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Food Review: Qi House of Sichuan

Qi House of Sichuan puts an original spin on the region's food, writes Susan Jung

 

As the doors of the lift opened, we suspected that Qi House of Sichuan was not going to be a typical Sichuanese restaurant. The music playing over the loudspeakers was our first clue; the stylish decor was the second.

I knew the hostess, Carrie, from other restaurants, and asked why she'd left her previous group. She said she was excited about the food they were serving at Qi, and her enthusiasm seemed genuine.

The interior of the restaurant was sectioned off into small, cosy dining areas. We were seated at a table overlooking the terrace, which had a steady stream of smokers.

The menu indicates whether the dishes are spicy and/or mala (numbing from the Sichuan peppercorns), vegetarian or signature. We stuck mostly to the signature dishes, while attempting to order a few that would not overwhelm the taste buds of one of my guests who has a delicate palate.

Our starters were excellent. Mouth-watering chicken (HK$80) really did get our salivary glands going with the delicious, rich, oily sauce. Even better were the chilli wonton (HK$75), which had a light and juicy filling.

We ordered the chilli Dungeness crab (HK$595), although I worried the spiciness would overwhelm the sweetness of the shellfish. The crab was slightly overcooked (it was a little tough) but its freshness shone through.

The spice was mostly on the outside of the shell so it could be avoided by using the crab crackers to get at the meat, rather than pulling it out with one's teeth to get both the spice and crab with each bite.

Fish with chilli oil (HK$210) was a little overwhelming at first. It had dried chillies, which were easy to avoid because most of them were in big pieces, as well as fresh chillies, which were more insidious because the small pieces were hidden among the ingredients, especially the bean sprouts.

We were told that the sliced fish was from fresh water, not the ocean, but, fortunately, it didn't have a muddy taste. The fen pei (mung bean sheets) really absorbed the sauce, which was tolerable as long as you avoided most of the chillies.

Fresh young jade sprouts (HK$90) cooked with garlic were crunchy and soothed our palates. The one dish that disappointed was the sweet vinegar spare ribs (HK$105). The flavour of the rich, dark sauce hadn't penetrated the tender meat.

Carrie highly recommended the red bean puffs (HK$70), which were very good. Our main waiter was also friendly and attentive.

Qi House of Sichuan, 2/F J Senses, 60 Johnson Road, Wan Chai. Tel: 2527 7117. Open: Monday-Friday noon-2.30pm, nightly 6pm-10.30pm (last order). About HK$420 without drinks or service charge.

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