Name: Jimmy’s Place
Address: 13-15 Woolley St, Dickson
Ph: 02 6248 8188
Hours: Wed-Mon noon-2.30pm, 5pm-11.30pm
Australia Day is one of the more esoteric of public holidays. With many people not paying attention to the history, and no real traditions to speak of (regardless of what Sam Kekovich says), it turns into a day of rather indistinct celebration.
And yet, many of us end up conforming to activities that are seen (generally incorrectly) as uniquely Australian. Barbeques, excessive drinking, getting sun burnt, and showing lots of flags are all popular activities.
While I did, indeed, join the populace in some of these activities, I also decided to have a meal out that fit in to the theme. So I went to eat the most traditional Australian food I could think of.
Bad Chinese food.
Found in ever town and suburb throughout the country since the gold rush, Chinese restaurants were the only non-European option in this country. So we took this great, ancient cuisine, and over 100 years completely ruined it.
In honour of this history, I wandered down to Dickson, to Jimmy’s Place, to order some classic dishes: Spring rolls, Sweet & Sour Pork, and Boneless Chicken with Lemon Sauce.
Now, I recognise that it is unfair to judge a restaurant when you’re deliberately choosing dishes you expect to be bad, so please don’t take this as a review on Jimmy’s. Because once we got over the shame of ordering, the food completely lived up to expectations.
These three dishes, and much of the Oz-Chinese around this country, are often based on three broad concepts. The first of these is the deep fryer. Now, I love a crisply battered bite of meat as much as anyone, but there is probably a limit to how much you should have in one meal. Here, the batter was quite good, particularly on the chicken, though a braise might have been a good idea.
Secondly, for some strange reason Australia has spent many, many years thinking that Chinese food is meant to be coloured like a cartoon chemical spill. Fluorescent red and yellow sauces adorn everything, most famously the sweet and sour pork, and at Jimmy’s this mostly continued to be the case.
But both of these slightly over-done aspects would be passable if it weren’t for the third aspect. Sugar. There was so much sugar in every sauce that they could have been served on ice cream. Even the lemon chicken, which was at least thankfully made with real lemons, was cloyingly sweet. We left one spoonful away from a diabetic coma.
Why did we, as a nation, do this to such a great cuisine? Why did we do it to ourselves? And how on earth did we enjoy it?
Of course, I am not blaming Jimmy’s for the quality of these dishes. Admittedly, other visits haven’t gone a lot better, but in this case I am giving them the benefit of the doubt. These weren’t bad interpretations of the dishes. They were just bad dishes to begin with.
There is so much wonderful Chinese food in this country, and in this city, but this is not it. This is the Chinese food of Australia’s past, when we were still a child nation, with everything all bright and sweet, but without any real substance.
Thankfully, at least on this front, Australia has grown up.