Red Chilli Sichuan

Red Chilli Sichuan restaurant.
Red Chilli Sichuan restaurant. Photo: Graham Tidy

75 Alinga Street Canberra, Australia 2601

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Opening hours Lunch and dinner seven days
Features Licensed, BYO
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Qiang Yuan, Dong Xie, Yi Zhuang
Phone 02 6248 6288

The Canberra Times Top 20 for 2013: No. 20

Vibrant sights and smells hit you the moment you enter Red Chilli Sichuan, with many tables tucking into huge platters of plump whole fish in oil, surrounded by a volcanic mound of red chilli, and tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorn in true Sichuan style.

Most of the customers are Chinese, and the menu takes some negotiating for a Westerner, but the results are well worth it.

The interior is warm with oriental style, all shiny red-lacquer tables and chairs, a number of function rooms off to the side, but the food is the star.

Wontons in chilli sauce are a lovely starter, and herald the quality and assertiveness to come. Tender-skinned, with sweet pork filling, they float in spicy, tangy chilli soup, offering a perfect foil to the sweet neutrality of the wonton.

A generous bowl of pork cubes dark with soy are heady with the liquorice tang of star anise, rich, wonderfully tender and terrific value. Well-trimmed little lamb ribs are done in the classic Sichuan style, dusted in an ample amount of cumin and spice, and dry-fried, making them very easy to pick up and eat, again and again.

Green beans are quickly stir-fried so that the skin shrivels and are flavoured with little bits of pork and chilli clinging to the outside. A great dish.

Pork belly on sticky rice comes as a dome of squished rice covered in strips of the pork belly spread underneath with what appears to be red-bean paste, giving a starchy, funky and texturally challenging result. If challenging is your thing there are plenty of innard and extremity-type dishes on the no-holds-barred menu.

The staff are friendly and attentive, and answer questions as well as they can, given some language limitations. The wine list is short, with pretty standard fare, at reasonable prices. BYO is a good option here.

Dessert is not a major feature although there are sometimes strawberry spring rolls.

Red Chilli Sichuan is a welcome addition to Chinese eating in Canberra, with good regional food cooked fresh with skill.