Melbourne Food Review: Dainty Sichuan, South Yarra
Awesome! I just found the draft of this blog from January so I might just continue it.
If you have heard about Dainty… Look. It’s not that hot. Really. I have heard a lot about Dainty Sichuan – first from Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations (the ‘Australia’ episode) and a few other tweeters, bloggers, etc. Being absolutely chilli mad that I am, I have been wanting to try it for ages. The one day we actually got to it, we found a closed sign. Dainty Sichuan was moving itself from that dodgy little Chinatown lane to the much trendier Toorak Rd. in South Yarra.
We walked through a cloud of smoking kitchen staff who were loitering just outside the steps. What a great first impression. A waiter enquired… wait… I meant interrogated if we made a booking. We did. Without bothering to check our names against the reservation list, he waved us carelessly to a table. Another waiter comes along and threw us two menus. Extra menu request (well, there were four of us) was met with a death glare (oops, I guess I am not a regular) and told that they don’t have enough menus. Fair enough. Oh and get your cutlery and drinks (including Tsingtao beer) from the fridge, thank you very much! Now, I may not know much but surely self-service of alcohol would be against liquor licensing law! Anyone knows?
(Dainty Sichuan’s Chongqing Chicken)
Let’s get on with it. We figured the standard 3-chilli rated chicken-buried-in-dried-chilli-and-Szechuan-pepper dish (Chongqing chicken) is required. We received a huge pile of of crispy deep fried chopped pieces of chicken wings. I loved it personally because I really didn’t mind bits of deep fried chicken wings but my dining companions reckon the bones get a bit too much. Yes. It was hot and yes it was awesome.
Because Nic the Greek Girl is in the house, octopus and eggplants are a requirement. We ordered the spicy octopus (first picture) which came with liberal amount of octopus, celery, some sort of bell chilli (wasn’t too hot) and green Szechuan peppercorn. It was the first time I tried the green Szechuan peppercorn – it was awesomely strong. One tiny little corn and my tongue is disabled for 10 minutes. I loved it. It’s strange I can eat so much chilli and yet a tiny little green Szechuan pepper corn defeats me. Unfortunately the rest of the octopus was rather average and it was the least popular dish.
(stir-fried lotus roots with vegetables and garlic)
The eggplant ‘chips’ on the other hand were awesome. They were absolutely crisp and gorgeous sweetish, chilli sauce coating it was simply heaven. It was like eating chips washed down with beer but a hundred times better! The eggplants were the unanimous favourite and it would be the only dish I return to Dainty for. We also figured we should order a non-spicy dish of lotus root and vegetables in garlic sauce. It was perfect with glossy, garlicky sauce that was well flavoured, crunchy lotus roots, snow peas and fresh wood ear. Awesome choice.
I appreciated the food. Very much. Just not the absolute disgrace of a service. Guess what? Sichuan Dining Room has similar food that are just about as good. At cheaper price. In a much nicer dining room. AND fabulous service. So fabulous you would forget you’re in a Chinese restaurant, in fact.
I know where I’m going for my next Szechuan kick. Not that I wouldn’t crave Dainty once in a while.
Address: 176 Toorak Rd., South Yarra VIC 3141
Phone: (03) 9078 1686