Heavy wooden tables with a hot plate built into the centre welcome you after you are taken into the dining room. I immediately thought of turning the hot plate on since the control was near my left hand and frying the phone that was placed on the plate but I thought better of it, even though it would have amused me. We had a table that was near the window so I could not only keep an eye out for the parking ranger (there is a one hour parking limit) but also spy on the pedestrians on the footpath on Toorak Road when the conversation became tedious. Service is quick to deliver not only a small list of "specials" but also a photo-menu that could be confused with Go the F*** to Sleep by Adam Mansbach. Neither one of us particularly liked looking at the photos of the dishes being flogged as they were not works of art in any sense of the word and I really think that the photos themselves distract from the experience. Trying to segregate the bias we had for no doubt the ugly dishes in the photos, we decided on a three prong attack that would attempt to best judge the chilli flavour.
Wontons in Chicken Soup ($11.80) was first delivered. Huge bowls of soup that contained upward of twenty wontons each made for a substantial first course of sorts. There was no hint of chilli in the soup and this was intended because this soup was meant to short-circuit the chilli inherent in the other two dishes that were ordered. Kong Pao Prawns ($12.80) and Chongqing Chilli Chicken ($27.80) rounded out our order. There were six small prawns bathed in a bed of chilli, onions, peanuts and Sichuan pepper. This had a "two chilli" rating which meant it should have been moderately hot and spicy but it just didn't affect me in any way. The prawns are quickly consumed and you are left to pick at the peanuts and the onions with your chopsticks. There is a substantial amount of chilli oil that does provide some flavour but I expected more. The Chongqing Chilli Chicken was avertised as a "Chef's Choice" and it was served on a large plate in a bed of dry chillis. The chicken was served as small morsels, think KFC's popcorn chicken just with two bones running through the meat. This dish had a "three chilli" rating which indicated it was going to be as hot as hell - or as hot as it could possibly get however once again, I didn't find a substantial amount of heat. In fact, I found the chicken as dry as the chilli pods and after a while it became tedious to bother removing the chicken from the small bones. The Chicken Wonton Soup provided a needed distraction and although there was nothing complex about it, a void was filled and a sense of balance was achieved between the mildly hot dish and parity.
Despite my disappointment with my senses not being irradiated, I want to return and try some of the other dishes, like one of the hot pots, just because they have more of a potential to carry more spice. Their "Spicy Soup" along with some of the other venues in the area that can be frequented as an aside makes the journey to Dainty Sichuan worth it.
Needing to cleanse my palate I walked about 100m toward Chapel Street and gave Ganache Chocolate my custom next. Although they do not have a substantial selection of desserts, chocolate and of course macarons as say Burch & Purchese or Luxbite, which are both in the area, I can't resist their raspberry chocolate mousse. When I am in the area, I go out of my way to get one of these lush and soft indulgences, that or enjoy a hot chocolate in either their small yet comfortable dining room or even more secluded parlour room at the rear of the building. I have been known to drive an hour out of Melbourne to the Chocolate Mill north of Daylesford to get a hot chocolate as the one on offer there is about as perfect as you will find however Ganache Chocolate does come close and ultimately saves some petrol and time in the process.
176 Toorak Rd South Yarra VIC 3141
no web site
My Rating: 12.5/5
Value For Money: 3.5/5
Comment: One hour parking on the street so beware of the parking ranger. 1% surcharge on cards however there is an ATM in the restaurant.
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
When I made this post originally, 86% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like Dainty Sichuan. A further 84% like Ganache Chocolate located at 250 Toorak Road, South Yarra.