THE menu at Red Chilli Sichuan isn’t for the faint-hearted, and not just because it’s the size of a telephone book.
With dishes like pickled chicken feet, pork intestines, jelly fish and sliced beef tongue with tripe, you know this Northbridge restaurant is authentic as it gets.
If I was braver I may have tried one of those dishes, but I bottled it, and instead ordered the traditional hot pot fish ($29.50).
Dishes from Sichuan, a provence in the south west of China, are renowned for their bold flavours and fiery kick.
Surprisingly, chillies were unheard of in China until the 1600s, but Sichuan locals took to them with gusto and they soon became synonymous with the region’s cuisine.
I did a double take when my meal arrived: the bowl seemed to be the size of a kids’ paddling pool and was brimming with a rich, aromatic sauce.
“I’ll be taking some home for dinner,” I said with a nervous laugh, hoping the waiter wasn’t thinking the worse of my apparent greediness.
Sesame seeds are grown in the Sichuan area and the delightful smell of sesame and star anise rose in wafts of steam.
My mouth was watering before the first spoonful was poured over a small bowl of fluffy rice.
It wasn’t just the chillies bringing tears to my eyes, but a magnificent blending of flavours that had me thinking how good it would be to have it all over again, come dinner time.
The very generous serve of fish was gelatinous and there were chunks of cabbage floating alongside for good measure.
All that chilli had me coughing, but a very good Chinese tea soon soothed my throat.
The service at Red Chilli is as warm as the food, and my chopsticks had no sooner hit the floor, clumsily knocked off by me, than the waiter appeared with a clean set.
The decor is classic Chinese, with heavy, carved wooden seats and huge yellow chinese lanterns.
If you want your fish fresh, there’s a tank of them to choose from, along with a giant white crab.
But at $69-a-kilo he lived for another day, and I headed home to enjoy another chilli-fest with my not-so-crabby husband instead.
by JENNY D’ANGER
Red Chilli Sichuan
191 James Street
open 7 days lunch and dinner