Tuesday, September 28, 2010

HOT 'Adults only' lunch - Sichuan restaurant San Xi Lou

Spicy, numbing, addictive fried chicken for adults only

Whether you call it Szechuan or Sichuan, this regional cuisine is certainly an acquired taste and not for the faint of heart or shall I say faint of palate.

In Chinese, there are two terms for 'spicy', one is 'ma' which means numbing.  Then there is 'la' which is spicy as in the burning sensation on our tongue after ingesting some chili peppers.  Sichuan cuisine is the creme de-la-creme of 'ma-la' cooking methods.  These combinations of flavors can activate a 'high' to the brain and makes one want to eat more.  The initial 'heat' of the dish disappears after a few bites and what's left is an overwhelming desire to 'feed' the rush.  It's not fiery-hot like jalapeno peppers, it's more a slow burn which then turns into a numbing feeling on the lips and tongue and then a rich flavor of peppers and oils permeates throughout the palate.

The ambiance of San Xi Lu is absolutely lovely. We made a reservation and got seated at a window which overlooks Hong Kong Botanical Gardens.  It's spacious and clean but the wait staff has limited English ability, I think most are from mainland, which is quite the norm nowadays.

Once seated, we are offered our 'snack'. Today it consisted of chicken soft bone (or chicken cartilage), which is crunchy and tastes like... well, chicken!  Marinated in a soy sauce, and served with some mild chili peppers, it was a nice starter.  They also served a Firm Tofu snack that was flavorless.

Cold firm tofu

The main dishes were definitely the highlights.  We had the Fried Chicken with Sichuan Peppers which was a big dish filled with chili peppers and peppercorns.  Hiding amongst these are the treasures of deep-fried chicken morsels (with bones) and delicious pan fried cashew nuts.  It was so much fun 'hunting down' the morsels that it was half the fun.  But be careful, don't mistake any peppers for cashews, you will get a big surprise.

Spring rolls in steamed Rice Noodle roll, sprinkled with a touch of cilantro

Another winner was the Spring Roll in Rice Noodle Roll.  The spring roll is filled with big pieces of shrimp, served still crispy wrapped inside a 'cheung fan' and smothered in soy sauce.  Delish!

Spicy cold vermicelli, serve carefully as the noodles easily break

Accompanying these was a very flavorful Spicy Cold Vermicelli dish.  Served in a vinegar and chili sauce, the rice noodles are ultra-soft and breaks easily but it's still good because the sourness of the vinegar and the slow burn of the chili counter-reacts with the cold noodles.

Very curious sign - Click to enlarge - What do you think is 'Miracle mixed sauce'?

Condiments and sauces station for the Hot Pot

If you are coming to dinner, I would definitely suggest their Hot Pot.  There is a table laid out with various sauces and spices that you can add to your selection of meats and vegies and look really good.  A bit much for lunch but don't be surprised, I saw a table of ladies digging in a HUGE pot at 1pm.

Lunch came to around HKD150 per person.

San Xi Lou
7th Floor, Coda Plaza
51 Garden Road
Hong Kong
Hours: 11 am - 11pm