214 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne (map)
I purchased a subscription to the MTC this year, and made group bookings for friends to come along to all of the performances. The other week five of us went to see The 39 Steps, which I absolutely LOVED (and not just because I'm a total Hitchcock film buff! My friends who had never seen the film it was based on also thought it was hilarious). Before the play I met up with my trusty dining companion best-friend-K for a quick bite to eat in Chinatown, because we were sick of all the restaurants down near the Arts Centre.
We went to a restaurant I'm rather fond of, the Post-Deng Cafe. The interior is slightly bizarre - one wall is exposed red brick, the other bluestone, and both are adorned with huge photographs of Deng Xiaoping with captions such as "Deng in his teenage in France", "Deng meeting US President Jimmy Carter" and "Deng eating his favourite meal: Cheers, mate!" (the last one being an attempt to appeal to larrakin Aussies??). The Cafe specialises in Sichuan cuisine, from Deng's home province.
The Sichuan Chilli Oil Zhong Dumplings ($4.50) at Post-Deng are much daintier and refined than those you'd get in a bucket at Shanghai Dumpling around the corner, but the chilli oil still packs a hell of a punch.
My favourite dish at Post-Deng is the Sichuan Gongbao Chicken. I love the combination of the fiery dried chillies, the salty peanuts and the vinegary sauce.
B-f-K and I also ordered the Ma Po Tofu, another favourite Sichuan dish of mine. Rather unusually, the pork in the dish was not minced but barbequed then chopped into tiny pieces. It was perfectly acceptable, but easily outclassed by the memories of the ma po tofu I had at Lau's Family Kitchen - speaking of LFK, it's been nearly a YEAR since my one and only visit... hot damn, it's high time I headed back there! Anyone fancy a jaunt down to St Kilda? :)
One dish that Post-Deng DOES do with minced pork is the Yuxiang Chilli Eggplant. If you avoid all that excess oil, this dish is really very good, I love the consistency of the eggplant. The food at Post-Deng is reasonably priced at the mid-range of Chinatown prices (and their lunchtime special menu is even better value for money) - recommended if you want a chilli fix but you're not feeling quite sadomasochistic enough for "Dainty" Sichuan!