It’s likely Dainty Sichuan, which opened in World Square in August, is going to have a line out the door. But is it worth it? According to the people in the queues, the answer is yes: “Definitely, it’s the best Sichuan in Sydney.”
Spicy Joint fans might have something to say about that. But there’s no doubt that, in a city where Sichuan food has been underrepresented, Dainty is taking the cuisine to the next level. “The flavour of Dainty is about authenticity. That's why it's well known, we will never change that,” says David Loh, one of the co-owners along with Tina Li and Shao Ye, the two original Melbourne owners.
The Sydney branch serves the same signature Chongqing noodles as in Melbourne, a simple dish with just three elements – elastic, chewy ramen-like noodles; baby bok choy; and a chicken and chilli broth with an incredible depth of flavour and spice (both numbing and burning). “Sichuan can be divided into many areas. Tina's specialty is from Chengdu and Chongqing. It's got more numbing and more spice. Other areas have a sweet edge, but this is more sharp,” says Loh.
That same broth is the base of most of what’s done here. Instead of just noodles and bok choy, you can also choose from chilli-marinated beef, stewed pork belly, pickled vegetables, pig ears and more. The main alternative is a thick, mushroom-intense broth topped with slippery shiitake hunks and chicken-thigh pieces on the bone. Next to the chilli and Sichuan pepper-blasted Chongqing soup, it is softer and creamier.
To chase it all you’ve got two options: soda or dessert. The soda is Tianfu, a tangy soda from South West China. For dessert there are two popular choices: deep-fried pumpkin cakes and rice jelly pudding, which is a dome of pounded unsweetened rice sitting in a dark sugar syrup. “These are very street-food desserts,” says Loh.
Almost the entire menu is a reflection of Melbourne’s. So is the look and feel. There is wooden panelling, a red feature wall on the bar and ornamental lights. That it is also incredibly busy is similar, too.
In July, Dainty Sichuan Restaurant Group was charged with underpaying staff at Tina’s Noodle Kitchen, Loh (who is only a partner in the Sydney branch), Ye and Li declined to comment.
10/19b World Square, 644 George Street, Sydney
Mon to Sun 11.30–9pm