It had been two years since I last saw my friend Johnny Rock aka John-Luis Moretti, lead singer of Johnny Rock and the Limits. We had last worked together on the ad for Cornetto two years ago and danced on a beach together. And every time I had visited Melbourne or he had visited Sydney, the timing wasn't just right but somehow, two years on, we were finally catching up.
Kasia and John-Luis
Well, that is, if the food gods were being kind to us. There was a flurry of correspondence and facebook messages about where to go. We both suggested Chin Chin and then perhaps the Meatball and Wine Bar until Johnny messaged me with the bad news: the wait at Chin Chin was 3 hours and the wait at the Meatball and Wine bar was 1.5 hours. He had a movie at 9:20pm and our flight was delayed and traffic was bad. That left us with a 1.5 hour window to catch up.
My geography is sketchy at best, let alone when I'm panicked but suddenly Spicy Fish popped into my mind. It was in Chinatown which was sort of central and if a Chinese restaurant can do anything, it is serve food fast. I rang to book just in case and Mr NQN and I finally met up with gorgeous couple Johnny and his girlfriend Kasia.
We're too busy talking to realise that we need to order pronto as time is running out. Our waitress is terrific, a friendly enough, no-nonsense sort that helps us quickly when we ask for recommendations. Mr NQN's tea is filled through the entire evening and service is very present which is a nice surprise for a casual sort of restaurant. We ask if it is possible for the kitchen to accommodate a rush order and that's no problem. Indeed it seems like between five than ten minutes later that all of our dishes arrive in quick succession.
Beef in black pepper $19.80
The first dish was the beef in black pepper. There was plenty of beef slices in the serve, all very tender with a nice amount of black pepper which we learn is good to prepare us for the fiery chilli Szechuan onslaught. And a dish like this which is much less spicy than others is really best eaten first as when I came back to this after having the spicier food, a lot of the aforetasted flavour had paled in comparison to the chilli.
Steamed won ton in spicy soup (Szechuan) $12.80
There's a generous amount of pork and vegetable wontons which are soft and coated in sesame seeds and chilli. There's no shortage of fire in these and poor Johnny who can react badly to chilli goes for the ones around the edge.
Spicy Fish (Szechuan) $25.80
We figured that it would be strange to not order the dish after which the restaurant is named. We were a little alarmed when it had three chillis next to the name on the menu which meant that Johnny couldn't eat it but they promised to tone it down. Well, they either did and it's hotter than hell or they didn't and it was really quite hot! :P It was enormous and like a cauldron full of spicy scarlet soup. Underneath it all was a serve of bean sprouts and on top sat the pieces of fish. They were tender and soft and really very moreish once you got over your initial huffing and puffing. One odd thing was that they gave you little plates and not a plate and a bowl to eat out of which meant that I had a plate full of soupy rice which wasn't very visually or practically appealing. And guess who managed to spill some scarlet chilli oil on her new dress? And no amount of soda water will get that out.
Prawn in Szechuan chilli sauce $23.80
This along with the fish and the eggplant below were my favourite dishes. There was a lot of prawns in this serve (sorry I didn't count, we didn't have time) but they were all really succulent and bouncy in texture with a slightly sweet sauce and a range of vegetables.
Eggplant in claypot with Szechuan chillil sauce $15.80
The eggplant dish was beautifully sweet and sticky edged with soft pieces of flavoursome eggplant cooked in a claypot. It's another favourite and the slightly different flavour profile from the prawns and fish make this a welcome course. Although there is no room or time for dessert, Johnny and Kasia make their movie in time and me, I've got a chilli oil stain to hastily attend to...
So tell me Dear Reader, how spicy can you go? Would you order a three chilli dish? And what do you think of these no booking restaurants where you wait for 1.5-3 hours for a table?
209 Little Bourke Street Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (03) 9639 1885