we were driving from Sydney to Orange for our weekend mini-break, I googled restaurants for where we could have dinner. I came across Sweet Sour Salt and really liked the sound of the modern Asian menu. I phoned and made a booking for 6.30pm.
However, we had a few delays and realised we would be arriving a lot later so I phoned to ask if it would be possible to instead have a 7.30pm booking. The person who answered the phone was very understanding and even though Sweet Sour Salt is usually heavily booked due to not only the quality of the cuisine but also because it seats just 35, we were able to change our booking.
Sweet Sour Salt is located on the main street of Orange in Summer Street. As you drive down Summer Street the restaurant is fairly nondescript with little signage and being a small restaurant, it’s easy to miss.
The interior is modern and minimalist with banquettes along one side, small tables for two along the other side and two communal tables in the centre.
Realising we had made it to the right place, we walked into a smallish space where there is a large blackboard reminiscent of my school days along one wall with specials written in chalk. On the opposite wall is an enormous modern mural that gives the restaurant a very slick and contemporary look which is fitting for the modern Asian cuisine that is served.
We were shown to one of the two communal tables. It was a very cold night but there was adequate heating so it was warm enough for me to be able to remove my jacket.
While the waitress was very efficient she could have had a little more warmth and looked more interested in what she was doing, however that’s going to be about my only criticism of what was an incredibly good dining experience.
We were given the drinks’ menu and it was wonderful to see it supports of lot of locally produced wines. I ordered a glass of the Mayfield Vineyard Pinot Noir Chardonnay Sparkling because we had booked accommodation at that vineyard. I do love a sparkling salmon-pink drink and I liked this sparkling wine so much I ordered few bottles of it the next day from the vineyard.
Archie, being Archie, ordered a rum with tonic water in it. And made me have a sip. Vile. The little guy had a lemon, lime and bitters and Drew sat on his water.
The menu is limited but it reads like a dream come true and there were so many dishes we wanted to try but that would have meant ordering them all. We started with Son in Law Eggs that are twice cooked free range eggs with shallots, peanuts, fried onion and chilli with a caramel tamarind sauce. The presentation was gorgeous and the eggs looked stunning with their bright yellow yolks that were still slightly runny. The mixture of flavours and textures was beautiful and we all wished for more.
We ordered an entree-sized portion of Salt and Pepper Squid that came with a Vietnamese style green chilli dipping sauce and cucumber salad. The outer coating was very crunchy and the squid was delightfully tender. The dipping sauce had a lovely hit of chilli and there was plenty of it.
Our final entree was handmade Steamed Pork and Prawn Dumplings dressed with salmon roe, shitake mushroom, vinegar, chilli oil, chives and fried onion. These were very popular with Archie who questioned why we hadn’t ordered more.
There would be less than a dozen main courses on the menu but even so, they all sounded so good it was a dilemma trying to decide. Eventually we were all in agreement and started with Kung Po Chicken that was thinly sliced boneless chicken breast with soy sauce, black vinegar, chilli, peanuts, garlic and ginger. This was an outstanding combination of flavours, colours and textures and I particularly liked the kick of black vinegar.
Next we had the Mongolian Braised Shin Beef where the beef is slow-cooked to produce the amazing tenderness and flavours of a re-born Chinese classic with bean sauce, shaozing wine, soy sauce, five spice and fresh herbs. I don’t think it would be possible to have beef that’s more tender. The star anise flavour from the five spice complimented the richness of the beef.
Our last dish was Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab that was soft shell mud crab with green papaya, cherry tomatoes, dried shrimp floss, herbs, palm sugar, fish sauce and lime. This was another faultless dish that was totally devoured with oohs and aahs from around the table. The crab had the right amount of crunch to give the dish some texture and the green papaya with the fish sauce and lime juice gave a salty sour dressing to the soft shell crab.
On special there were dishes like ‘half BBQ duck with button mushrooms and Thai chilli basil sauce’ and ‘Roast suckling pork marinated in soy and black vinegar with star anise and spring onion’. We would have loved to have tried both of these dishes. It’s amazing that a menu that fits entirely on one page has so many tantalising offerings that you wish there was a way you could taste them all.
We did make room for dessert. There are just two desserts on the menu, a spiced sticky date pudding or the mango creme brulee. We ordered the creme brulee that came with almond tuilles. The brulee was a very smooth custard and the tuilles were amazingly thin and light. And it was so lovely to have some tropical mango while outside, it was beginning to snow.
Orange is a country town with a population of around just 40,000. When people think of country towns they often think the dining opportunities will be rather limited however, Orange is definitely the exception with many restaurants arguably as good as what you will find four hours away in Sydney. We found Sweet Salt Sour to be unassuming in appearance but with food that amazed. The cost of each dish is at the higher end of what is normally charged at Asian restaurants, however, the execution of each dish, the flavours and the presentation and above all the taste, is outstanding.
Verdict: You’ll want to visit more than once.
Sweet Sour Salt: 116 Summer Street, Orange NSW
Ph: 02 6362 5191