Dainty Sichuan Food
Lvl 2, 206 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9650 2188
Dainty Sichuan’s new CBD branch proved a challenge to locate. Yes, it’s inside one of Bourke St’s arcades, but you can’t really see it until you clamber up an escalator towards what looks like a karaoke bar.
But that elusiveness was part of the adventure! Some of you may remember years ago when I had Chongqing Hotpot at Dainty’s Toorak branch…? Whoa mama! There was nothing dainty at all about the flavours there, it was CRAZY SPICY!
So this pilgrimage with Fakegf, The Angmoh and friend came about with much excitement, and it happened just as Melbourne completely skipped Autumn this year and dived straight into Winter. Perfect weather for a bit of extra warmth in the belly.
The restaurant is more modern looking than its cousin in Toorak, with wood fittings, sectioned off seatings and floors that aren’t as hazardously oily.
Tsingtao beer (China) 6.80
It might be interesting to know that The Angmoh’s actually more familiar with Sichuan food than myself, with a very respectable chilli tolerance to boot. I only got introduced to the cuisine a few years ago in Melbourne and found it a bit
unhealthy scary. So there he was…the Sichuan-guzzling Aussie, picking out his dish favourites while I peered idly at the menu… somewhat lost and a little annoyed at my Asian mediocrity.
However, Fakegf did all the ordering for us in Chinese, my own Chinese-speaking skills being almost woefully limited to counting from 1 to 10. She also asked that they not ‘correct’ heat levels on behalf of the non black-haired customers in the table. Without blinking, our waiter matter of factly replied that the kitchen doesn’t do that here… wooo hooo!!
Chongqing Chilli Chicken $27.80
So we embarked on our adventure in spicy, as seen through The Angmoh’s favourites! We started with an oft-ordered dish consisting of small pieces of deep fried chicken joints showered with an ocean of dried red chillies and mala (szechuan peppers).
This is a favourite Sichuan dish of mine, although some may argue that it’s too much effort eating such microscopic quantities of chicken flesh wrapped around spiky-bitty bones. But I like it this way. Sift through the sheaves of dried red chillies with your chopsticks and find your small-jointed morsels of crisp-tasty chicken, and savour…
Once you get over the scare of seeing so much red on the platter, you’ll realise it’s not as spicy as you think. Instead, there’s a nice push of mala and an intangible fragrance to the dish that changes consistently as the numbing effects of the mala tiptoes all over your tongue.
Eggplant with Fish-Fragrant Sauce $20.80
This is another dish favourite that I tend to like as well. Actually, I enjoy eggplant anything as a general rule of thumb. It isn’t a spicy dish nor does it taste of fish. Its sweeter and, dare I say, on the ‘ketchuppy’ side.
Interestingly, the dish’s sweet and sourness was quite helpful in counterpointing the flavours in the other dishes we ordered, which leant on the heavily spicy-salty side. But overall, Fakegf and I still prefer the equivalent eggplant dish at Dainty’s Toorak branch, where the eggplant is sectioned into larger chunks and consequently less goopy.
Pork Ribs Barbeque $42.80
For our final dish, we went out of our comfort zone and ordered something we’d never tried before. What arrived was just about half a ribcage’s worth of pork ribs, marinated in chilli oil and mala. And then it all sat in a hotpot tray of smoking-hot, bubbling chilli oil, salt, spice and mala!
Just as well the Chongqing Chilli Chicken dish from before was frugal with protein, this ginormous pork ribs dish more than made up for it. Some of us went for the rib pieces that sat above the bubbling oil, with crisper edges and a tease of smokiness. Others, like myself, went for the meat pieces swimming in the chilli oil.
The treasure hunt did not end there. Underneath all the ribs, we unearthed morsels food such as pieces of lotus root (pictured above), slivers of tofu and strips of tendons. My companions seemed to like this dish, while I found it just very salty-spicy without sufficient flavour dimensionality to maintain my interest. However, that didn’t stop me from eating astronomical quantities of ribs though.
When we finished the dish, we soon learnt that heat was necessary, because once you turned off the hotpot, all the the exciting yummy oil begins to coagulate into wax… Yeeks!
I wouldn’t say I’m an authority over Sichuan food, but I do get days where I’d crave for it. And when I do, Dainty is a pretty safe bet. Although frankly speaking, I don’t even know what other options there are in Melbourne!
Now that WINTER IS COMING, I think I might be having a few more Sichuan meals to weather through the cold. Do you have your favourite place for winter food? Tell me where!