With the number of Asian eateries down Gouger Street, it’s only fitting that the China Chilli restaurant opens it’s doors along this popular cafe strip. As their signage suggests, this place specialises in two things; Sichuan cuisine and hot pots. Sichuan cuisine refers to a style of Chinese food that originates from the Sichuan province in south west China. The flavours are bold and the use of garlic, chilli and Sichuan pepper is quite prominent.
The decor is very elegant and traditional. I loved the use of the see through dividers that lean up against the windows. It gives privacy and yet it allows plenty of natural light into the premises. The full length iron mural at the back of the restaurant is also unique and something to be admired. The custom made timber seating is quite comfortable and the white table cloths add a bit of class to this establishment. There’s a lot of natural earth tones used which gives this place a sense of warmth.
That’s not to say this place is perfect. Some of the tables have gas stoves built in to the centre, and when they’re not being used, they put something over the hole, however, this causes the table surface to be uneven. These same stoves also take up valuable real estate under the table, and because of this, there is very little leg room.
While the use of iPad menus is nothing new, I wasn’t expecting it from this place. It’s good to see restaurants taking advantage of technology and looking after the environment at the same time. Not all the dishes on their menu are spicy. I was specifically told it was 50-50.
For lunch, I ordered the Kung Pao Chicken. The dish came out 10 minutes after ordering and was average in presentation. This is not your typical Kung Pao Chicken, but your Sichuan version which uses peanuts instead of cashew nuts. The dish is cooked with Sichuan chilli peppers and peppercorns, and the flavours are enhanced using Shaoxing wine. Traditionally this dish is very hot (as was my version), however, the chef will vary the heat levels depending on whether you’re Asian or western.
The chicken was tender and succulent, and a decent amount was provided. The more flavoursome chicken thigh portions were used. The onions and capsicums were fresh and crisp, and the peanuts provided a nice crunchy texture. The dried chillis were very hot and I was sweating profusely after eating one.
The use of Sichuan peppercorns was also prominent and has the effect of making your mouth numb, and in my case, slightly light headed. I had never experienced such a strong physical sensation from a dish before and I wasn’t sure whether I was suffering from a medical episode.
There’s a fine line with use of peppercorn in this dish. Too much peppercorn was used in my case and it tasted like detergent. The key is to add the right amount so that it complements the heat of the dry chilli. The peppercorn also had a bitter taste and an unpleasant gritty texture. I suspect not all of the black seeds were removed from the peppercorns during the preparation. I also detected a bit of soapiness which indicated the peppercorns weren’t dried properly.
The staff were friendly and the service was good. The atmosphere was relaxed and the pricing is higher than average. The mains range anywhere between $15-$25, which is appropriate for dinner time, but a tad expensive for lunch, particularly when you add a few dollars for rice. The serving size was generous and you could tell quality ingredients were used. Had the Sichuan peppercorns been conservatively applied and prepared properly in my dish, I would had a much better experience.
I’d certainly come back to this place, but I’d probably order something else.
WHERE: 45 Gouger St, Adelaide