Historically, Australian restaurant chains are a bit hit-and-miss in terms of quality. China, on the other hand, has legit chains, and over the years many of them have made their way to Sydney. Spicy Joint is a great example. The Dixon Street restaurant is extravagant – sculpted timber features, plush furniture, a faux-pagoda over the restaurant’s entrance like an awning, and a private room that could win a design award.
The menu is like a glossy magazine – one dish per page, all of them artfully styled (sometimes to such a degree that it looks a tad kitschy). It’s a tome of a menu too, which can be intimidating if you’re not familiar with Sichuan cuisine.
A good first-time order is the shui zhu yu (it translates to “water-boiled fish”, but that’s seriously underselling it), basa catfish lightly poached in broth and finished with a splash of scalding oil. You could also go for the chilli-laced Chengdu-style brisket hotpot. Get any of these large dishes with a side of cold noodles – strings of wheat rolled prettily into little cylinders and dressed with a sesame-soy blend. The noodles intentionally taste kind of bland; they’re a refuge from the intense heat of your main meal.
The menu at Spicy Joint is best conquered with a big crew in tow: portions are huge, and you’ll want to experience the full breadth of flavours, textures, offaly bits, carbs and soups on offer here.
One last tip: arrive early. Despite the size of the space, it’s often packed and getting a seat during peak times will mean an average wait of up to 40 minutes.