Food review: Chuan Xi's Sichuan dishes exceed expectations
Sizzling Sichuan newcomer offers top notch cuisine and friendly service, writes Susan Jung
I suspected we were in for a good meal at Chuan Xi from the moment I tasted the tea. It was delicious, and different from anything I've tried before. The manager said it was made from a bitter grain and said it would cool our mouths from the fiery flavours of our meal.
There were two menus - the standard type, with pages, and another with photos on a mini tablet. Both were extensive, so we consulted with the friendly manager, who made sure we were ordering different flavours, textures and spice levels.
We started with a trio of appetisers. Crispy mushrooms (HK$62) were moist, with a delicate, light coating. Beef tripe with Sichuan pepper sauce (HK$58) could have used a little more salt, but the thin strips of meat were tender. Vegetarian salad - cloud ear mushrooms, crispy strips of jade vegetable and crunchy slices of lotus root (HK$58) - was, despite the two-star hotness rating, more refreshing and tart than spicy. It was a good dish to eat with the spicier courses, because it calmed our palates.
Beef and offal in herbal soup (HK$188) was recommended by the waiter, and it was just the thing to ward off the chill of the cold night. Kept hot over a stovetop burner, the broth, with strips of brisket and intestines, tripe and tongue, was so good that even before we'd finished it, we asked if it was possible to have more (the waiter brought a big bowl).
Poached mutton in chilli oil (HK$178) had pieces of meat that were a little too large, but they were tender and well seasoned. Steamed turbot with pickled peppers (HK$238) was cooked perfectly, so the meat came off in large, soft pieces from the bones. The pickled peppers were not as threatening as they looked and added a salty tang to the mild fish. Chilli crab with rice cakes (HK$360) had a back shell with a generous amount of the crab innards, and legs and claws that were thick with sweet meat.
We didn't have any expectations of the restaurant when we arrived, which made the high quality of the food and the good service such a pleasant surprise. The turbot and crab were taken fresh from a tank near the entrance. The kitchen took care, and our dishes were served in the right order and at the correct pace.
Chuan Xi Restaurant, 2/F 17-19 Ashley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2882 9020. Open: noon-midnight. About HK$300 without drinks or service charge