7th Uncle on my MIL's side of the family is a gourmet and a great cook. He used to cook elaborate dinners that gave the best restaurants a run for their money. Now that he's older, he prefers to take his guests out for dinner and not surprisingly, he knows the best restaurants.
Spicy Joint is a trendy Sichuan restaurant on Hua Hai Lu (there are other locations too) where we had one of the best meals of our Shanghai trip. Spicy Joint meets the criteria of a great restaurant. The food is fantastic, portions are big, the menu is extensive, the prices are ridiculously cheap and the service is good. Even the place is purposely decorated in sleek black, which attracts the trendy young crowd. If you visit Shanghai, make sure you eat at least one meal in a Spicy Joint, preferably the one on Hua Hai Lu. I was told that reservations are required at least a week ahead (tel: 021-64702777, WWW. SPICY-JOINT.COM).
After six days of Shanghainese food, Sichuan food was a big welcome to our palates. I find the aromatic and thrilling mala (numbing hot) of Sichuan food addictive. I think next to Cantonese food, Sichuan food is my favorite Chinese food. And I must thank my Sichuan friend Leila for helping me appreciate this cuisine even though I did fall in love with it the first time I tasted it in Singapore's Goodwood Park Hotel decades ago. A visit to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan about 4 years ago, confirmed my love for the cuisine which not only stresses on smell/flavor and taste but also on sensation. If you've never felt the numbing tingling and effervescent bubbling of a Sichuan peppercorn on your lips, you must try it. Don't limit your culinary experience to tastes only. Sensation too should be explored, and the Japanese know that too, since eating poisonous fugu also gives a tingling sensation.
In Spicy Joint, set lunches for four dishes and one soup are only RMB68/RM34/USD11, probably the cheapest set meals anywhere! 7th Uncle ordered a lunch set and several a la carte dishes for the five of us and the bill came to just over RMB300/RM150/USD48 only. With a membership card, you can get another 10% off. It's incredible. Crazy.
Remember to take the nice monthly restaurant magazine on your table which doubles as a menu. I brought my copy home so that I can drool over the photos once in a while.
Chicken bone kebabs
This was SO tasty. The hot chili sauce was intense with flavors and a sour-sweet-xien (savory sweetness) taste and the chicken giblets and soft tail bones were crunchy.
This was the best 'water-cooked fish' because the fish had a beautiful flavor unlike the other water-cooked fish dishes we had which had mala flavor but no flavor in the fish.
Spicy 'peasant-style' cauliflower
Veal with chillies and big bean sprouts
Another excellent dish.
Stir-fried cabbage with vinegar (check out my recipe for this dish here)
Simple, refreshing and delicious.
Chilies and chicken stir-fry
Another delicious one. In fact, there was not a dish that didn't impress us.
Chicken and pork stomach soup
Except for this one. I found it too rich.
Braised gluten balls
Spicy prawns and Shanghainese glutinous rice slices
By the time this came, I could hardly eat anymore. I ate a piece of the rice slices; it tasted yummy but greasy. RMB58/29/USD9.40 for such a generously-sized dish.
Glutinous tang yuan with black sesame seed paste filling in jiu niang soup
It's strange how every meal with our relatives end with this dessert even though there were so many other desserts to try.
Again, if you're in Shanghai, I urge you to have your Sichuan fix in Spicy Joint. It surpasses any Sichuan restaurant I've been to. I found myself wishing that they'll open a branch in my home town so that I can try every dish on their menu.