Dainty Sichuan

April 28, 2012

176 Toorak Road, South Yarra

Nearly every blog post on Dainty Sichuan will comment on the irony of the name, because let me tell you there is not one thing dainty about the dishes they serve up to the eager and hungry punters that flock to South Yarra for their Sichuan fix. The menu is fraught with blow-your-face-off dishes, many of which involve kilograms of dried chilies. Readers beware!
We went mid-week and the place was packed with students and locals queueing up eagerly. The thirty minute wait made me keen to see if the cuisine was worth it, particularly given the no frills ambiance and brusque service.
The menu is more authentic Sichuan than most places in the city, and the visual aids mean that everything can be judged before being ordered. I was keen to try the sichuan dried cucumber because I’m curious as to how that would work texturally. Some more interesting dishes that caught my eye but not my stomach include
  • Spicy pork ear and stomach threads
  • Preserved eggs with hot capsicum (if you don’t know what these are and are in the mood to lose your appetite, look no further than here)
  • Hot blood curd combination pot (I’m not sure which of those five words freaks me out the most)
  • Stir-fried pork kidney flowers
In any case, if you give yourself ten minutes to fully absorb the endless menu, there are many more accessible sounding dishes to try. When you go to Dainty Sichuan, the one dish you absolutely must order is the fish flavoured eggplant. Do not baulk at the name, just order it and weep and the beautifully crisp shards of eggplant that give way to a soft interior and the gentle heat of chili. They are really fantastically good, I often dream about them.
Also excellent (though with a kick like a mule) is the cumin lamb slices. This dish is pretty damn hot because you get the double punch from both the chili and the cumin, but the smell wafting over the table was incredible. Two minutes into eating this dish and my nose was running and D was pretty close to weeping (poor thing doesn’t handle heat well, it turns out). I’d suggest getting some steamed rice and a large bottle of your favourite beer to cool yourself down.
Dishes come out as they’re ready, so we were quite full by the time the third dish came around. We didn’t appreciate the large portion sizes; two dishes and some greens would have been more than enough for a meal and lunch the next day, so we’ll keep that in mind for next time.
Regardless, the Ants Climbing the Trees (thus names because of its appearance) was a disappointment because the kitchen had burnt them. We had a few mouthfuls and suspected as such, but the staff were attentive in picking up on it and crossing it off our bill.
In all, a hectic and unapologetic dinner at Dainty Sichuan; the mere thought of that eggplant and that spectacular lamb has me eager to return, notwithstanding the abrupt staff and waiting period.

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Filed under: Chinese, South Yarra