Saturday 28 November 2009

Snazz Sichuan

My love for Sichuan food continues. I started cooking it a long time ago, starting off with Ma Po Tofu, and later branching out to fish fragrant aubergines, cucumber salads and home-style beancurd amongst others. The heat of the chilli and the numbing effect of the Sichuan peppercorns was addictive. Later, we visited Chilli Cool and I was astounded by how tame my home efforts were in comparison. We sweated through the meal, eyes and noses streaming. We declared it a success.

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.

Snazz Sichuan

37 Chalton Street
NW1 1JD Tel: +44 (0)20 7388 0808

Snazz Sichuan on Urbanspoon


Helen said...

ahhh a fine evening and a hugely sore head to prove it. I enjoyed the meal although I think I preferred the intensity of Chilli Cool. I did love those intestines and the jelly fungus was brilliantly weird.

Alex English said...

I've been meaning to stop here for a while - looks great (nice photos too!)

S said...

Lizzie, when you post such gorgeous photos it is very hard to read the text accompanying it. you even made the bbq prawn look mouthwatering. beautiful, beautiful photography. e bravissima!

Su-Lin said...

I should try this place and not be overly dependent on my local in Acton. Oh, but I love my local. :D Chips, chillis and peanuts do seem like a strange combo with prawns... especially the peanuts...

Christie @ Fig & Cherry said...

I love schezuan food! The jelly fungus sounds really good. You just can't beat the awesome combo of chilli, garlic and sesame.

Mr Noodles said...

I used to go to Snazz Sichuan but stopped when Chilli Cool opened. I am CC's biggest fan and I agree with you and Helen about its spiciness and intensity.

Chips with prawns is a new one on me! But you do get incongruous ingredients in Sichuan food, I've eaten fried chicken bits tossed with sichuan peppercorns, chilli, peanuts and bombay mix!! Not good and it was in a renowned Sichuan restaurant in Beijing!!

eatmynels said...

got to try this place... how disappointing that the lovely looking prawns come under chips! weird!

good pictures!

ginandcrumpets said...

The intestines were the first ones I've eaten that didn't taste of what they used to contain, so hats off to Snazz for convincing me that intestines can be nice. And also for giving me the opportunity to eat chips with chopsticks. I was pretty deft.

Unknown said...

Amazing post, the dry and spicy intestines akin to a near identical dish I had in Shanghai a couple of years ago which I can still remember vividly through my chilli soaked tears... I'm starving right now!

Chris Pople said...

Funny isn't it, when you find the nice places you end up comparing them to each other and of course some are bound to lose out. I agree with everything you say here, as ever. But I would equally be happy going to any of Gourmet San, Chilli Cool or Snazz Sichuan - they're all as good as you're going to get in London. But yes, Chilli Cool is my favourite too.

Manuel said...

Gonna dig out Dunlop's book.....need some red braised pork after reading this

Manne said...

Visited Snazz a few weeks ago with W and her Cantonese parents for hot pot. They were very happy with the meal, and needless to say so was I.

Going to visit again later this wee to try out the rest of their menu. Thanks for reminding me with a great review!

// Manne

Greedy Diva said...

Looks must be deceiving as those prawns looked fab - must be the skilful photographer! I'll give this place a try - I like a bit of spice.

Hollow Legs said...

Helen - yes, following that lot up with Sambucca and wine mightn't have been the best idea...

Alexthepink - Thanks! I would recommend going with a big group.

Shayma - you're too kind. :)

Su-Lin - oooh, we must try the one in Acton in that case.

Christie - Sichuan is a favourite of mine too.

Mr Noodles - Bombay mix - nooooo! Sounds horrid.

Eatmynels - definitely recommend it, though I do prefer Chilli Cool.

Gary Robinson - there were a few chilli-induced tears round the table...

Chris - I guess you have to have a point of comparison.

Manuel - I love Dunlop - haven't tried the red braised pork yet but will do soon.

Gin & Crumpets - eww. I'd hate to taste what you had before...!

Manne - I did notice they had the hot pot at the back of the menu, I love hotpots.

Greedy Diva - Aww, thanks :) If you like chillis, then definitely give it a go.