Tony Stanton heads to Happy Chappy for great Cantonese food in familiar surroundings.
WHO doesn’t love a great Chinese? We’ve all had our moments among the dragons, I’m sure, whether it be in a Soho chop shop, Sydney’s Chinatown or in nearby Singapore, where the word ‘Chinatown’ is mystifyingly applied to only one region of the city-state when in actual fact it should be applied to the entire island. Or am I being unkind?
Perhaps you had your oriental moment while watching Jack Nicholson with his nose taped up in the eponymous movie? Stories and visions of P.I. Jake Gittes run through my increasingly unreliable memories, but the one that sticks in my mind is the story I read in the South China Morning Post one morning about an exploding dim sum trolley, an incident which not only seriously injured the poor dear pushing it around the cacophonous restaurant but also prompted my entry into Asia – I had barely heard of Hong Kong at the time and suddenly it become top of mind: I had to go.
Once there I reveled in the food: Beggar’s Chicken was top of the list. Many Chinese dishes have names adopted from folklore, and this legend has it that a poor beggar once stole a chicken and, not wanting others to know he had it, decided to cook the bird caked in mud over hot coals, thus trapping the smell within and allowing the fowl to simmer in its own juices. Yum. They still cook it this way at Peking Garden, Tsim Sha Tsui.
The Chinese feast has existed in Bali for some of course, but I don’t think I am alone here in saying that most of what’s on offer is pretty poor in comparison to almost every other city in the world. There are some highlights: Nusa Dua has its hi-brow spots, there’s Feyloon, Bali Nikmat perhaps, but the service usually is not great, the food pumped with MSG and the interiors and location usually fairly shonky. Let’s not even mention the state of the carpet at Galleria. Ew. And it’s normally over-priced.
But now … drumroll please … we have a brand new option, and one that suits our westernized tastes. Ladies and gentlemen welcome to Happy Chappy. Located centrally in the heart of Seminyak’s entertainment district, this restaurant caters to discerning tastes without emptying the wallet. Seek food, find happiness, Confusius is credited as saying, but it just as well applies to this restaurant. Think classic Sydney Chinatown interior, with wooden tables in traditional styles and semi-circular booths, making this a perfect spot to enjoy a communal meal with family or friends.
The menu is extensive but not overloaded, and features a good selection of classic Cantonese style dishes, including the truly sensational Honey Prawns and a marvelous Peking Duck. The Dim Sum here is saved for Sundays, and provides a great selection from steaming trolleys. Next door there’s a chic bar, and this has become a favourite post-dim sum spot of a weekend. The Dragon’s Den will remind some perhaps of afternoons spent in full flow in the hi-rise city to our north, where thankfully we no longer need to reside for sensational and authentic Chinese food. Go to Happy Chappy and enjoy. And don’t worry about the trolleys exploding: the whole place looks and feels as if it’s been put together by pros.