Chilli Cool revisited

Crispy fried intestines

My first brush with proper Sichuan/Szechuan cuisine was something of a sweat soaked revelation. It left me panting for more. The question is, would Chilli Cool get through that notoriously tough second visit? All that expectation and the unrepeatable joy of a new discovery is tough to beat.

I remembered the crispy flavourful intestines, the earthy and hot lamb skewers and most of all that heavenly aubergine. Oh God the aubergine. Obscenely tasty I’d elevated it onto an oil-drenched pedestal. ┬áSo it was with both trepidation and excitment that I wandered into the dining room.

Beef and ox tripe in chilli sauce (I think)

Once again, there was a big group of us. This is important because a lot of joy is found in sharing different dishes, exploring new tastes and sharing experiences with friends. Of course, it also helps when you have people who know what to order – thanks Mr Noodles and Cooking the books.

Oh yes, that trepidation? Totally misplaced. Despite a reservation cock up they managed to seat all eleven of us in a lovely conservatory area. And as soon as that long procession of plates piled high with deep red chillies, sliced and diced organs and slivers or meat started to roll in, I knew it was all going to be okay.

Beef tendon
Beef tendon

There was too much to run through every plate, and I talked about a lot of the food before here. But these are a few things I hadn’t tried before.

Gong hao chilli chicken and peanuts Fried chicken with chilli and cumin tasted perfectly meaty (an all too rare thing with chicken) with a little bit of a kick just to liven things up. A scattering of peanuts gave it a creamy nutty roundness.

Beef tendon came as light jellied rectangles that just enough texture to make them interesting and light beefy taste, not too strong or rich.

Fish hot pot
Sliced fish in homemade two chilli sauce Fish with fresh chilli or and chilli powder

The fish hotpot was undoubtedly one of the most spectacular looking dishes I’ve dug chopsticks into. The regular (it came in large too) size bowl took up an entire table leaving little room either side for bowls and was laden with chillies, red oil and slices of fish and tofu floating in an intense stock.

The fish was tender and tasty and the tofu full of stocky and robust chilli flavours. And that combo of numbing sichuan peppercorns, dried chillies and chilli powder took my breath away. Literally. I coughed and spluttered my way through the surprisingly delicately flavoured fish.

Prawns with chilli & garlic
King prawns in chilli and garlic

The unsung star of the night for me was a cold starter of sliced pork belly in a chilli and garlic sauce. Slender bacon-like slices of pork belly were beautiful strips melting fat and tender meat with a gentle but firm flavour accentuated by the spicy sauce. It came with cucumber which gave a cooling balance to the dish. Wonderful, and surprisingly poised for a notoriously robust cuisine.

I could go on (and on and on) because it was a fabulous night, the food and the people all combined into a genuinely great night for me. But rather than witter on about it, take a look at these posts for more of a flavour of the evening:

The Catty Life: dont be frightened of a little chilli: a hot night at Chilli Cool

Love Leluu: Chilli Cool – Sichuan cuisine

The remains of the evening

15 Leigh street, London, WC1H 9EW 020 7383 3135

13 Responses to “Chilli Cool revisited”

  1. Joshua

    One meal, so many blog posts (well 3 anyway).

    The meal turned out perfectly, was great to have so many people happy to try everything (well maybe a few turned up faces at first but I don’t think anyone point blank refused anything anyway).

  2. catty

    You did very well despite a little cough and splutter. I mean, you didn’t even get any chilli on yourself!! :) Good work! Hehehe.. fun night – thanks for organising, Aaron!

  3. Mr Noodles

    A great night and thanks again for organising. Sorry to be a stickler but I want to correct a couple of the names of the dishes. I know it’s not easy to pinpoint the exact dish as they are all variations on a theme!

    The chicken dish was “fried chicken with chilli and cumin” and the fish dish was “fish with fresh chilli or chilli powder” and is the one I like to describe as spicy fish hotpot. These are my favourite dishes at the ‘Cool – I’m not sure if I mentioned that on the night though?

  4. The Grubworm

    @Joshua – it was the sort of meal that spawns blog posting i think. Memorable and worth talking about… I agree re the people it was a great mix, and I think a few people were happily surprised. At least, I hope they were.

    @catty – I did VERY well, I got more on Mr Noodles than i did on myself (sorry!), but then, i came prepared with a black shirt that hid any accidental spillage. Only having a single beer helped too.

    @Mr Noodles – thanks, consider them corrected. I was working form memory and an incomplete website menu. I have some vague recollection that you liked those two dishes. A lot. ;-)

  5. Mr Noodles

    Actually just realised the name of the fish dish should read “fish with fresh chilli and chilli powder”.

  6. Becci

    OK… now I’m excited. Going here for the first time next week. It looks like the bomdiggy.

  7. The Grubworm

    @Mr Noodles – *sigh* any other changes?

    @Becci – you should excited, it is an exciting kind of place, all those wonderful organs chopped up, chillied and fried for our delectation. Gorgeous.

  8. meemalee

    Yay – I love it when a restaurant is just as good the second time :)

    Did you get the aubergine again?

  9. shayma

    for a chili-head like myself, these photos are just dreamy. what a great place. i think Food Stories has also blogged about this. i’d love to visit. x shayma

  10. The Grubworm

    @meemalee – me too! I did, but blogged about it last time and… shock horror… it wasn’t the best dish. It was outdone by the pork belly and possibly the fish too.

    @shayma – if you’re a fellow chilli traveller then you must try this place next time your in the Big Smoke. It has type of chilli heat i’ve not come across before. So good. Do you have any Sichuan over there in Toronto?

  11. shayma

    We only have Cantonese :( my least fave. Chili Cool for sure a prossima. x

  12. The Grubworm

    @shayma – Cantonese can be good, I reckon that, a bit like Bangladeshi, it’s a much abused and adulterated cuisine. I still remember some fairly spectacular food in HK though.

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