25 Railway Parade
Glen Waverley, VIC 3150
Raise your hands if you like Sichuan food! Now raise your hands if Dainty Sichuan was the first place you’ve ever had it! What started as an exceedingly humble 8-table restaurant in 2003 has since then expanded to an empire that reigns the Sichuan food scene in Melbourne. These days, Dainty Sichuan is spread over 4 locations – South Yarra, Box Hill, Emporium, and Glen Waverley – with a fifth to come in the CBD. And for those who aren’t satisfied with just Sichuan dishes, you can now also get hot pot, and noodles at their spin-off restaurant, Tina’s Noodle Kitchen. Can you tell I’ve been reading their website?
I have finally, finally found myself a permanent hospital pharmacist job, after dancing on tenterhooks for the last 8 months. So to celebrate, I decided to shout the fam-bam dinner at our local branch (that’s Glen Waverley) of Dainty Sichuan. Having been rebuffed at the Box Hill branch at 5:45pm on Saturday, we showed up this time at 5:15pm to a half-full restaurant – success! Appearances-wise, it’s your stereotypical Chinese restaurant with banquet tables, lazy susans, and garish gold-embossed walls. Lucky for them, the overall effect is so sumptuous that it avoids feeling tacky.
Our appetiser of Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs ($18.9) wafted over with a tantalising tang. Each section of sweet, sticky ribs was saturated with the rich maltiness of black vinegar for an addictive little entree.
The Stir-Fried Pork with Preserved Vegetables ($26.8) was warm and fragrant, the shredded pork mixed in with chewy tendrils of preserved vegetables. It’s dry, rich flavour made it the perfect candidate to have with a fluffy bowl of Rice ($2pp).
Because it was so cold, we had the Stewed Beef with Bamboo Shoot ($26.8), which came bubbling away in a stone pot, releasing tufts of steam smelling of chilli and spices. The hefty chunks of beef and sticky braised tendon were soaked through with the fiery broth, the generous amount of peppercorn tingling our tongues. And to balance out the spiciness, we shared a cool, sweet pitcher of Soy Milk ($9, large).
But the winner of the night, unexpectedly enough, was the Stir-Fried Three Vegetable ($19.9). Taking advantage of eggplant’s unique texture, each piece was lightly battered and caramelised in a frying pan, then doused with an umami soy-based glaze. The end result was crispy, sticky, and soaked with sauce. And although the eggplant was undeniably the star, the crunchy capsicum and fluffy potatoes had their time in the spotlight too.
So does Dainty Sichuan live up to its expectations? I have to give it a resounding yes. Neither mum nor dad could find anything to fault with the meal, and they both lived near Sichuan until their early 30s. The locals like it too, and the restaurant was packed to the brim by 6pm. It is a bit on the pricy end, especially compared to our family favourite – Chong Qing Hot Pot – just down the road, but with food of this quality, no one can really muster up the energy to care.