I caught up with some friends for dinner at a newish Japanese/Taiwanese restaurant, Shin Sen, in Dickson. Shin Sen replaced what used to be Wasabi. Don’t worry, they’ve kept the teppanyaki. I believe you can choose between a Taiwanese banquet or a Japanese banquet both $39.90 per person. The regular menu includes a limited number of sushi rolls and sashimi platters, a selection of grilled and fried items such as yakitori and karaage chicken, some hearty sounding main courses served on sizzling plates and clay pots, and a small selection of noodles like yaki udon and ramen. The sukiyaki at $45.90 per person (minimum two people) is a bit steep but it includes wagyu sirloin, sashimi, rice, udon and dessert.

Shin Sen DicksonOnce seated, tap water was provided for the table. After our orders were taken, complimentary bowls of miso soup were provided.

Shin Sen Dickson misoIt took a long time (about 40 minutes) for the food to come out. Considering there was only one other table of three, plus those at the teppanyaki station, it was rather strange that it took so long. The first dish to come out was the agedashi tofu. No one started eating it and I thought everyone was just being polite when the waitress came back saying it was for the wrong table. Still got a shot of it!

Shin Sen Dickson agadashi tofuAfter my food marathon in Melbourne and trying an assortment of gua bao there, I just couldn’t resist ordering Shin Sen’s gua bao ($9 for a serve of two) with slow simmered pork belly, Taiwanese sweet soy sauce, cucumber, coriander and chopped up cashews. The bao was a little dense, not soft and fluffy as expected. It took a lot longer to chew through than a freshly made bao. The cut of pork belly was thin but decent. Though it tasted okay, it was lacking in any saucy marinade (and it was no Wonderbao). I did appreciate the fresh and crunchy cucumber but I don’t think I’d order this again.

Shin Sen Dickson gua baoI found the wagyu beef sticks ($13.90 for two sticks) expensive for what little I got. Though the marinade tasted fabulous, the Wagyu wasn’t the best quality and I could taste a lot of gristly fat. Very different to LiloTang’s lean Wagyu sticks. I wouldn’t order this again. $7 per stick for three bits of meat, when I could get better quality for cheaper elsewhere.

Shin Sen Dickson wagyu beef sticksSome friends ordered the dragon roll ($12.90 for 6 pieces) topped with caviar and were happy with the quality.

Shin Sen Dickson dragon rollFor my main, I ordered the Shin Sen special salmon miso ramen ($18.90) which came with green beans, slices of pumpkin and a fried egg. I found that the miso broth didn’t have much flavour and the cuts of salmon were dry. Nevertheless, it filled me up and was good for a cold night. It is the only ramen option at Shin Sen which is a shame, especially for those that don’t like salmon.

Shin Sen Dickson salmon ramenA vegetarian friend ordered the vegetables and tofu in black pepper sauce ($18.90) that was served on a sizzling plate. Steamed rice is an extra $2.50 per person.

Shin Sen Dickson vegetables and tofuMy partner J ordered the Hontate Gai to Gyu ($21.90) tender eye fillet steak with scallops, vegetables, rice wine and black pepper sauce on a sizzling plate. This was served in a clay pot bowl and was still boiling away. J mentioned you couldn’t really taste anything but pepper in this dish.

Shin Sen Dickson black pepper steakIt was getting quite late by the time we had finished our meals and we asked for the bill. Our waitress informed us that they were giving us free dessert as they realised we had waited a long time for the food. I like that the restaurant recognised and acknowledged this fact and did what they could to make amends. Dessert was vanilla ice cream topped with puffed rice, caramel sauce, a strawberry and a chocolate wafer stick.

Shin Sen Dickson ice creamI’m not overly impressed with the food here as it just didn’t hit the spot for me. I gave it as second chance the other week and had dinner with V. She ordered the Shin Sen special salmon miso ramen and had the same comments as me. It wasn’t horrible but not the best either. I had the katsu don ($17.90) with crumbed pork schnitzel and egg on top of steamed rice. This was served in a very hot clay plot and filled to the brim. The veggies consist of carrot and onion (lots of onion!). The pork wasn’t as crispy as it looked, rather it was a bit soggy so that was disappointing. There isn’t much pork either but plenty of rice and onion, so I filled up on that. Again, it was an okay dish but nothing to rave about.

Shin Sen Dickson katsu donService is very polite and friendly. Both times I was greeted with ‘irasshaimase!’ to welcome me to the restaurant. Our waitress made sure she reread our orders back to us to confirm our order. However, the food takes a while to come out. I’m disappointed that there’s only one ramen option and no single serve sukiyaki (so you must order the sukiyaki package for two). There’s no chicken katsu option as a main either. For Japanese dining in Dickson, the cheaper alternative is Kagawa, but I prefer the variety of options at Bon Kura on Woolley Street.

Foodgasm 5/10
Value for money 6/10
Service 6.5/10

FPJ score 17.5/30

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