Dainty Sichuan

4/29/2013 05:42:00 PM


Dainty Sichuan
Lvl 2 / 206 Bourke Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9650-2188
Dainty Sichuan Food on Urbanspoon

So, if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (or are ever in my general vicinity, really), I'm sure you will have realised I'm addicted to Sichuan food, and to chilli in general. When I posted about Sichuan food back in September, it was very much a cooking post, and I even mentioned that I hadn't been that impressed by Dainty Sichuan before then.  Well, that's certainly all changed! Since the Bourke Street location opened, I've visited four times and even suffer Sichuan pepercorn and chilli withdrawals if it's been a while! Definitely obsessed.

For today's post I'd like to share with you the different dishes we've tried so far. I haven't taken note of the exact prices (sorry!) but the normal dishes tend to be around $25-30, and they have a few big or deluxe dishes for about $45. Also, the portions are huge, so it's best to go in a group!

One of my favourites is the beans with minced pork. So delicious! I'm pretty sure the beans themselves are deep fried, making the skin wrinkly and giving them an amazing texture, and they are positively zingy with ground Sichuan peppercorns! We always, always, order this dish!
Green beans with minced pork
Gong Bao chicken - another favourite, this one has boneless pieces of chicken in a spicy, sticky sauce.
Gong Bao Chicken
The below picture was what we ordered for lunch for three people (eep!) when Billy came to town. It was totally a case of our eyes being bigger than our stomachs! After this lunch, I was literally eating the leftovers for a week! Phew! It also happened to be like a 38C day, so we were really grateful for Dainty's insane airconditioning!
Lunch for 3
I love the lamb skewers! I think these are Xinjiang-style: in addition to the heat from the chilli, and the sour Sichuan peppercorns, these are seasoned with a hefty dose of cumin.
Lamb Skewers
Fish-fragrant eggplant is a classic Sichuan dish, but I (immodestly) prefer my own home cooked version. Dainty's eggplant pieces were quite firm, whereas I prefer meltingly soft eggplant.
Fish-Flavoured Eggplant
We were recommended the Chonqing Chilli Chicken by one of the waitresses on this visit, as it's one of their specialities. I couldn't believe how much I liked it! There is a rather terrifying amount of dried chilli on the plate, with many deep-fried chicken wings, chopped up into tiny chopstickable pieces. The chicken is indeed, very spicy, but also extremely sour and tingly. (I imagine that the chicken pieces are dipped in ground Sichuan peppercorns before being deep fried). The texture can be pretty challenging, especially if you're used to eating boneless chicken pieces, but there is something really compelling about the combo of crisp skin and chewy, cartilaginous meat. (Fuchsia Dunlop has a wonderful chapter in Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper about different textures in Chinese cuisine!) 
Chongqing Chilli Chicken

On another night, I brought an old supervisor of mine to Dainty, as a thank-you to her for being a reference on a (successful!) job application of mine. Although, now I reflect on it, I'm not sure if taking a Dainty-virgin for hotpot is a reward or a punishment....
Small Hotpot - half spicy, half not-spicy
Having never had hotpot before, we were totally overwhelmed by the hotpot choices, but luckily our waitress was really helpful in explaining what we should order and how it all worked. We ended up getting a small hotpot (half spicy, half not spicy), and getting a few meats and veggies to cook inside.
Hotpot spices
Apologies for the out-of-focus picture: I was clearly suffering from the chilli sweats! The spicy soup wasn't quite as hot as it looked, but it was definitely good to have both types of soup so we could adjust our own bowls according to taste. (The waiters also come and fill up the hotpot with more soup out of a giant kettle as the night goes on - awesome!)

So here's what we ordered to go in the hotpot. (Plus a plate of raw beef kebabs that isn't pictured). You can see we were playing it quite safe with our choices, maybe next time I'll try a bit of offal or some vegetables I've never heard of before. Hot tip: I love potato noodles, but they're impossible to fish out of the bubbling hot broth. Also, that sesame dipping sauce is all kinds of amazing!
Hotpot Additions: Shiitake mushrooms, potato noodles, wombok cabbage, tender beef, broad bean sauce, sesame sauce, crispy bamboo shoots
This hotpot, plus a serve of the beans with minced pork and gong bao chicken made a generous meal for three people. (And I can't believe we practically finished it all!)

