This beloved Sichuan spot has decamped from its (frankly) sad Lockhart road apartment block berth to a considerably more restaurant-like space in the Bartlock Centre in Causeway Bay. But it hasn’t lost its soul.
Your are forced to feast here: The number of dishes you get depends on how many are in your group. A party of two can choose two starters and three mains. A group of ten can choose five appetizers and eight mains. I’d eat here more often, but it’s best with a group, and — not surprisingly, maybe — it’s not always easy to find enough takers for what amounts to an evening of bombardment by chilies, Sichuan peppercorns, and garlic.
In any case, the cold noodles are delicious, toothsome and cracking with peppercorns, just enough to get your mouth buzzing but not burn — those looking for fire may be disappointed. I love the cucumber with garlic sauce, a no-brainer. In another cold dish, celery meets its match in copious amounts of minced garlic, good enough to convert celery skeptics. The classic Chongqing style “mouth-watering” Chicken is ultra-tender and (the last time I had it, at least) full of slow burn. The mapo tofu here reminds me that I need more mapo tofu in my life.
My favorite dish here is still the poached fish with noodles. It arrives in a big bowl, swimming in chili oil and a bright mix of chopped chilies, peppercorns, star anise, green onions, and other aromatics. It looks a lot hotter than it actually tastes (which, again, may disappoint some of you who live for heat), but still, there is the sweet metallic numbing of the Sichuan peppercorns, it smells heavenly, and the fragrance and flavor cling to the tender fish and the slippery potato noodles hidden underneath. (By the way, can someone please tell me how to serve these noodles? I cannot get a grip on them, and they always slip back into the bowl with a splash.)
Not everything is memorable: A dish of shredded pork with young asparagus does nothing special with either of its main ingredients, and the salt and pepper shrimp were standard. I longed for a little more pure heat in some dishes. And after a while, a lot of the food starts tasting the same. Even if your a junkie for the hot stuff, try and order a variety of things to keep it interesting. Whatever it is, eat it while it’s hot. That oil is a lot less appetizing when it starts to cool off and thicken. Still, I love this place, in part because of its relatively small size, and the warmth of the service; it feels familial and human, a fine antidote to the efficient but anonymous mills that dominate the landscape here.
Sijie Sichuan Dishes 10/F Bartlock Centre, Causeway Bay, +852 2802 2250. Open every day, reservations imperative. HK$280 per person, BYOB.