Thursday, 23 April 2009

Chilli Cool

Chilli Cool has been on my restaurant 'Want-To-Go' list for ages. I first heard about it from Niamh, who said that she had such a good meal here. I love Sichuanese food, ever since I got Fuschia Dunlop's Sichuan Cookery book. I can't say I remember eating all that much Sichuanese food in Hong Kong, but I didn't quite have the tolerance for chillis as I do now.

6 other friends and I decided it was high time we visited. Places like this require more than solo dining or with just one other, as there were so many dishes you'll want to try and being such big portions, it's a shame to let it go to waste. Incidentally, my mum e-mailed my just after I booked it to let me know about some great Dan Dan Noodles she'd had from "some place on Leigh Street". It was meant to be.

Luckily, we're all pretty adventurous eaters, because there was a lot of offal on the menu. I'd had 'Beef Slices & Ox Tripe in Chilli Oil' (left) before at Leong's Legends, and really enjoyed it so I wanted to order it again. The dish was delicately spicy. The tripe contrasted well in texture with the beef, with the smattering of sesame seeds providing a hint of flavour. The spicy oil the slices were in had pieces of lightly cooked celery which made it all the more delicious. When the rice arrived we spooned the spicy oil from this into our rice bowls, it was so good.


We also ordered 'Hot & Crispy Pigs Intestines', pictured above. Initially when I made this choice the waitress looked doubtful and told us we wouldn't like it. I'm glad we persevered though, because this was one of the highlights of the evening. The intestines had varying contrasts - some were very very crispy, some only a bit, some fatty and squidgy. What was constant was that each bite of the intestine was intensely porky and rich. The dried chillis you can see aren't as spicy as you'd imagine. Whilst they're not edible as they are quite tough, they made the dish look very pretty.

Of course, none of us could resist ordering pork belly. This 'Sliced Pork Belly in Mashed Garlic Sauce' was a lot less pungent than I imagined. I have a recipe for this in Dunlop's book and I have been a touch too scared to make it for fear of the backlash. This was not so. The pork belly is sliced very thinly so that it's almost transparent and so there's no danger of being chewy or coming upon thick strips of fat. Instead, this melted in the mouth.

What I didn't get to try at Ba Shan, I certainly did here. These 'Shredded Potato Slivers with Dry Chilli' really delivered a massive hit of Sichuan peppercorn. The mouth suddenly starts to salivate more, the tingle spreads, and a slight metallic taste lingers. It sounds unpleasant but I assure you it's not - it's extremely addictive. I kept on munching. The potato slivers were very uniform; not at all starchy and they didn't stick together at all. I can guarantee you if I attempted this at home, it would be an unmitigated disaster.

Another highlight was the brasied tofu with minced meat (top, main picture). The tofu slices were fried on the outside and soft on the inside, soaking up all the thick gravy. 'Stir-Fried then Stewed Jack Beans' were much better than the name suggests, although veggies should note this also came with minced pork. Not the most veggie-friendly restaurant at all, actually.

Here, we have the 'Fish & Chilli Hot Pot (large)'. The pot was huge. Brought to the table steaming, we were given a slotted spoon to fish out the pieces of grouper, ginger, tofu, Sichuan peppers, and of course; the abundance of chillis. By this point my mouth was tingling like no one's business and it was making me feel a little giddy. The fish was perfectly cooked, which confused me somewhatthat it hadn't carried on cooking more - one finger dipped in the soup by accident and it was HOT. We even, at the end of the meal, had a competition to see who could hold their fingers on the side of the pot longest (it was a very highbrow meal) and it burned.

The fish was fresh and wasn't overtly fishy. Despite appearances, the hot pot was actually very light - the broth was flavoursome and nothing sat heavily on the stomach. It was a perfect end to the meal.

All in all, I loved Chilli Cool and I can't wait to go back. It certainly didn't hold back on the spicing like Ba Shan did and for that, I salute them. The service was a little hard to get the attention of, and one might take umbrage to the waitress being doubtful of our intestine dish choice, but rather than being disparaging I think she was really just concerned for whether we'd enjoy it. Looking around, we were the only (aside from 1 couple) table of English(ish) people. Unfortunately the '4 rounds of vegetables' that was supposed to appear with our hot pot was forgotten, both by the kitchen and ourselves. Oh well, we'll just have to go back...

Dinner came to £20 each with service, the feast we had and 2 beers. A bargain, I'd say.

Chilli Cool

15 Leigh Street

London
WC1H 9EW

Tel: 020 7383 3135
Chilli Cool on Urbanspoon

10 comments:

Chris said...

Perhaps, for the benefit of your readers, you might want to mention who won the "who can hold their fingers on the side of the pot longest" competition?

Fat Les said...

With you and your roll-up wont, I'll be extremely disappointed if you didn't win the finger-pot comp.

Helen said...

It was a bargain and a fantastical feast of yummyness! I'm still thinking about those intestines and the hotpot two days later. I must say I am still a little disappointed with my performance in the hotpot burn your hand game.

Niamh said...

The hotpot was the star of the show. Loved it! With the price and the cooking, I'll become a regular there for sure.

Kang said...

I could almost smell the aromas from the hotpot as you described the fish. Yes there are good chinese restaurants in London, I will try this one out :)

Gourmet Chick said...

This sounds fantastic - I agree with you - you really need a group for this type of food - solo dining just does not give you enough chance to try everything you want to

Boo said...

Wow - I'm going to Chilli Cool on Sunday! Thanks for the review, you've cerainly given me some pointers on what to order, not sure I'm brave enought for the intestines but i'll definitely give the shredded potato and the hot pot a try.

Lizzie said...

It was a battle of wills, and what can I say - Chris is more stubborn than me.

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

That hot pot was fantastic, a bottomless pot of deliciousness! I'm not afraid to admit that I was one of the first to remove my delicate fingers from the side of the pot.

dakungfumasta said...

Wow great review! Will be checking it out tonight with a group of friends. Can't wait! Thanks! :)