‘SSS’ denotes the highest wallop of heat a dish promises to deliver on the Sichuan Bang Bang menu. So imagine how peeved Time Out was to have SSS-rated Sichuan beef hot pot arrive practically devoid of any heat at all.
Owner Renata Roberts laments she’s had to tone things down because most customers are chilli wusses. But Sichuan-trained chef Kieran Zou enthusiastically caters for those wanting a lick of fire and brimstone – just ask. Heat issues aside, that hot pot ($18) with whiffs of black pepper, citrusy Sichuan peppercorn and cumin is a dish we’d return for.
Come night-time the small, charcoal-walled dining room turns sexy as hell with lights and lanterns powered down to a soft glow. Chinese stools, old rugs and artwork add colour and authenticity while Roberts brings true hospitality and, after a five-year stint in China, adoration of the cuisine.
Bang bang chicken and sweet corn broth ($9) is impossible to tire of: the sweet soup suspends feathers of egg white and tender chicken taken from its frame (bang bang-style) with whacks from a cleaver. Bone pickers can get busy with spicy drunken and fried quail ($10), plumped in shaoxing wine, scented with star anise and Sichuan peppercorn and topped with a wok-flashed choppity-chop of fiery dried chilli and spring onion.
Pucks of glutinously chewy tang yuen (glutinous rice balls, $5) filled with a smooth mother lode of earthy peanut and black sesame paste float in lightly sweetened clear soup and are the close to one heck of a meal.
Now if they could just turn the thermostat up a little in the kitchen then we'd be happier than kids on firecracker night.