You'd be quickly forgiven for thinking that Carlingford had little to offer the rest of Sydney when it comes to good cuisine.
I've lived 10 minutes away from the not-quite-Hills District, not-quite-Parramatta suburb for most of my life.
Until recently I mainly knew it for being the final stop on CityRail's most embarrassingly underdeveloped train lines, home to the K13 Submarine memorial and a handful of gourmet pizza restaurants, where $35 can get you either a pizza topped with Thai satay chicken, or the Carlingford Special, a baffling combination of pepperoni, prawns, mushrooms and pineapple.
But drive through Carlingford after the sun has gone down and it's impossible to miss the wealth of busy Asian restaurants along Pennant Hills Road, like the two-storey Se Jong Korean BBQ, which is packed to the gills every night.
Up a few blocks, on the corner of Pennant Hills and Marsden roads, stands Carlingford Village, a shopping centre that was built in the '70s but looks like it was transplanted there after escaping the '90s through a black hole.
Once boasting local institution Happy Dragon Chinese restaurant, The Big Roller skating rink and The Black Stump, a chain restaurant that many people may remember seeing deals for on the back of Coles dockets, Carlingford Village is now a collection of local businesses, uninviting from the outside but strangely charming once you start exploring inside.
The Black Stump is now an F45 gym, but elsewhere the centre is home to some surprisingly good Asian cuisine.
Entering the front will place you in the centre of a desolate food court, where most of the shops are either boarded up or under construction, but right in the middle is the helpfully named Handmade Noodle Bar, which offers, you guessed it, a wide selection of handmade noodles, that rival those found at some of Sydney's most beloved Chinatown restaurants.
A traditional stir-fried noodles with beef is hard to go past, but be sure to take on a bowl of cold noodles with cumin lamb and cucumber, which showcases how well made these noodles really are, as does the simple youpo noodles (also known as biangbiang noodles), fried with chilli oil, greens and a tonne of garlic.
Elsewhere in the food court you can order a plate of roast duck from the takeaway window at Roast Sensation, or walk deeper into the centre to find Happy Kitchen, a Hong Kong-style Cantonese restaurant with walls covered in specials, handwritten on colourful pieces of paper in three languages.
Here, you'll find roast duck (and some very reasonably priced Peking duck options), but I'm quite fond of the crispy skin chicken, which comes with a bowl of black vinegar, garlic and chilli, a sauce that tastes great on everything else you order, be it Singapore-style mud crab or salt-and-pepper whitebait.
They even offer a afternoon tea menu, a selection of fried breads and cheap noodle soups.
Fortune Palace seems to be the most popular place for yum cha at Carlingford Village, the enormous space filled with diners each weekend.
But downstairs, on the outside of the shopping centre, is another restaurant that offers yum cha of the meat-free variety: Carlingford Vegetarian Cuisine.
If you're a fan of mock meat you'll love the fun substitutions of yum cha classics, but the best dishes are the most simple, like the divine green vegetable dumplings, and my favourite, pan-grilled rice rolls – little rectangles of noodle dough, slightly charred after spending a decent amount of time in a hot oiled wok.
There's a thrill that comes with finding a new restaurant, and that only amplifies when you find a shopping centre full of them.
I'm still making my way through everything inside this fun time warp, and I encourage you to do the same.
Carlingford Village Shopping Centre
Address 372 Pennant Hills Road, Carlingford
Open Daily 11am-8pm
Bottom line Small bites $5-$11, mains $11-$28
Must-order dish Cold noodles with cumin lamb, $11.80.
Open Daily 10am-9.30pm
Bottom line Small bites $3.50-$9.50, mains $9.80-$37
Must-order dish Crispy skin chicken with red vinegar, chilli and garlic sauce, $15.80.
Carlingford Vegetarian Cuisine
Open Tue-Sun 11am-3pm, 5pm-9.30pm
Bottom line Small bites $5.50-$11.80, mains $15.80-$24.80
Must order dish Pan-grilled rice rolls, $7.