This is the Sydney outpost of a Melbourne institution, which many call the best example of the cuisine in the city. And it’s true – Sichuan food has been underrepresented in Sydney, and Dainty takes it to the next level.
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).
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.
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.