Restaurant review: Lucinda O'Sullivan returns to the China Sichuan
Chinese New Year was fast approaching, prompting Lucinda O'Sullivan to return to the China Sichuan. This time around, the food, the ambience and the service were top-notch
When you return to a place where you have previously had a bad experience and reported on it, there is an element of stepping into the dragon's den.
You know that they are on edge when they see you, and I guess it is not a very comfortable experience all round, but I am always prepared to give a place a second chance, after a period, provided I have heard good reports and that they have made some changes or improvements.
And so, with the Chinese New Year approaching -- the Year of the Dragon began on January 23 -- we set forth for the China Sichuan. I previously reviewed it when it moved from its original long-standing home on the Upper Kilmacud Road in 2008, on the veritable cusp of the collapse of the Celtic Tiger, to a bright, new premises in the Sandyford Industrial Estate.
Back then, we did not have a very gracious experience. In fact, it was more of a 'sit down and be grateful we are feeding you' attitude from the ancien regime to the fore, which had been running their restaurant since way back in the Eighties.
This had been my second such experience at China Sichuan.
The food was way overpriced and we were not happy campers.
In the event, the restaurant closed for a period during 2009 and 2010 but it reopened with the son of the house, Kevin Hui, in charge.
He rejigged the menu to make it more in accordance with the times, but it is still a high-end Chinese restaurant -- no takeaways and no cheap 'eat all you want for a few euro' buffets.
There is nothing wrong with that, because many of those cheap buffet and takeaway restaurants are just serving slosh.
I know many people who love the China Sichuan and I have also read reviews by critics who laud and salivate over dishes they had that were not on the general menu -- but is that really the way to review a restaurant?
The decor is elegant and comfortable and we sat at a banquette table where we were attended to by a courteous Eastern European waitress.
We were en famille and two of us went for a very good Value Menu at €20, while Brendan and myself went a la carte.
Ian and Emma had spring rolls and Ping Gao-style sweet and sour chicken, which they both enjoyed very much. Brendan had chilli squid (€7.75), while I had an old favourite: a quarter of aromatic duck (€12.25), served with spring onion, cucumber and pancakes, which did exactly what it said on the box and was very tasty.
Brendan carried on boldly with spicy king prawns in a Sichuan typhoon style (€19.75), lightly coated and pan-fried with dry chilli, garlic and crispy jasmine tea leaves, which he loved, while I opted for fried prawns and scallops in XO sauce (€19.75) -- this was also a very pleasant dish.
We also had one egg fried rice (€3.10) and followed up with a delicious shared chocolate brownie (€6.50). With two Diet Cokes (€2.50 each), coffee (€2.50), a 500ml carafe each of Rayuela Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (€14.95) and a Lombeline Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (€14.65), our bill for the night with optional service came to €161.20 for the four of us.
The highlight of the night? The brilliant, smiling and friendly young Chinese waiter who bounced out with our main courses and lifted the evening into another stratosphere.
Here's to the Chinese New Year of the Dragon.
Tel: (01) 293-5100
Sunday Indo Life Magazine