When a friend announced that his birthday meal would be at Snazz Sichuan in King’s Cross, I grinned from ear to ear and swiftly ticked another one off the hit list. These types of meal are only possible with groups of three or more really, otherwise you can never order enough different hot and cold dishes to make the meal complete. With six of us present, we managed to give the lazy Susan a really good work out, spinning her this way and that with eager eyes and poised chopsticks.
Our particularly enthusiastic waiter offered suggestions and gentle warnings, which was very sweet of him really; he obviously wasn’t sure if we knew exactly how much oil, chillies and tongue tingling peppercorns we were about to receive.
The first and only item I really had to have was the cucumber salad. In Sichuan cuisine, the humble cuke is totally transformed; the above marinated in rice wine and mellowed garlic and here stir fried with chillies and Sichuan pepper. The seeds are removed and moisture salted out, transforming limp and watery into crisp and cooling.
My favourite dishes were the hot and numbing pork (top photo) which arrived bathing in a typically Sichuan scarlet chilli pool and lived up to its name rather well, and the crispy pig’s intestines, below. If you’ve never eaten crispy fried intestines, then you are missing out on a tasty piece of pig – pull yourself together! An initial outer crunch gives way to a little soft layer underneath, which makes for a chewy finish; highly addictive. That said, I think these were sliced a little on the thick side for my taste and I prefer the version at Chilli Cool, in nearby Leigh Street.
Jelly fungus was another highlight; with a texture like a cross between jellyfish and seaweed, they were slippery customers, liberally sprinkled with sesame oil.
‘Strange flavour rabbit’ was lacking strangeness but delicious anyway (and very similar to this version I cooked recently), while boiled pork slices were forgettable, as was ox haslet. The real let down though was the BBQ prawns which arrived in a strangely charming novelty dish shaped like a fish but contained a mix of curiously flavour-sapped prawns, various shredded things and then, inexplicably, some flaccid chips. The kind of chips that only a Chinese restaurant can produce. Most remained untouched.
When all is said and done, I have to be honest and say that I was slightly underwhelmed by Snazz Sichuan. By the end of the meal, our noses were running and our napkins well and truly soiled and yet I felt it lacked the intensity of the food at Chilli Cool. I’m not sure everyone agreed that the food lacked punch but I have fonder memories of this crazy grouper hotpot (below) and of course, my first crispy intestines. I do remember feeling that my head might be about to fall off but personally I admire an all or nothing approach.
I would definitely return to Snazz Sichuan, particularly for that jelly fungus and hot and numbing pork but with Snazz and Chilli Cool being so close to one another, I’m going to find it hard to make that choice.
37 Chalton Street
0207 388 0808