Some of the best meals I’ve had are not in uber fancy restaurants where you pay an arm and a leg for tiny portions that leave you feeling hungry. Rather, some of the best and most memorable meals I’ve had are in unassuming buildings where neither décor nor service is particularly notable, yet the food is hearty, delicious and almost absurdly cheap. Such was the case with Sijie Sichuan Restaurant, a semi-private kitchen in Causeway Bay.
I made a booking for a group of nine friends one Friday evening, after having Sijie sitting on my restaurant list for far longer than I thought acceptable. With that Friday feeling well and truly at play, we each arrived at the restaurant with at least one bottle of wine in hand (Sijie offers free corkage), ready for a fun Sichuan feast.
A feast is most definitely an understatement – try as we did, we barely even made a dent in the amount of food loaded onto our Lazy Susan. Much like at a dim sum restaurant, your order is made by circling dishes on the menu and handing this to the staff. The menu recommends how many dishes it would be sensible to order for your group size; we struggled to stick to this and ended up ordering 10 main courses, instead of the 7-8 it recommended…oops!
If the amount of wine consumed that night, followed by just a little bit more at karaoke won’t allow me to remember each and every dish, I will at least present to you the most notable of the ones we tried, starting with the Sichuan cold noodles from the appetisers section. This enormous portion of perfectly chewy noodles doused in chilli sauce appealed to even the most spice fearing of the crowd. They were by no means mild, yet it wasn’t the sort of spice that overwhelmed the flavour of this wonderfully tasty dish.
The spicy and sour cucumber is a must order at any Sichuan restaurant, or, for those less daring, the cucumber in garlic sauce is just as delicious; if you don’t like a lot of garlic, at this point of the meal would probably be the best time to go home.
Perhaps my favourite of all the dishes was the poached fish in hot chilli oil. Stay away from the evil Sichuan peppercorns that put your mouth out of action for a good fifteen minutes, and this dish is bursting full of flavour that keeps you going back for more. The chunks of white fish are wonderfully tender and pair perfectly with the thick strands of glass noodles that lay at the bottom of the gigantic bowl.
The stir-fried green beans with minced pork are some of the best I’ve had in a long time, the beans cooked just enough to still maintain some of their crunch, and the pork perfectly flavoured with just the right hint of spice.
The Chinese in general really know how to cook aubergine, and Sijie’s version of aubergine in spicy garlic sauce was no less notable, as the sweet, spicy sauce permeated through each soft chunk of vegetable. Also impressive was the mapo tofu, swimming in a rich, wonderfully spicy sauce.
Despite some confusion over a few dishes (for example, the frog with pickled peppers that appeared despite us not having ordered it!), there was little to complain about and few dishes that outright disappointed us. The food just kept on coming, the wine kept on flowing and no one batted an eyelid at how loud our table of ridiculous gweilos was!
When it was time to pay the bill, despite having massively over-ordered (as usual), the staff shocked us by asking for a mere $280 per person. We had eaten far more than any of us could possibly eat, and there was still an abundance of food left over, so how could it possibly only cost $280?! We left $300 each, part in gratitude for such a delicious meal and part in apology for having been the loudest table in the restaurant. Will I be back? Is a Sichuan pepper spicy?!
Sijie Sichuan Restaurant
10/F, Bartlock Centre
3 Yiu Wa Street
Tel: +852 2802 2250