Tuesday, April 15, 2014

[Review] China Sichuan, Dublin 18

I've recently been reading a blog series from Sybaritica about Chinese characters and how to understand them in the context of food and dining. I'm only a few characters in, but I'm already starting to go a little cross-eyed as I start to appreciate this complex language. However, I have learned to recognise the three parallel strokes that symbolise one of my favourite Chinese cuisines, namely Sichuan cooking. I  was delighted to be able to pick that character out on the menu cover at China Sichuan. Watch out non-English speaking restaurants, I'm coming!

China Sichuan is surely the sleekest Chinese restaurant in Dublin. Located in a custom-built premises in Sandyford Industrial Estate, it's presided over by the charming, second generation restaurateur Kevin Hui. Upon arriving, our coats were taken with a warm welcome before being led into the dining room, which is all dark woods, slate and subdued lighting. It simply (discretely) shouts style. I already knew that I was going to enjoy China Sichuan. The question was how would this upmarket and polished restuarant compare to some of my Dublin Chinatown favourites?

A little dish of pickled and peeled cucumber strips were crunchy and sweet. They disappeared quickly, leaving us forlornly waiting for the starters.  Cold pork belly slices were delicately wrapped around  beanspouts, perched on top of a slice of pickled cucumber (€6.00). The spicy garlic and soy sauce dressing ensured that each mouthful was intense and savoury. Luóbo gao or Chinese turnip cake pan-fried and tossed with XO sauce (€8), was a wonderful surprise. The cubes of turnip were light, even fluffy and extremely moreish. Our final starter featured fresh, meaty prawns in a foamy and buttery salted duck egg coating (€8.50).
Pickled cucumbers 
Pork belly slices with spicy garlic sauce
Prawns with salted duck egg
Luóbo Gao - Chinese turnip cake
I had chosen my main of Chong Qing chicken from the Chef's Recommendations section, where it was accompanied by a little triangle, indicating moderately spicy (€15.00). The advertised mixture of dried and fresh chilis seasoned with ground Sichuan pepper had drawn me in like a moth to a flame. What arrived at the table was a richly coloured bowl of chicken, cashews and chills  Lots of chills to be honest, all coated with the numbing magic of Sichuan pepper. It's not for the faint of heart, but I loved every minute of it. Himself had stuck with the specials for his main course, opting for Ballinwillin organic venison cooked with chili and Chinese greens (€20.00). I was curious to see how the chefs would tackle venison, which turned out to be tenderly cooked in a slightly peppery sauce. 

At this stage, we can't visit any Chinese restaurant without ordering a portion of fried long green beans. At China Sichuan, the beans are a bit more expensive than usual (€15.00), but come tossed with minced pork and deliciously salty bits. Along with the Chong Qing chicken, it was an umami slap to the tastebuds, leaving them calling out for more. 
Chong Qing chicken with dried and fresh chillis
Green beans fried with minced pork
Ballinwillin venison
Throughout the meal, I stuck with a glass of delicious Gewürztraminer whose floral aromatics contrasted well with the spicy flavours, while it was bottles of Tsing Tao Chinese beer for Himself. The waiting staff were flawlessly perfect throughout, often cracking a joke, but always attentive. 

China Sichuan straddles two worlds effortlessly. On one hand it is sleekly modern, frequently by wealthy South Dubliners, while on the other hand, the food from the kitchen is authentic and true. It's a true marriage of modernity and tradition, showcasing a vibrant and modern Chinese cuisine. After all, it's hard to resist the allure of dishes like tea-smoked duck or pork shreds in the tantalising tasty "fish fragrance" sauce. (By the way, there's no actual fish involved, it just means that the sauce was traditionally suited to fish).

China Sichuan isn't cheap overall, but if you're on a budget there is a two course lunch menu on offer for €15.00, while the Early Bird offers two courses for €20.00. With the Stillorgan Luas stop just literally 2 minutes walk from the restaurant, it's hard not to find a reason to give it a try. If you fancy a Chinese dalliance, then China Sichuan is a good place to go.

China Sichuan, The Forum, Ballymoss Road, Sandyford Industrial Estate, Dublin 18
Tel: +353 (0)1 293 5100
URL: china-sichuan.ie
Twitter: @ChinaSichuanD18

China Sichuan on Urbanspoon

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