31 May 2024

Thirroul's Madam Choi serves up Asian comfort food with a modern twist

| Kellie O'Brien
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Min Woo Choi and Bernard Tjandra

Min Woo Choi (right) with restaurant manager, Bernard Tjandra. Photos: Supplied.

Reinterpreting foods from different Asian countries in a modern way while remaining authentic was key to Thirroul restaurant Madam Choi standing out.

The modern Asian restaurant was recently named one of five Aussie comfort food choices by Australian Good Food Guide, which described it as “classic Chinese with a pan-Asian twist”.

Madam Choi owner Min Woo Choi, who took over the business in February last year, said the team had worked hard to provide great food and service. So the recognition justified they were heading in the right direction.

“It is such an encouraging moment for us,” Min Woo said.

“We will strive to work harder to keep providing smiles on each of our customer’s faces.”

Those customers were made up of regulars, international tourists and diners from Nowra to Sydney looking for a bite to eat before a show at nearby Anita’s Theatre.

“Thirroul is a place where many tourists stop by, including those who turn up for a pre-show dinner before they go to a show at Anita’s Theatre,” Min Woo said.

“For all clienteles, we strive to provide top quality and tasty food at a very reasonable price.”

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He said much of the success of its menu stemmed from its staff, combining young creative minds with long-held experience, along with customer feedback.

“We’ve managed to design a menu we believe represents our restaurant’s identity well, whilst also fulfilling the customer’s demands,” he said.

“We are quite blessed having a balanced mix of individuals with different cultural and age backgrounds.

“We reinterpret various types of food from different Asian countries in a modern way, yet still keeping its core values of authenticity.”

Min Woo said he felt fortunate the classy but homely restaurant he described as “like entering a second home” was located in Thirroul.

“Our customers are always actively trying to help us get better,” he said.

“Not only do they give us praise and compliments, they also give us suggestions and constructive criticisms which are exactly what we need in order to improve.”

Thirroul Madam Choi

Madam Choi is all about quality, service and choice.

Among its best-selling dishes – all free from MSG – were Malaysian Butter King Prawn/Pork, Madam Choi Special Lime and Coconut Curry, Nasi Goreng, Mee Goreng, Ginger and Shallot Scallops, Chilli Jam Cashew Nut Chicken, Rainbow Beef, Sizzling Garlic King Prawn, Sambal King Prawn, and Chinese-style Steamed Whole Barramundi.

“Our homemade kimchi and chilli oil are also very popular merchandise items,” he said.

“I have worked in various restaurants and cafes over 15 years.

“Based on these experiences, I ran a Korean barbecue buffet restaurant in West Wollongong, and while running the buffet, I developed a lot of menus with various ingredients and sauces from different countries.

“I have had regular meetings with chefs from various countries where they have shared their knowledge.

“These prior experiences helped me to operate Madam Choi in line with the concept of modern Asian cuisine.”

While the restaurant strived to always meet its motto to “provide quality food with fresh ingredients and the best service with a beautiful smile”, he admitted the industry could be tough.

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“Hospitality is one of the most challenging industries to work in. We are not only providing product, but also service,” he said.

“We’ve decided to make these three key points as our focal point when it comes to making every single decision regarding the restaurant so we can stay consistent within our standards.”

To assist, he said the team had worked hard to put systems in place to ensure the restaurant operated efficiently at all times.

“This is of paramount importance for our business as we often have a flood of customers coming in all at once before the show starts at Anita’s Theatre, on top of our own regular customers’ dine-in or pickup demands,” he said.

“Therefore, our serving speed and efficiency, without compromising the quality and flavour, is by far the highest priority for our business success to accommodate every customer’s needs.”

Min Woo said he was grateful to his team, including manager Bernard Tjandra, who had spent “endless days and nights brainstorming” and working together to achieve what they now had.

“This [AGFG] recognition further justifies that what we are doing at the moment is working and this is just a start for us,” he said.

“We will definitely use this moment to encourage each and every one to work harder and achieve greater things in the future.”

Madam Choi is located at 5/291-301 Lawrence Hargrave Dr, Thirroul.

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