Dainty Sichuan Noo­dle Ex­press

Time Out (Sydney) - - FOOD & DRINK - Ju­liana Yu

DIN­ERS NO LONGER ex­clu­sively as­so­ciate Chi­nese food with the milder palate of Can­tonese cui­sine, sav­ing room on the ta­ble for punchier tastes and stranger tex­tures from re­gions like Sichuan, Shaanxi and Hu­nan. Sichuan food en­thu­si­asts can’t get enough of the un­mis­tak­able flavour of Sichuan pep­per­corns. Dishes spiked with the stuff im­part a prickly, numb­ing sen­sa­tion at the tail end of each bite. And now it’s even eas­ier to get your fix thanks to Dainty Sichuan, an ef­fi­ciently buzzy noo­dle house in World Square that has opened as a fast­ca­sual edi­tion of the beloved Mel­bourne restau­rant of the same name. Here they spe­cialise in Chongqing (a sub­re­gion of Sichuan) spicy noo­dles, the foun­da­tion of which is a dark, aro­matic, chicken-based broth topped with an un­apolo­get­i­cally thick layer of chilli oil. Com­pared to other cel­e­brated noo­dle soups like pho or ra­men, it’s a con­fronting bowl of firetruck red, but well worth the risk to your freshly pressed whites. As they’re picked up, thin, firm wheat noo­dles get a fi­nal slick of spice from the chilli oil, mak­ing each bite in­cred­i­bly flavour­ful with­out the need to spoon in ex­tra soup (only the de­ranged would drink this stuff). Soft braised beef chunks are gen­er­ously por­tioned, al­though we find our­selves miss­ing the green respite of menu-picture-promised baby bok choy, for­got­ten from our bowl. If you don’t feel like sweat­ing through your shirt be­fore af­ter­noon meet­ings, there are milder op­tions that still pro­vide flavour thrills. Fill­ings in the chicken soup won­tons are vaguely meaty but the skins are so silky they could al­most slip down with­out re­quir­ing chew­ing, if not for the sour crunch of pick­led mus­tard greens. More in­volved are noo­dles topped with stewed pork trot­ters, which force you to get ne­an­derthal – gloves pro­vided. Noo­dle bowls may be the main event, but it’s the snacky sides that bring the party. Or­der the veg­e­tar­ian skew­ers and re­ceive a vase of cold chilli broth from which you un­sheath sticks of bite-sized, crunchy cauliflower and wood ear mush­room; bouncy tofu; and soft-boiled quail eggs, which have ab­sorbed their mari­nade to the core. It feels odd to be eat­ing cold dishes that pack so much heat. De­spite all those an­gry­look­ing chilli sym­bols on the menu, noth­ing is fu­ri­ously spicy – it’s a sim­mer­ing heat that creeps up gen­tly but never boils over to bonafide agony. Dainty is fast, cheap (a feast for two would barely crack $40) and there’s nary a dis­ap­point­ing bite to be had.

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