Not many dishes can be called a thrill… but Red Almond’s Sichuan cuisine will give you one heck of a ride!
While its famous sister restaurant Hutong serves mostly Peking food, the Aqua Group’s latest addition Red Almond focuses on traditional super spicy Sichuan dishes, with even its décor resembling the little streets of the region. With intricate wooden furniture and dim red lanterns, its interior is not unlike Hutong but its small size gives a cosier, more authentic aura (except for the fact that it’s on the 12th floor of Causeway Bay’s new ubermall Hysan Place, of course!).
Our first dish was thinly-cut pork belly wrapped around a bundle of parsley and scallion (very similar to the razor clam dish in Hutong) – only a tad spicy, even Rach and her more tender tastebuds could take this one! Though you couldn’t really taste the pork, it was a crisp refreshing starter and the blend of appetizing flavours was just right.
Next up and completely different was the spicy and sour steamed tofu. Soaked in a glowing red sauce with peanuts, garlic, chili and spring onions, it might have looked terrifyingly spicy, but in fact, was only one notch up from the pork. It’s served cold, meaning you can really taste the silky texture of the bean curd… but be careful not to spoon too much sauce in with each mouthful or things could get very hot!
But hot got hotter when the warm dishes arrived, starting with a Sichuan favourite – yellow eel in a preserved chili spicy and sour noodle soup. Although neither Rach nor I are huge fans of eel normally, yellow eel is a smaller more tender and less strong-tasting cousin to the eels we’re more familiar with, and it went well with the delicately sour broth. Unlike most vermicelli that expands as it soaks up moisture, these Sichuan noodles maintain their pleasant al dente structure even after hours in the soup (and Aqua’s lovely PR Judy assured us she had actually put these claims to the test!).
Though the eel soup was significantly spicier than the appetizers, it’s still miles behind one of Red Almond’s spiciest dishes – “Ma La” lamb, chicken and beef skewers. All I can say is that this dish is not for the faint of heart! “Ma” means numb and “La” means spicy, which might give you a clue to the heat levels of this one! Although the meats were very well marinated and terrifically tender, I was dripping cold sweat after the first bite!
Thankfully we were given an “Eight Treasure Iced Tea” to combat the chili; traditionally a health drink, this was infused with lychee and red dates to sweeten it up, making it the perfect mellow chaser for the mala dishes (although Rach may have also ordered a couple of glasses of cold water to try and dunk her steaming head in too!).
On another sweet note, our dessert of black glutinous rice and walnut cakes were little fried rice balls of scrumptiousness. Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, they weren’t as sweet as we were expecting but were incredibly moreish and certainly helped clear my fiery mouth!
Red Almond is definitely the place for adventure seekers or chili fanatics, but even those who prefer milder foods will still be able to find some yummy authentic and reasonably priced Sichuan dishes without having to down gallons of water. As for myself, I’m looking forward to challenging their other famous super spicy dish, the Kung Po prawns. I’ll let you know how it goes… if I survive to tell the tale!
Red Almond Shop 1402, 14/F, Hysan Place, 500 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay