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Dainty Sichuan

176 Toorak Road
South Yarra VIC 3141
Tel : +61 3 9078 1686
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese
License: Licensed & BYO (Wine Only)
Price Range: $$$$

Please phone the restaurant to make a booking

Frequented by a loyal army of Melbourne’s chilli fanatics, South Yarra’s Dainty Sichuan is a deceptive name for a restaurant that packs such a punch. The decor of this popular place remains keenly utilitarian, punctuated by ornate light fittings and the occasional Chinese ornament, which help liven the blandness of this two-storey space. Whilst the interiors are mild, the food on offer is completely the opposite.

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Close to South Yarra railway station on Toorak Road.

The move to its new home on Toorak Road has seen the third incarnation of this spice lovers’ restaurant. The new premises are more sleek and modern and less like the formica canteen style of old (although it appears the same quaint outdoor signage has been resurrected here), but the focus remains the same. On offer are traditional dishes from western China, packed with fresh and dried chilli and the mouth-numbing specialty of that province, Sichuan pepper. The food’s not subtle, to say the least, but there is an addictive quality to these dishes which are given a one-, two- or three-chilli rating (and these do mean what they say). Specialties such as Chongqing chilli chicken and spicy cumin pork spare ribs will have you reaching for a cooling milky green tea or sweet soy drink but their oily, salty chilli hit is hard to resist.

For those who like the feel of the roof of their mouth the way it is, or just to break up the chilli onslaught, there’s also a selection of delicious, milder dishes such as the traditional Sichuan dish “ants climbing trees”, garlic cucumber or fish-favoured eggplant. Serves are large so although most dishes hover around the $20 mark there is definitely value for money. Most of the menu favourites remain here, but some modern tweaks such as fancy new electric hotplates set into the tables also see the addition of Chongqing hotpots and barbecue. No doubt Dainty Sichuan will still attract a ready clientele of regulars hankering for the familiar feel of numb lips, a sweaty brow and tears in their eyes.

Angela Costanzo
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