There once was a lovely little Schezuan restaurant nestled into a tiny space on Blowers Street. Known to all who worked in the Argyle Street vicinity, Hungry Chili was one of my personal favourite places to go for lunch. They had this *unreal* spicy chicken lunch special (I actually think that it was called Numbing Chicken). A bed of rice was topped with a mountain of tender chicken morsels, cashews (if memory serves me correctly), carrots, onions, hot chilis and a tastebud-tingling spicy sauce. Oh, and there was also a spring roll.
This was a lunch that made my eyes water (have I mentioned that I love spicy food?!)
I was pretty bummed when I found out it closed, a few years ago, and have been on the lookout for a new Schezuan spot to fill the hole that Hungry Chili left in my heart.
At long last, I think I’ve finally found it.
On Christmas Eve eve, Kevin and I navigated the slippery downtown Halifax streets and made our way to Jincheng Chinese Cuisine, a new spot that opened up recently along Dresden Row.
Their website describes, in detail, the story behind their name and the cuisine they offer (but brace yourselves: the website is a bit rough.. though it does contain the most important thing: their menu).
The space is clean and appeared to be freshly-painted, but the decor was spartan. I take that as a good sign, because it means their focus has been on the food.
The server seems a bit confused when we initially arrive, and it may be because not many people were braving the cold and venturing out to eat so near to the holiday. We were eventually offered a seat and menus, and our drink orders were taken promptly.
I was disappointed that there was no green tea available, and settled for water, instead. Kevin ordered a soda.
I started with an order of Wonton Soup (with filled with ground pork & Chinese vegetables; $3.99):
The broth was flavourful without being fatty, and the wontons were perfectly wrapped packages of pork… I cheerfully scooped up the last dregs of the steamy broth as people trod by on the streets below our window, bundled up against the cold.
Kevin opted for a plate of the dumplings (flour-wrapped nappa cabbage, pork, ginger and garlic), which appeared to have been panfried ($7.99). I was a bit worried when I saw they were fried, because that can sometimes dry them out. But once I snagged one from his plate and bit in, I was relieved to find them still tender and juicy inside. (Note: This dish included around 8 dumplings. Kevin just couldn’t wait until I took a picture, so it seems like a small serving):
For our mains, Kevin decided to try the “Red Bull Climbs Green Mountain” (aka beef with Chinese broccoli; $15.99) with a side of rice, because, let’s face it, who can resist a name like that?! Brilliant. His eyes almost popped out of his head when this landed on the table:
Gorgeous. Let’s just say that Red Bull managed to climb Green Mountain, no problem.
After popping each morsel into his mouth, Kevin was still left with an impressive puddle of savoury sauce, which he readily admitted he was tempted to slurp up. Manners got the better of him, though, and he resisted making a spectacle of himself (thanks, dear!)
I was equally enamoured with my Gongbao Chicken (the server allowed me to order the lunch special, which included a side of rice, and is only $10). One bite, and I was in heaven:
I was transported back to the days of the Hungry Chili: chunks of fresh, sauteed peppers and onions, the crunch of nuts (albeit, this dish features peanuts and not cashews), and plenty of chicken bits. Tastebuds pleasantly tingling, I found myself reaching for a gulp of water after just a few bites.
Dinner for two, including taxes and tip, came to around $50. While the service and decor could be amped up, these guys are dishing up some of the best Schezuan food in the city, and that’s enough for me. I will DEFINITELY be back for seconds.