The last time I was here was years and years ago, when my colleagues in Hong Kong told me about some Sichuan "private kitchen" that would not take walk-ins and forced you into one of two seating times. Nor was there a menu as one just ate whatever the lady wanted to cook, after which she sang Chinese opera for you (L/G 49 Hollywood Road, 2559-1317). That was pretty cool at the time, but I hadn't been back since.
Fast forward several years later, and this speakeasy was featured in both Zagat and Fodor's, of all places. But we came tonight nonetheless, where HK$280 (US$36) per person got us a huge course that started with four spicy appetizers that we liked better than meals in Chongqing
. These dishes not only used better ingredients, but also featured much deeper and sophisticated flavors rather than just brute spiciness. After this, the meal took a bit of a break with a clear but absolutely delicious chicken, mushroom, and cabbage soup. This was even better than I had remembered this place being years ago.
Unfortunately, I was not as big of a fan of the second half of the meal, particularly a stewed beef that was pretty tough to chew as well as a shrimp dish that didn't really do anything for me. But the meal ultimately ended on a high note, featuring mapo tofu
, fen jen
pork ribs, and some spicy dumplings, not to mention a light bean and vegetable soup that helped reset the palate. OK, so maybe I didn't like two of the dishes, but otherwise everything else was pretty much better than I had remembered. And yes, the chef still sang a song at the end of the meal.