Wednesday 6 May 2009

Chilli Cool

I'm no expert in Sichuan food, but I do know that I loved every single mouthful of our meal at Chilli Cool. The food was authentic, punchy and numbing all at the same time. My research tells me that Sichuan cuisine is built around the elixir of garlic, red chillies and sichuan peppercorns which produce a numbing, tingly experience. The fact that the Chinese language can express this in one character, "麻", just goes to show that we Brits like to waffle and are missing out on an exciting sensory experience.

Lizzie took control and ordered an array of dishes for us all to share. The huge benefit of going as a group of 6 is that you get to try more food. and the fact that Lizzie knew what she was doing helped us no end. I'm sure if I had been ordering we'd have landed up with some chicken chow mein and pineapple infested sweet and sour pork.

"Sliced Pork Belly in Mashed Garlic Sauce" was soft and almost creamy in texture. It had us all playing chopstick hockey to get the last slither of garlicky flesh.

Sliced pork belly in mashed garlic sauce

"Beef & Ox Tripe in Chilli Sauce" would have many people wondering whether they had just been brought a bowl of dog food. But the truth is that this was delicious. The tripe was soft and deeply flavoured with a big kick of chilli to keep you on your toes. It isn't for the faint of heart.

Beef & Ox Tripe in Chilli Sauce

"Hot & Chilli Crispy Pork Intestine" was a revelation. The sections of intestine had been battered and deep fried in a way that made them explode with gungy porky goodness in your mouth. I was deeply fearful of these when they arrived and was delighted when I not only managed to not spit them out, but liked them so much I managed to get a second helping.

Hot & Chilli Crispy Pork Intestine

"Stir-Fried Before Stewing The Jack Bean Dry" is a bizarre name for what was essentially, beans with minced pork and enough chilli to start a world war. As delicious as they were oddly named.

Stir-Fried Before Stewing The Jack Bean Dry

Bean curd with spring onions, garlic and more than enough chilli was a triumph. I'm never quite sure about bean curd, but I am growing to like it. Especially when it is served like this.

Beam card

And then what we'd all been waiting for. The famous Sichuan hotpot. This particular hotpot was full of soft grouper, Sichuan peppercorns and red chillis. It's the sort of dish that would give anyone who has a subscription to the Telegraph a heart attack. It managed to keep us all quiet for a solid 10 minutes which is quite something.

Grouper Hot Pot

It's a cracking little restaurant that was doing a roaring trade on an otherwise innocuous Wednesday night in the back streets of Bloomsbury. I'm gagging to go back in order to introduce some friends to the addictive charms of Sichuan cooking.


Manggy said...

Love Sichuan cuisine, even though I've been disappointed by metallic-tasting/too salty mapo tofu (said to be its iconic dish). Seeing the red-hot dishes makes my mouth water!

Le laquet said...

Never had Sichuan food and oh my lord look at all those chillis!! The thought of that much tripe doesn't thrill me BUT I would have to give it a go - just to prove to myself that I always try everything once!

Helen said...

Great meal. I absolutely love that pork intestine too although I preferred the criper pieces, with just a bit of goo inside.

Anonymous said...

I haven't made it here yet but I really must do something about that soon, it looks brilliant.

Unknown said...

I am sure you would have done better than sweet and sour pork with pineapple even without Lizzie Browners (!) but I agree makes all the difference to have someone take charge of the ordering.

Hollow Legs said...

Those intestines were the highlight of the meal for me, soooo porky. The meal was surprisingly not as spicy as I anticipated, but more mouth numbing / tingling.

Browners said...

@Manggy - It was my first Sichuan experience and I think I've got the bug.

@Le laquet - tripe normally fills me with fear and dread, but it has always been really tasty. Especially when doused with garlic and enough chilli to blow up parliament.

@Helen - Crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside. Is that from Dime bars?

@Ginger - You'll enjoy it here.

@Gourmet Chick - don't overestimate my ordering abilities! Lizzie did a great job of making sure we all had the proper experience.

@Lizzie - I agree. I was expecting to be hiccuping and sweating from all the chilli, but the expected explosion never came. That said, I was quite pleased not to have my head blown off. Intestines were awesome.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Damn fine-looking stuff. Apart from the tripe. I've tried and tried, but it's the one thing I just can't persuade my taste buds to like.

Browners said...

@Forkful - I've only ever eaten tripe in heavily spiced and tasty oriental cooking and have really liked it despite what I thought. I'm not saying it is my favourite though! Not by any stretch.

Unknown said...

the last one looks so spicy!!! i LOVE IT! sigh. i want the mapo tofu soooooo badly right now. with rice.

Here I bought a sauce pack so as to skip all the seasonings! and i will try this friday after work.

Saju said...

I discovered it 10 days ago and I have already been 3 times. Aaaaaaaand I am going there tomorrow! Each time with different people, but am soooo addicted.

Paunchos said...

@sophie - The last one was great. In fact they all were. Great place.

@Saju - There is something very addictive about the place.


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