Friday, June 19, 2009

Red Chilli 2

25-29 Harbour St
NSW 2000
Ph : (02) 9211 8130

There’s food with chillis, and there’s Szechuan food. Although I’m not entirely sure as to where my tastebuds lie on the continuum of chilli tolerance, I love a chilli kick and get chilli cravings which generally require immediate satiation.

Despite having now been in Sydney for a decade, I had yet to make it to the Red Chilli Restaurant on Dixon St. Having only realised recently that there was a second branch, on Harbour St, I figured that it was as good a time as any to pay a visit to Red Chili 2.

Along with the very useful photos of all dishes in their menu, there are the little pictures of chillis to warn the diner about the level of chilli in certain dishes. That is, if you’re actually paying attention to minor details like that. If you’re not, then you end up ordering dishes all rated “2 chillis” (with one exception) without realising that 2 on their scale is more than 2 on other restaurants’ scales, and that this may possibly leave your tongue somewhat numb, and with lingering effects of numbness possibly even lasting for over 24 hours....

The first dish that arrived was the Dan Dan Noodles. Unfortunately, I had to take a call at that moment, and by the time I returned to the table, all but a little bit of the $6.50 worth of noodles was left, and well, there wasn’t much to photograph. This was the one non chilli dish; not like most other iterations of Dan Dan noodles that I’ve had, but definitely something worth returning for.

I have a general rule of thumb. When you find yourself launching a miniature chopstick search team for the actual non chilli parts of the dish so that you don’t consume nothing but mouthfuls of chillis, there’s probably too many of them. Especially when it seems that there are in fact about half a kilo worth of chillis.

Okay so that’s a slight exaggeration but the dish in question was the Stir Fried King Prawns w Cucumber in Hot Chilli Oil ($38.80). Sounds harmless enough, doesn’t it? Not only had I neglected to look at the Chilli Quotient, I hadn’t paid that much attention to the actual photo. Nor had the dining companions.

This was an extremely generously sized dish. It was also packed almost solid with chillis. I have never seen so many chillis in a single dish in my entire life. I spent half the meal goggling at it. There were a lot of prawns, and after we managed to get the obviously visible ones out and into our stomachs, it was like a ladle fishing expedition for the rest – ladle in, see what comes out. If you didn’t use the oil as some sort of a soup, which is what I half suspect that we were meant to do (why the need for a ladle if not for this?) then it was edible; but if you’d spooned even a little of that hardcore oil in, your tastebuds would have decided to temporarily quit. Mind you, I did take some of the leftover oil home afterwards to use as cooking oil. It’s going to last a looong time....

The next dish was Double Cooked Pork Slice with Dry Chilli and Garlic Choy ($18.80).

Double cooked pork is a favoured dish of one of the dining companions and he said that this was cooked in a more modern than traditional style with regards to the texture/ dryness level of the pork, and the plethora of chillis. This was a pretty hot dish. In its own way, more so than the prawns.

Dish the fourth was the Stir Fried Beef w Green Beans and Preserved Vegetables ($22.80).

This was meant to be “the vegetable dish” but we all agreed that we should have paid more attention and chosen a more palate neutral vegetable option.....!
The flavour of the beef and beans was actually to my mind at least, the best flavouring of the night. I just wish that they had used a few less chillis and more crucially, fewer Szechuan peppercorns. If I took random mouthfuls, about a third of each mouthful would be the peppercorns, and this somewhat dominated the dish at the expense of the actual flavours, which I really enjoyed. In the end I had to basically put a spoonful in my bowl and pick out all the peppercorns before eating the remaining beef & veg. It’s a dish that I’d be like to order again, but perhaps if I was feeling brave enough to ask the chef to reduce the peppercorn factor.... :-O

After the gallons of tea and endless bowls of rice, I needed something sweet to balance my tastebuds so yes, why not try some Szechuan Egg Puff Pastry ($8.80)?

I'm not quite sure where the "puff" bit came into it but they were enjoyable. Not too sweet and just hit the spot.

Would I return? Yes, but I’d order more carefully next time. It is a pleasant restaurant and the wait staff were really very good in the sense of being good enough for it to be noticed. Very thoughtful, attentive to the right degree, and wearing tops with these really cool little pen pockets on their sleeves.

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