When it comes to delicious dining on the North Shore, you’re spoiled for choice. So to help you choose the very best place to eat out with – or without!- your family, Foodie Mookie can help. Here, the ‘passionately positive’ food reviewer gives her take on China Chilli in Chatswood.
The Chatswood Interchange is fast becoming the go-to spot if you are hunting for a quick meal and want lots of choice. The fanfare started when Michelin-starred Tim Ho Wan’s opened up at the entrance to Level 3 in 2015. Now, the area is filled with a huge range of cuisine styles including the latest restaurant from the China Chilli group, aptly named China Chilli.
This is the big brother to the boutique Hawker Lane, the 12-dish menu version in Westfield Chatswood. Don’t be fooled, this Sichuan is hot and not for the faint-hearted! The glowing, branded neon sign acts as a beacon, guiding you to the front door, where you will have to wait patiently if you haven’t booked ahead (think yum cha on a busy Sunday – take a ticket). In this food adventure, I had booked, so we arrived to our seats right on 6pm.
TIP: Book ahead or wilt with hunger watching others sup in front of you. The restaurant is quite small (about 60 seats and a private 12 seat room) with a hurried, hustle and bustle feel. The night we dined, it had only opened two weeks prior, so the staff were still trying to establish a smooth service process.
The main protagonist was the new, fandangled iPad ordering system (this is the thing to do now apparently). However, as a large group we had one iPad between us and waxed lyrical about the halcyon days where you actually had a menu all to yourself. We miraculously managed to order with the help of one of the lovely staff and the food started to flow almost immediately. The distinct Sichuan flavour comes from the Sichuan peppercorns which are added whole, fried, cut, crushed and ground on the dishes served.
The dishes also combine red chillies, chilli sauce and chilli oil to create potent, yet addictive concoctions. The result is a salty and numbing effect on your lips and tongue with a spiciness that is like inhaling the breath of one of Lucifer’s ten horned wildebeests.
Our China Chilli feast started with ‘Kung Bao chicken’ ($19.80) quickly followed by a favourite go to dish – ‘Mapo tofu’ ($14.80). The Kung bao chicken was deliciously sticky and sweet with a generous helping of bite-sized chicken pieces, spicy red peppers, peanuts and hidden numbing peppercorns. The Mapo tofu was different to the traditional version, as it had gelatinous pieces of beef tendon mixed with the tofu, sauce and pepper. If you do not like a slippery, firm jelly texture, you will be hard pressed to enjoy it. Since I pretty much eat anything at least once, I enjoyed this different take on this traditional dish.
At this point, I am breaking into a mild sweat and I notice that everyone is grabbing their cold water for a brief respite before the next set of dishes arrived (did I mention it was spicy?). The ‘Dry-fried chicken with red chilli’ ($23.80) and ‘Sizzling fried beef in pepper sauce’ ($27.80) quickly added to the already full table. The Deep fried chicken was cooked perfectly with no oily residue and was a chewing, salty, peppery, numbing taste sensation. During pauses between our swigs of cold water, we all agreed that this was the best dish yet.
The final choice was in our ‘interesting dish’ for the night, ‘Braised ox tongue with enoki mushroom in Sichuan black pepper oil’($28.80). It was a fantastic hot broth with fresh red and green chillies, whole
Sichuan peppercorns and oodles of tongue.
I openly mentioned that I always find it odd to taste tongue with my tongue and often wonder what my tongue would taste like. Weirdness ensued. China Chilli is terrific for the Sichuan veterans as they do not scrimp on the size or seasoning. For the uninitiated, you might like to start with a mild dish (String beans stir fried with pork mince – $16.80) and work your way to hot or you might end up deliriously speaking in tongues between intermittent hot flushes. On this night our meal came to an end, we paid the (very reasonable) bill and rolled our throbbing mouths and distended bellies out the front door. The first comment as we left the restaurant? “We should come back for lunch!” Yes, yes we should.
- DESTINATION: CHINA CHILLI – Shop 69, Level 3, Chatswood Interchange Chatswood
- CUISINE: Chinese Sichuan – hot, spicy and full of flavour
- HIGHLIGHTS: Excellent dishes, order to table in 5-10 minutes, lots of menu options
- KID FRIENDLINESS: Not great for prams or kids with food intolerances
- PERFECT FOR: A kid-free night out with friends or date night with your chilli-loving other half
- TIP: Book ahead for 4+ people or be prepared to wait!
- BOOKINGS: (02) 8065 5001
Know any hidden gems? What’s your top spot to eat out locally?
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