Level 2, 206 Bourke Street, Melbourne (map)
CHRISTMAS CAME A WEEK EARLY.
I can think of no better reason to end my blogging sabbatical than the news that the new Dainty Sichuan restaurant has finally opened its doors in Chinatown, in the top floor of the shiny arcade that also houses Dragon Boat. I've written before about my deep and abiding love for Dainty's South Yarra restaurant, which opened in 2009 after years in their earlier Corrs Lane location. Now they're back in the city with Dainty 2: Electric Boogaloo (uh, actually it's called Dainty Sichuan Food), and I was delighted to scamper down the hill today to check it out on opening day.
It's Dainty, but not as we know it. While the South Yarra fitout was a definite step up from the scruffy interior at Corrs Lane, DSF takes it up several more steps with a gleaming and polished top-floor 54-table fitout, more akin to Din Tai Fung, Crystal Jade or one of the other posh restaurant chains you see in Hong Kong's upmarket shopping centres. The chefs all hail from Sichuan province and have been working in the South Yarra kitchen, developing some new dishes to bring to town.
The menu on opening day is a first draft, testing out a combination of old and new dishes. In addition to favourites like bang bang chicken and Chongqing chilli barbeques with pork or barramundi, there are pork chitterlings, spicy duck wings 'n feet, hot pots with lamb-you-name-it (slices, heart, tripe, liver, assorted other offal) and a dish that may require a little Dutch courage before ordering: hot blood curd combination pot.
What they DIDN'T have on the menu which almost caused me to table-flip were my two favourite dishes from South Yarra, the fish-flavoured eggplant and the cumin lamb slices. My waiter, however, duly noted my dismay and promised they'll be adding more dishes to the menu as the kitchen settles in, as well as adding lunch specials (at the moment you can only order full dinner serves).
I decided to keep it simple today and order the Sichuan free range chicken wok ($28.80), and was rewarded with plenty of hallucinatory Sichuan peppercorns. I look forward to returning to test out the menu properly, once they've settled in.
And the good news for those of you in the Eastern suburbs? A third (hot-pot-centric) Dainty Sichuan will be opening shortly in Box Hill!