Since then, we recently visited Gourmet San in Bethnal Green. Huge portions were daunting and we barely finished any of the 7 or 8 dishes we'd ordered, and I left feeling somewhat neither here nor there about the place. Last night was the turn of Snazz Sichuan, located in King's Cross. Six of us descended upon the place for a friend's birthday. Seated around a big table with the laziest of susans, the service was the best of the three places we've been to. Our waiter, Arthur, tried to explain to us that Sichuan food is spicy and oily and there "might be some strange things on the menu". We gazed back at him in glee.
The first to arrive was one of my favourite cold dishes. Ox tongue and tripe in chilli oil had a strong sesame favour. The texture of the two meats were contrasting, the former being smooth and the latter reminiscent of chewing on a bath mat. The crushed peanuts on top provided a welcome crunch. Cucumber salad had a healthy amount of crushed garlic adorning it. Marinated in rice vinegar, it was soothing to the heat of the other dishes and the garlic was surprisingly tame.
A dish we hadn't tried before was this, jelly fungus. A type of dried mushroom, they were slippery little buggers and there was much flinging around. They were delicious; once again flavoured with sesame and chilli, they were crunchy yet soft. 'Strange Flavoured Rabbit' wasn't particularly, but had a good balance of salty, sour and slightly sweet. Boiled pork belly slices in chilli completed the cold dishes and was the least memorable.
Dry & Spicy Pigs Intestines (above) were the birthday boy's favourite, and one of the better hot dishes. The slices of intestine were crispy in some places, gooey in others. The intense porky flavour was tempered by the millions of chillis and Sichuan peppercorns that were piled on the plate. It was the dish that started off the tingling in the mouth. Another favourite was the Hot & Numbing Pork (picutured top). Tender slices of pork, which I suspect had previously been velveted, swam in an pot of angry red chilli oil and Chinese cabbage, topped off with chilli flakes. I think it was declared the favourite of the night; I noted we all spooned the fiery oil over our bowls of rice. We must be masochists.
Zhongzi Crescent Dumplings are something I've made at home, though mine weren't bathed in chilli and garlic oil which is obviously where I went wrong. Soft skins with a bit of bite encased a juicy porky filling. I tried not to scoff them all.
The award for most disappointing dish of the night was the barbeque prawns. It came in a cute fish-shaped dish but under a mass of chips (?!), chillis and peanuts the prawns were strangely tasteless and overcooked.
We ended with a portion of deep-fried sesame balls filled with red bean paste, a dessert that reminded me of my childhood. It wasn't necessary at all really, I was so full it hurt every time I took a breath in.
The final bill ended up being £31 each, including beers and service. It was a little higher than I was expecting but then we had a behemoth amount of food (and we finished it all). The pricing seemed strange on some of the dishes - simply cooked pea shoots were £9 and whilst I appreciate pea shoots aren't the cheapest vegetable, this seemed quite high in comparison to the £8 rabbit dish which surely required more labour. We could have done away with a couple of dishes, such as the bbq prawns and a chicken and lotus root dish we were talked into having, which I found a bit bland. Of all the Sichuan restaurants we've visited, the decor was also of a higher standard and less utilitarian than Gourmet San, but I found the flavours to be more toned down and lacking the eye-twitching spiciness of Chilli Cool.
Full Flickr set here.