I think we’ve been to Dainty Sichuan Hotpot three times in the past month.
No, what, we’re not obsessed.
Okay, maybe a bit.
This version of Dainty Sichuan opened in Lonsdale Street earlier this year, and it’s a large restaurant with over 200 seats. Despite its size, it’s still very popular – on one occasion we ate there on a Monday night and by 7pm there was a large crowd (~30 people) waiting for a table.
If you haven’t been to hotpot before, every diner gets an individual induction cooker and pot of soup – you choose your own flavour – and then you order a selection of dishes to share for everyone to cook in their own pot.
With the soup flavours, there’s a ton, and you can either select a single flavour soup or half/half. On my first visit I had one of the half/half options – stock and spicy ($8). The stock is chicken stock, and the spicy has a heap of chilli and oil in it.
I’d actually recommend just the regular stock soup ($6). The spicy is good, but because it’s so oily I found it quite overwhelming very quickly. There’s also flavoured stock soups, ranging in price from $8 – $16.80. Personally I don’t think the flavoured soups are worth buying considering everything you cook in your pot will flavour your soup anyway.
Servings for each dish are quite large, so it’s better to go in a bigger group because then you can order more.
There are a few ready to eat cold dishes on the menu – this is one of them: the Sichuan cold noodles. They’re topped with a spicy Sichuan chilli and nut paste/oil and it’s very good. There’s also a jelly version with thicker noodles that I really liked as well.
I also loved the beef heart and tongue slices that has more of the chilli paste/oil.
Fish fillet slices ($8.80) – definitely worth ordering. The fish cooks so well in the soup.
Vegetable combo ($18) – I don’t think this is worthwhile, considering it was mostly lettuce. While I like lettuce, there’s only so much cooked lettuce I can stand. The following couple of times we went, we ordered vegetables separately which I think is better. My preference is for a serve of Chinese cabbage ($5) and the mushrooms combo ($18).
Offal combo ($12.80?). This had tendon, tripe, and intestines. Good if you like that stuff.
Frozen tofu ($6).
Wild bamboo shoots ($7).
Iced kumquat drink ($4.80) – bit of a lie because it’s never come with ice that I’ve experienced, but it is still a good drink.
Beef and lamb combo ($29.80) – good if you have a larger group because this is a really large plate.
Meatballs combo ($18) – pretty good, though perhaps a better option is the meat mash combo ($16) where you have to make the meatballs yourself. With the meat mash combo you get three different ramekins filled with different mince (prawn, fish and pork I think) and you can drop spoonfuls into your soup to cook.
Btw if your soup level starts to look low, staff come around and top it up with more stock.
Okay, final things I can think of:
– I liked the plain noodles ($5).
– The gluten balls / fried dough ($6) are really weird. Does anyone know how you’re meant to eat these?? They’re too dry to eat by themselves but go all soggy in the soup? I don’t know, maybe there’s a trick to it that I’m not getting.
– Dipping sauce is $3 per person. You go to the centre of the restaurant and mix up bowls of your own dipping sauces. I really like the sesame sauce and of course all the different chilli ones.
– All the food comes really nicely arranged with flower garnishes.
– You can book if there’s 8 people or more, otherwise you will have to take your chances. Btw they won’t seat you until everyone has arrived, so hope you don’t have tardy friends.
Depending on how much and what you order (there are some premium, expensive items on the menu), it’s not a cheap cheap meal – we’ve paid around $36-$45pp each time – but I think it’s great and worth roping in a group for.
Dainty Sichuan Hotpot
149 Lonsdale Street
Phone: 03 9662 2019