5 Wai Fung Street, Ap Lei Chau
Tel: 2328 2138
Open: Tuesday-Sunday 11.30am-11pm
Price: about HK$200 without drinks and the service charge.
Ambience: it was quiet on a weekday visit - there was only one other table occupied. The restaurant has the feel of a comfortable, mid-priced restaurant in Chengdu, with vinyl tablecloths, red chairs and Chinese knick-knacks.
Pros: the food came out at a good pace and in the order of increasing intensity. We liked most of the dishes we tasted.
Cons: the meat in the lean beef with aromatic hot spicy oil (HK$128) had the taste and texture of having been tenderised with baking soda. The noodles in the dan dan mein with spicy minced pork (HK$58) were starchy, as if they hadn't been rinsed thoroughly, and the Chung dumplings' (HK$38) filling had the consistency of meat paste.
Recommended dishes: a starter of bitter melon marinated with preserved plums (HK$36) was deliciously cooling, and we ate it between bites of spicier dishes. Sichuan spicy steamed chicken with cucumber (HK$68) had a marinade perfectly balanced between spicy and numbing and the cucumbers calmed the tongue. Steamed fish head with pickled greens and red chillies (HK$168) looked spicier than it tasted. The head was split open and the vermicelli and wood ear mushrooms soaked up the sauce. We argued about which dish was the best of our meal, with one of us voting for the Chengdu spicy pork with pepper and chilli oil (HK$78). It looked humble, but the home-style dish impressed. My favourite was the Chen mapo tofu (HK$88) - one of the best versions we've tasted. The large pieces of bean curd were soft. The thick sauce was spicy, numbing and richly flavoured.
What else? Bistro Jinli replaces Mediterranean restaurant El Greco.