I was in desperate need for spicy food and what better place could there be than a Sichuan restaurant called Chilli Cool ? Especially as it has been favourably reviewed by a horde of fellow bloggers and they are usually not wrong. You have to know about this place as it is located in a residential are South of King’s Cross where no one would ever expect an exceptional restaurant to be and you would never just walk past by chance.
My experience with Sichuan cuisine was thus far restriced to Barshu and its siblings Baozi Inn and Ba Shan, and until a couple of years ago I was not even aware of the existence of this very distinct Chinese cuisine. Sichuan (or Szechuan) province with the capital Chengdu is in South-Western China and its cuisine is characterised by loads of chilli (fresh and dried) and the unusual flavour of Sichuan peppercorns which tingle on your tongue. And there seems to be a lot of oil everywhere, whichÂ is unfortunately a real challenge for my sensitive digestive system (which does not deal very well with fat/oil/grease and refined sugars). But once in a while I can take some subsequent days of suffering for a hugely pleasurable culinary experience.
I regard the food at Chilli Cool as equally good as at Barshu, although Chilli Cool is substantially cheaper. The service is not very polite in either of the places and if you go there for friendliness you might be disappointed to appalled. For seriously interesting, tasty and different food however I highly recommend it.
It was already a good sign that there were loads of Chinese customers, I must have been the only Caucasian in the whole restaurant. The Chinese people there obviously knew what to order – we did not (even though my friend C is (Malay) Chinese herself, but is an expert only regarding Cantonese cuisine, so apart from the very pleasant company she was utterly useless) and ended up having enough food to feed us for the next few days to come… Really, the waiter could have told us that we ordered far too much – instead he asked us full of astonishment if we really only wanted one rice (mind you, the one portion rice we finally got was more than enough for 2 people).
We randomly chose some dishes, and – even though not indicated on the menu – some portions are huge. I mean HUGE. They were so enormous that they followed me into my dreams and caused me nightmares – chased by a fish in chilli oil…).
Our favourite dish was the the dry fried beef with chilli (8.50) with perfectly tender beef. Even though – as one can see – there were loads of chillis in this dish, it wasÂ not overly spicy, as the the chillis are not supposed to be eaten but only provide the superb flavour.
We also went for a so called ‘Appetizer”, the aubergine with red & green chilli (5.90) which was nicely flavored but not hugely exciting. This was NOT an appetizer size, and we would have had enough with these 2 dishes already but there was more to come…
We did not order the Fish with Fresh Red Chilli and Chilli Powder (15.60) which appeared to be the signature dish of the restaurant as everyone around us was eating it, because it was humongous (but a hugely attractive dish overflowing with red chilli). We chose another dish instead (The Sliced Fish in Two Chilli Sauce (12.80)) which seemed smaller from the pictures in the menu. But whoever has done internet dating will know from traumatic experiences that pictures can lie. This dish was equally huge and even though we really managed to eat loads of it (we thought) there was still enough to completely fill two takeaway boxes (just to give you an idea how big it was). The fish was very nicely cooked, in oil-broth with chilli and vegetables.Â Again not overly spicy but full of flavour.
I loved the dry fried green beans with pork (6.80).Â As opposed to conventional Chinese sir fries, the beans were cooked until softÂ and tasted delicious together with the chilli and minced pork. Very addictive I have to say.
We paid 20 pounds each this time, but could have done with about half the food so basically it is a bargain (if you know what to order) and really good.
- Food: 7/10
- Ambiance: 5/10
- Service: 4/10
- Value for money: 8/10
- Chances of returning: 75%
- Verdict: an absolute must (if you are no afraid of spiciness and unusual flavours)