And finally, on Saturday night I came to Dainty in a group of eleven, to celebrate my birthday! A big thank-you to my friends for enduring the cray cray spicy food and chilli sweats! (Seriously, not the most sensible idea to go to Dainty all dressed up - my makeup totally melted off and my hair deflated!) But, it was totally worth it!

The below sweet and sour pork ribs weren't spicy at all, but were still quite strongly flavoured with a sticky sweet sauce, and were (from memory) about $18 for a small entree-sized plate. We got two for the table. (They're similar to the sweet and sour pork ribs I made from Fuchsia Dunlop's recipe).
Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs
I felt we should order something green, and I loved these delicate jade-coloured soybeans, dressed with a subtle slick of sesame oil. A refreshing contrast to the rest of the dishes!
Soy Beans
Moving back to spicy dishes, my friend Wes chose the calamari, and it was great! The tentacles were pleasantly chewy without being rubbery.
Calamari Wok
My cousin, who tries to avoid too much chilli and who actually hates Sichuan pepper, (SORRY CUZ!!!!) ordered a plate of mixed seafood and vegetables for herself, which I think she liked. Although a sneaky Sichuan peppercorn found its way in there, poor girl!
Mixed Seafood and Vegetables
Our waitress recommended we order a big dish of pork ribs (this one was about $45), as it's apparently one of their famous dishes. This massive dish came served, precariously, on a gas burner (and was nearly dropped onto our table by the waitress - oops!). But luckily nothing spilled or broke, and the dish was delicious. There were meaty pork ribs, there were tendons, there was pork fat, onions, lotus roots and more. Great recommendation!
Pork Ribs with tendons, fat, lotus roots
And let's just have another picture of the Chongqing Chilli Chicken because I love it and it's the most addictive of all the dishes!
Chongqing Chilli Chicken

Yay for chilli! Although having said that, I always need a bottle or jug of soy milk alongside to help cool things down (and enable me to keep eating!)

Do you have a favourite Dainty Sichuan (or general Sichuan) dish? I still want to try the "Ants climbing up the trees" noodle dish, but they don't serve it at the city location. Any must-try dishes for me? What are your favourite additions to hotpot?

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  1. Caz Clarkson7:14 PM

    Oh Sarah, I'm salivating! We love Sichuan Restaurant in Box Hill. Great hot pot (and we do half/half too) and amazingly melty fish fried eggplant... Fried beans and pork are also a favourite and (immodestly) I prefer my own made using one of Primrose's recipes. I feeling a Sichuan feast coming on for Greg's birthday next month...

  2. We're crazy for Sichuan eggplant but yes when it's meltingly soft! :D

  3. The Angmoh, Booo and I went just last Wed. How awesome is that BBQ Pork Rib dish! Totally love Sichuan peppercorns!

  4. I was lukewarm about Dainty Sichuan as well until I recently went to the city one. Now I'm so hankering to go back but can never find enough chilli lovers to go with me. The dishes are so big that it makes it hard when you only have two people eating it!

  5. I love the abundance of dried chillies in Sichuan dishes but find that usually there's more bark than bite! lol. And I have to confess I paused at the pork rib dish, especially when I saw the words tendons and fat! lol. I needs me some of that, stat!

  6. I loved the food at Dainty Sichuan but the city location feels very sterile and lacks atmosphere I think.

  7. Mmm love Dainty.. but I want to go to a place with really good ribs! Off to Spicy Dumplingwhatever that place is called in Kensington!

  8. I still feel the burn! LOL The ribs were great and didn't mind the heat (partly due to the soy been milk!)It was so worth it.

  9. I remember my brother telling me about Dainty Sichuan and Chonqing Chilli Chicken when he first moved to Melbourne, but I was a terrible sister and made him take me to the antithesis of this place instead - Yong Green Food. I may have missed out! ;)

  10. Snowbound USA5:32 AM

    Their lamb ribs served with rice is the BOMB! I wish I could get the recipe as I haven't been back to OZ for over 5 years and my craving is driving me nuts! The ribs come in a wonderful broth.



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