If you, like me, know Sichuan food. It is fiery hot and spicy. Lots of dried red chillies, red peppercorns, chili oil, and other Chinese spices are used to give the dish a strong, pungent and spicy flavour.
“Dainty Sichuan” located at 176 Toorak Road, South Yarra in Melbourne is the closest and best Sichuan food I have ever tried in Australia. It is as authentic as you can find here in Melbourne. I have been there twice for lunch and twice for dinner. The latest was last night after I picked my partner from the airport. Each time I went there, I have tried different dishes. The first time I have been there, I was looking for a cheap eat. Its special lunch menu comes with rice depending on the choices. It was cheap for a good lunch. Anywhere between $10 and $15. Stepping into this restaurant reminded me of a huge Chinese restaurant in Hutong, or the old part of Beijing, without the rudeness and unhygienic old local Chinese habit of caulking and spitting on the floor while eating! It was loud and noisy with mostly Mandarin speaking Chinese FOH staff and patrons.
If you can take the heat, you will like Dainty Sichuan. Last night we got there about 8:15pm. It was packed on both floors. But, we only had to wait 5 minutes. The service was fast and friendly. A nice difference for such a big and fast paced Chinese restaurant. The front section of the ground floor is reserved mostly for “steamboat” style meal. Most of the patrons are Chinese, and probably mainland Chinese’s Chinese, if you know what I mean.
We ordered three dishes – spicy cold noodle, shredded beef jerky and lamb ribs stew, and a standard bowl of steamed rice.
The beef jerky and cold noodle arrived first in less than 5 minutes. We didn’t realise the beef was a cold dish. It was tough. Not a good choice. But, the cold noodle was indeed delicious and extremely spicy! So spicy that even for me, I struggle to finish it. I will probably rate the chili spiciness a 10 out of 10! Definitely not for the faint hearted.
The lamb ribs stew dish came next in a hot pot, still bubbling and boiling. It smells so delicious with all the spices in the broth. The flavour and taste of the lamb did not disappoint us. It was very, very good and utterly delicious. I can eat this dish alone with a bowl of rice. It was also very spicy. A 8 out of 10 for chili hot! I believed it had a lot of Sichuan red peppercorn. This dish is also not for the faint hearted. It was “swimming” with half an inch layer of chili oil!
Both the cold noodle and lamb stew were so spicy and oily that we decided to order a vegetable dish to balance our meal. I was more interested to choose a more bland and green vegetable, but my partner convinced me to order the snow pea dish with bacon.
It was a big dish. Lots of snow peas with lots of fatty bacons and Chinese sausage, “Lap Cheong”, black fungus and oyster mushrooms. It was a very greasy dish, from all the dripping bacon fat. A tasty dish with an all round bacon flavour. It was so large, that we had to takeaway two-third of the leftover, and the remaining beef jerky and cold noodle.
The bill came to, if my memory serves me well, $76. The lamb and snow pea cost around $24 each. Beef and cold noodle about $10 or less. Rice is $2 each and takeaway tupperware $0.20 cents. There is no service charge. I should have kept the bill.
There were several tables upstairs with westerner diners. I am thinking they must be able to take extreme chili hot food. If you love your Sichuan food and enjoy all the spicy and greasy flavour of the dishes, then “Dainty” is for you.
One last thing you need to know about the place is that, they do not take credit cards. Cash only. But, don’t worry if you don’t have the cash to split the bill with your friends. There is an ATM inside the restaurant as you enter the restaurant. So, you cannot give any excuse to the owner that you don’t have cash!