Sichuan cuisine has a reputation in Hong Kong for its throat-burning and sweaty dining experience. But some restaurants might surprise beginners who can't handle the spicy food but want to experience it.
Compared with the famed spiciness of Chongqing-style food, the Chengdu cuisine served at Fu Rong in Harbour City is relatively gentle, with a more reserved use of hot spices to achieve a refined balance.
The onsen quail egg served with crispy shredded potato (HK$108), plated like a cinnabar ink painting, combines a household marinating method from Sichuan with Japanese-style onsen egg, in which quail eggs are soft boiled with a flowing yolk. Coated with the eatery's specially processed chili powder, this is a delightfully fragrant appetizer.
Fu Rong's Chengdu banquet menu upgrades traditional recipes with fresh seafood. Another must-try appetizer, abalone with green Sichuan peppercorn sauce (HK$168) uses a secret green peppercorn sauce to enhance the abalone.
The sauce also pairs superbly with beef, bringing out the meaty fragrance of the seared A5 wagyu beef with its green Sichuan peppercorn sauce (HK$698).
Boiled fish is an essential part of a Sichuan feast, but the one in Fu Rong is unusual. The oil-poached Chinese perch with fried chili and Sichuan pepper (HK$498) is served with the bright red oil still bubbling. The boneless fish slices are tender and soft, with a numbing sensation that doesn't overwhelm the fish's delicate flavors.
"Usually, many restaurants also cook side dishes such as jelly noodles and taro in the Sichuan boiled fish," said director Leo Cheung. "We insist on the fish taking the main focus so that customers can enjoy the taste of its freshest time without other ingredients affecting the flavor."
Cheung also recommended braised Iberico pork cheek and giant grouper skin with spicy gravy (HK$338), an innovative take on the traditional Sichuan-style braised pork in brown sauce.
"In the traditional version, which uses rich pork belly, the lard is not healthy. So we choose the pork cheek and slow cook it at low temperatures. Giant grouper skin, which is chewy and rich in collagen, is used to enrich the taste," he said.
The moist red rice porridge with shrimps and green asparagus (HK$298) goes down well with the shrimp paste broth's rich umami flavor.
The dessert of authentic fried rice cake with crispy rice and Sichuan raw sugar (HK$128), offers a nourishing sweetness to finish the feast.
At Chilli Fagara in Central, light and cooling dishes ensure guests tackle the summer heat with a delicious bite.
The delicately flavored crushed fresh cucumber with garlic sauce (HK$68) has a piquant dressing of sesame oil and garlic.
Exclusively available on the chef's specials menu, the garden vegetables with roasted pine nuts served on crispy rice squares (HK$118) is a must-try. Guests can opt to top it with beef, chicken or pork.
The lunch menu also serves up a choice of cold appetizers including its sliced tomato heaped with fresh coriander in a mouthwatering Sichuan sauce (HK$68), as well as the truffle chicken salad (HK$68).
Spice-infused cocktails were launched recently. The zesty and aromatic Peppercorn Angel (HK$88) is shaken with gin, fresh and fragrant coriander leaves plus a dash of lime juice, and the Spicy Lychee (HK$88) celebrates seasonal, sweet lychees in an irresistible blend of vodka, lychee liqueur, fresh lime juice and red-hot chilies.
At Sichuan Lab in Wan Chai, guests can now enjoy free-flow appetizers from the salad bar, Sichuan-style dim sum, as well as fried rice and noodles by veteran chef Kenny Chan, that comes, of course, with a main dish and dessert.
Must-have dishes in the Weekday Lunch Dim Sum (HK$168) include stuffed buns with roast goose in red wine sauce and sweetened bean paste, hot and sour pork wonton soup with dried chili and pork wonton in chicken broth, for those who cannot take the heat.
For dinner, the All You Can Eat offer (HK$298) allows guests to enjoy bountiful creations such as the eatery's signature sliced local pork in a spicy garlic and soy sauce, kung pao chicken, double-cooked local pork slices and mapo bean curd with minced beef.