Sunday, April 14, 2013

[Review] M&L Szechaun Restaurant, Cathedral Street, Dublin 1

Dear readers, I have a confession to make. It has been barely more than 12 hours since my last Chinese meal and I already crave more. As I sit here, it is a blustery yet stunningly beautiful Sunday morning in Dublin's fair city. Clouds are scurrying across an azure sky and surely it is a time to think about Eggs Benedict or perhaps a proper fry. However, in my head I am dreaming of streamed fish with fragrant ginger and garlic, or perhaps lip-tingling Sichuan peppers dotted throughout a dish of crispy chicken and peanuts. 

I have several favourite Chinese restaurants in Dublin, which I alternate through depending on my moods and desires. All have featured on this blog, some more than once. In fact, this is a second mention for the M&L Szechuan Restaurant, over 3 years since I first mentioned it. The M&L Szechuan restaurant lies in the shadow of St. Mary's Pro Cathedral, a mere hop and a skip from O'Connell Street. Despite the solemn surroundings, M&L is a vibrant spot, often packed and full of bright flavours and aromas. As the name suggests, the main dishes originate from Szechuan province, famous for its use of spicy and pungent flavours. Inside, the restaurant is cosily lit and the staff are welcoming. The M&L used to suffer from the problem of having dreary English and exotic Chinese menus, but things have improved and there are now many authentic offerings on the English menu. 

Deep-fried seabass with chili garlic garlic sauce came on the bone (€13.50) with a bright flash of spring onions. The sweetness of the sauce had been tempered with garlic, resulting in a sticky sauce in which to dip the delicate white flesh.  Stir-fried dry beef with hot and spicy taste (€10.50) was flavoured with cumin and fermented beans and finished with sugar, resulting in a carmelised flavour to balance the salty & spicy flavours. It was also a visually pretty dish with dark red dried chills and bright green from fresh coriander and spring onion. 
Stitch and Bear - M&L Szechuan Restaurant - Deep fried sea bass
Deep fried seabass with chili garlic sauce
We managed to go off-piste when we persuaded our waiter to provide a dish of aubergine and pork from the Chinese menu. It didn't look the most appealing when it arrived but it was melt in the mouth good. Gently sweet and salty, the aubergine had nearly completely disappeared and the whole dish was a lovely counterpoint to spicy beef. Glasses of Tsingtao rice beer were cold and refreshing and great value at €3 a bottle. 
Stitch and Bear - M&L Szechuan Restaurant - Selection of dishes
Stir-fried dry beef, Tsingtao beer and aubergine & pork
A dish of deep-fried crispy chicken and peanuts was flavoured with chili (€10.50) and the fearsome Sichuan peppercorn. Little pieces of chicken skin had escaped from the flesh and had been fried separately. They literally exploded with flavour in the mouth and I searched throughout the entire plate, picking out all these little morsels. Dark red dried chilis make this dish moderately spicy, but the heat factor is amplified if you manage to pick up some of the lurking peppercorns (which confusingly aren't actually peppercorns, but in fact berries).
Stitch and Bear - M&L Szechuan Restaurant - Another selection of dishes
Shredded pork in hot and sour sauce and chicken with chili and peanuts
The climate of Sichuan province tends to dampness (not unlike our own home) and therefore the cuisine features salty and spicy flavours to ward off foul humours. Perhaps this explains why I always feel virtuously healthy after a Sichuan meal, despite the fact that I will have eaten several courses, and practically licked every drop of garlicky oil off the plates. Or perhaps its the fact that a typical meal of 3 courses, several beers and rice will typically come to under €40.

If you like Chinese food but have been nervous about trying more authentic dishes, then M&L could well be the spot for you. Each dish has a wonderful balance of sweet, salty, sour and spicy flavours, and the welcoming staff will help you order something suited to your tastes.  Personally, I intend to keep going until I crack the elusive all-Chinese menu. Soft-shell crabs cooked in egg yolk, you have been warned.

M&L Szechuan Restaurant, 13-14 Cathedral Street, Dublin 1
Tel:+353 (0)1 874 8038
Twitter: @MlChinese

M & L Szechuan Chinese on Urbanspoon

3 comments:

Enie Dub said...

Looks amazing!!! I need to go here....

David said...

I need to go back!

JD said...

The Soft-shell crab is fantastic and well worth a crack but portion size is gargantuan, it was my everest that night