Following two arduous, pain staking nights of Seder, the Phuc Buddies reunited for an unprecedented third helping of the divinely given festival. The only differences on this night was that dinner would be held at Szechuan House, Kosher le Pesach guidelines would not be adhered to and it would be an experience shared with people we actually loved.
Having not touched a carb in well over 48 hours (going on 48 months for Marge), the three Phuc Wits were toeing the line between hungry and ravenous. Nestled between a Chinese medical clinic and a store that seemed to be selling anything and everything metallic, the two storied Szechuan House stood out like Mount Sinai in the Egyptian desert. As we made our way to the entrance a burning bush caused us to stop in our tracks, much to our disappointment however, it was merely a group of junkies trying to keep warm rather than the sign from God we were hoping for.
The menu literally left us spoilt for choice. Page upon page of dishes that were quite unfamiliar to Victoria Street veterans like ourselves and although in over our heads, we were excited by the prospect of trying something new. Szechuan cuisine is notorious for its spice and fragrance, elicited from the generous use of garlic, chilli and the aptly name Szechuan peppercorn. A three chilli classification system, three for the spiciest and one for the mildest, was used to warn patrons of the eye watering affects of each dish.
It should be noted that each dish we ordered was a mere two on the chilli scale. It was decided that a combination of intestinal blocking matzah and formidable quantities of chilli would have been a recipe for disaster, and cooler heads prevailed.
As a pre curser to the meal, the waitress brought over what could be described as a deconstructed charoset, with spice rather than sweet being the overriding flavour. The walnuts of the charoset were replaced by some form of soft peanut, the apple was substituted with marinated seaweed, and the red wine swapped with spicy tree fungi. The pickled chicken feet, were not only out of left field, but also inedible.
Having spent the last two nights meticulously poring over the Haggadah while opportunistically siphoning a crumb of matzah here, or a pickle there to satisfy our burgeoning hungers, we were pleasantly surprised when within minutes of polishing off the last of the peanuts our main meal had arrived. It was as if the chef’s not only knew we were coming, but knew exactly what we would order. Whether it was divine intervention or possibly the fact that we chose the most popular items on the menu didn’t matter, because it was time to eat!
The broth of the wonton soup was infused with what looked like chilli oil but turned out to be sweeter than anticipated. The chicken filling tasted more of a nutty cinnamon mix found in Turkish desserts and frankly left a lot to be desired. The fact that 3 of the 8 dumplings were left untouched speaks volumes. Especially because after the overdose of matzah balls, the Buddies were craving something that resembled kreplach, the wontons however, did not deliver.
The spicy deep fried chicken was arguably the star dish of the meal receiving wide acclaim from all three of the musketeers. A bed of roasted whole chilli’s was punctuated by deliciously spiced, and cooked to perfection pieces of flawless chicken. With the same addictive tendencies of a KFC favourite pop-corn chicken but with far less batter and negative health ramifications, the giant platter big enough to feed 5 was barely enough to satiate 3!
The pork and vegetable stir fry was also fantastic. Shredded pork combined with delicately cooked carrot, cabbage, broccoli, snow peas and of course liberal amounts of chilli, was heaped onto a plate and delivered to us still steaming from the wok. The consistency was almost like the filling of a spring roll, but fresher, tastier, and downright better. The corn flour thickened sauce ensured that the flavours were even distributed over every ingredient. If you enjoy a bowl of rice to really soak up a dish, this is the one for you.
The stuffed eggplant came to us incased in an aluminum shell that we quickly ripped open. Inside we found a generous portion of eggplant that was stuffed with pork mince, then seemingly pan fried on top to caramelise the meat and also seal in all the flavour. The eggplant was expertly cooked, with that melt in your mouth consistency that every aubergine-cooking chef should aim for. Although not overly spicy, it complemented the other two dishes which, when put together had enough spice to cover for this plant.
Unfortunately for the service points, but serendipitous for ourselves, the green beans were forgotten and although not even close to hungry, a little bit of foliage wouldn’t have gone astray!
The courteous and friendly service of all the waiters was noted and appreciated. Perennially dehydrated, we were extremely impressed with their dedication to ensuring we always had our glasses filled with water, however due to the explosive nature of the food, it’s basically a duty of care.
Overall the meal was highly enjoyable and easily one of the best we’ve eaten on our journey so far. As the manager delivered our bill with “a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” we were again impressed with the value of the meal.
As we made our Exodus from the restaurant we were all relieved that we would not have to follow in the footsteps of Moses and the Israelites and wander Victoria street for 40 years looking for our car, because it was exactly where we left it, in the parking lot.
Also, for the first time in living memory, Yez was beaten in the traditional post meal Buck Hunter session. Out of the three sites visited, Dizzle managed to conquer two of them while Marge shot magnificently to bring up a stage victory for himself. It has been reported Yez is taking time off to consider his future in the sport.
The Incredible Bury Wonderstone 0.5/5 – If you like movies where a bunch of has-been’s embarrass themselves then this is the movie for you