The new Chilli Fagara is much larger than the original spot – a definite upgrade if ambience is important to your dining experience. The restaurant bears a chic décor with slanted wood-paneled ceilings and bright red walls (appropriately setting the mood for the fiery onslaught to come). With the modern, more spacious revamp, this would be a cool place to take a date to… if you can both handle the spice, that is.
Chilli Fagara’s menu covers a range of Szechuan specialties creating “fire, ma, la and tang” (or numbing, burning and neutral) designed to take you on a unique sensory journey, which is described on Chilli’s website as “orgasmic”. I wouldn’t quite use this description, although all the dishes we tried were fairly tasty!
We started off with the signature Vegetarian Dumplings, swimming in the house garlic-infused chilli sauce. Sometimes it can be a case of Goldilocks & the Three Bears with dumpling skins either being too thick or too thin, but in this case they were just right – yes, I’m very particular about my dumplings! The perfectly plump veggie dumplings encased a tasty mixed veggie filling, complemented – but not overwhelmed – by the coating of spicy sauce.
Next, we were presented with one of my favourite dishes of all time: ma po tofu. I grew up eating my mum’s version of this which is more homey with ground beef and peas. While I can’t say this was the best version I’ve tasted, it was definitely flavourful and well-executed with silky tofu cubes covered in a Szechuan peppercorn chilli sauce. I would definitely recommend ordering this with a bowl of rice though, or you may be left frantically downing glasses of water as those peppercorns hit. Speaking of rice, Chilli Fagara’s signature fried rice is not to be missed:
As I was dining with a vegetarian, we opted for the veggie option and trust me, this was no ordinary fried rice! Besides being a much-needed breather in-between the spicy dishes, the version at Chilli Fagara is elevated by the extra crispy kernels (we tried asking how they achieved this, but it’s a “house secret”!). The crispy, crunchy rice was seasoned well with bits of cabbage, carrot, green onion and sweet corn – fantastic on its own or with the ma po tofu ladled on top.
Our final veggie dish was a sizzling platter of Eggplants in a Sour Chilli and Garlic Sauce. This dish wasn’t particularly spicy, which let the subtle sweetness of the soft eggplant shine through, complemented by the garlicky vegetables. For a light lunch, I would be satisfied ordering just this with a bowl of rice on the go.
I couldn’t leave without sampling at least one meat dish, and Chilli Fagara’s Crispy Beef was packed with flavour and intensity: thin slices of melt-in-your-mouth beef glazed with a tangy garlic and ginger-infused sauce. This dish had just the right amount of heat to a pack a punch without leaving me sweating up to my eyeballs, and I would recommend it for any meat-lovers!
What I appreciated about Chilli Fagara was that the flavour combinations were much more complex than simply trying to overwhelm you with that “ma la” sauce, and I could taste the freshness of the ingredients and ingenuity behind the menu. The larger location offers a much more attractive option for loyal fans of Chilli Fagara and those looking for a fun lunchtime option to break the midday blues (that pleasant tingling, numbing sensation will last into your afternoon meetings!).
The restaurant is now offering a wine pairing menu, with wines carefully selected to help balance out the spice while simultaneously coaxing out the complex flavours. We were served a crisp, dry Riesling to pair with our dishes, and the fact that I went through 2-3 glasses (I seem to have lost count) is evidence of the compatibility of the wine with the rich, pungent flavours and spices.
With its great location and thoughtful execution, I can see Chilli Fagara becoming a popular spot with daring diners looking to spice things up a bit, and for those who can’t handle the heat, well, there’s always the Subway around the corner.
Chilli Fagara, Old Bailey’s Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2893 3320, www.chillifagara.com
We’re giving away a 5-course meal for two with wine to one lucky Sassy winner! Enter your details here or click on the button below for the chance to win. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, 1 April.