When it comes to Chinese cuisine, everyone knows that I would not consider Sichuan food to be up there (Cantonese FTW). Every time I go to a Sichuan restaurant, I either cry because my throat is burning or because the food is so devoid of taste thanks to the power of 10 billion bags of dried chillies that mask even the littlest traces of flavour. Still, I couldn’t help but be curious about Dainty Sichuan, a popular restaurant that sits snugly on Corrs Lane in the city. Not only has it appeared on countless Cheap Eats guides and been positively reviewed by many a food blogger, it even impressed the great man himself Anthony Bourdain when he was in Melbourne. This was enough to get me and Dave excited about trying this place and so we, along with Linda, decided to go there for after-work dinner sometime. Prior to making the booking though, I found out that Dainty Sichuan had actually moved to Toorak Road and that in its place, a new restaurant called Sichuan House took over. Despite the fact that Dainty’s owners are no longer at Corrs Lane, most of the original staff remained so we figured that there would not be any major problems when we arrived.
Before I go on, let me just use this opportunity to mention that it was actually Dave’s 28th yesterday. Yep, we had inadvertently booked dinner on his birthday before he realised it. We could have easily changed the dinner to another date but Dave was cool with the dinner going ahead so *shrugs* We started off dinner with a few drinks – okay, I just had a soy bean milk because I’m a wuss like that and because I knew I was going to need it later on. Dave decided to go with the “large” Tsing Tao, thinking that it would be just one big can. But when we saw this being presented (NOT cold), we couldn’t help but LOL:
The chicken pieces were what looked like chopped up chicken wings which were coated in a thin batter and then fried. They were tasty, but perhaps a little on the dry side. To be honest with you, I was expecting it to be, well, hotter. I mean, sure, it was HOT but not so hot that I had to down 10 billion bottles of soy bean milk. Normally, these sorts of restaurants would be liberal in the use of chilli seeds but Sichuan House achieved a decent balance between heat (Sichuan peppercorns that caused a tingling sensation in one’s mouth) and taste, using garlic, sea salt and vinegar. I liked how I could actually taste what was in my mouth, though every now and then I would get a stingy sensation down the back of my mouth and my eyes would water no thanks to a stray Sichuan peppercorn.
Kong Pao prawns ($23.80). With a chilli rating of two chillies, this dish was much milder than the chicken. The fact that it was excessively sweet probably helped cool our taste-buds too. The gooey, saccharine sauce was lovely, almost honey-like in both taste and consistency and went especially well with the peanuts, as Linda would attest to. The dish was spicy but not overly, perfect for the three of us. I guess my only criticism would be that they used a little too much vinegar in the sauce but eh, that’s just me…
We needed to order a mild dish to dumb down the effects of the hotter dish so we ordered a plate of dry stir-fried beans with minced pork ($15.80). I usually order this dish at other Sichuan restaurants as my “vegetable dish” because it’s incredibly tasty and who doesn’t love crunchy beans? Sadly, I think this dish was a bit of a let-down. For starters, it wasn’t crunchy at ALL as the beans were overcooked. Secondly, the pork seasoning was way too salty. Ick.
It doesn’t look like we ordered much, but the dishes were actually on the morbidly obese side. By the time all three of us sat back in defeat, we were amazed to see how much food was left:
(Don’t worry, I ended up taking the leftovers home in plastic containers for my parents to enjoy… so rest assured that nothing went to waste).