Towards the western end of James Street, just along from Russell Square, Red Chilli Sichuan has the dark heavy wooden chairs and tables, red and gold trim and the like, defining it as a Chinese restaurant.
The menu is one of those with photos of the food to give the unfamiliar a glimpse of what they are ordering and of course is influenced by the Sichuan or Szechwan region, with its use of chilli and Sichuan pepper – that interesting mouth numbing spice.
Since our last visit, when wine was hard to find, they have included a couple of pages of choices in the drinks list – including quite a few from Great Southern producer, Ferngrove – so we were quick to grab a bottle of their excellent Cossack Riesling – all lemon, lime and minerally and just the ticket for spicy food. You can also BYO if you choose.
Having been before and been bitten by the size of the dishes we were happy to see that most came in two sizes – the larger are enormous and would easily feed four or five – so we opted for the smaller of the offerings. Even these smaller serves are on the largish size so one bowl of stewed fish and an entrée offering of scallops seemed about right – and so it proved.
The fish came in a medium to large bowl, full of broth, loads of tender, juicy fillets, crunchy pickled cabbage scattered throughout, and a few chopped chilli floating on top. The broth was quite spicy; Sichuan pepper with its mouth numbing effect was evident, as were chilli and garlic. The dish was full of zesty flavour – and the pickled cabbage provided a good backdrop of crunch and vinegar sharpness. A lot of thin vermicelli at the bottom of the bowl added to the dish – and if we had realized we may not have ordered steamed rice as well – but no matter – it was a very enjoyable and spicy meal – and the size about right for the two of us.
Our other choice – scallops on the shell topped with vermicelli and crushed garlic was also a pleasant enough dish – the scallops maybe just a touch overcooked, while the garlic flavour and bouquet was very pronounced – we ordered six scallops and they proved a good starter.
Once again we were impressed by the food on offer – spicy, generously sized and quick to come to the table; the service was friendly and welcoming; the improvement in the wine list was welcome, too. If you enjoy spicy Chinese food then you should get along and try out Red Chilli Sichuan.