The number of Sichuan eateries that have popped up in the OC is a testament to the fast growing population of mainland Chinese in the area. One of the latest additions is Chili Party, a restaurant chain of around 10, operating in mainland China, and one in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay district.
Chili Party is comfortable, and depending on who the servers are on your visit, the experience will be significantly different. Though not entirely Sichuanese — some Shanghainese dishes are on the menu — it is the spicy offerings that stand out here.
You may find the soups enticing, but the Hot & Sour Soup / 酸辣湯 ($7.99/$14.99) is weak in flavor possessing little to no heat, nor tartness, to really proclaim itself a proper hot and sour soup. You may add vinegar and white pepper, but just like salt, it doesn’t quite result in the same finish as properly executing it during preparation.
Tofu Soup ($12.99) is a gimmicky presentation (off a specials menu) with a beautifully carved piece of tofu using intricate knife skills to create a coral-like design. It is aesthetically pleasing, but the broth is pedestrian, tasting like packaged chicken stock I use at home. Order one for the table to share. It is definitely a novelty, but uninspiring on the palate.
In terms of dim sum, definitely order some Scallion Pancake /蔥油餅 ($4.99) as these thin, crispy lovelies are well executed, and absolutely delicious.
Xiao Long Bao /小籠包 ($7.99/8pcs) has been a hit and miss for us. Often, they arrive completely devoid of the soup pocket that XLBs are known for, all shriveled up and sad looking. Yelp has a check-in offer for $4.99 XLBs if you’d like to give them a try, but there is far better XLBs elsewhere.
Sichuan Chicken /川味口水雞 ($7.99) is tasty, but inauthentic. The Sichuan version of “kou sui ji” (loosely translated as saliva chicken) offers tender poached chicken in a thin, watery chile marinade. Here, the sauce is thick – sesame sauce is added – and although isn’t the traditional “kou sui ji”, is still flavorful. I just wasn’t expecting a rendition of the original, which threw me off.
Steamed Egg with Shrimp and Scallop / 蝦仁帶子蒸水蛋 ($12.99) is a delicately smooth custard-like dish dotted with bits of shrimp and scallop. It is one of my favorite comfort foods for when I need something light, yet nourishing.
A favorite at any Chinese restaurant, Dry-Fried String Beans/乾煸四季豆 ($9.99) here is a solid offering.
Another vegetable dish we order is Sauteed Ong Choy ($9.99) which suffices and works well if you’re tired of green beans.
Braised Tofu with Crab Roe / 蟹粉豆腐 ($12.99) is something you should steer clear away from. The portion is huge, but all I taste is bland unsavory tofu. There is no crab roe in sight, nor on the tongue.
Braised Supreme Meatball /紅燒獅子頭 ($7.99) is a Shanghainese dish, which I grew up with. This version isn’t quite what I’m used to, but it is decent. The meatball is airy with plenty of fat to give it that unctuous, melt-in-the-mouth texture.
If there are kids in your party, definitely order Black Pepper Fried Beef /黑椒牛仔粒 ($21.99) a variation of Vietnamese Bò Lúc Lắc. The beef is tender, with rich flavors coating each morsel.
Whenever dining at any Sichuan restaurant, it is best to order one of their Chili Pot items, as well as the “water boiled” dishes. The latter is somewhat deceiving as the “water boil” is actually a spicy chile broth that the protein and accoutrements are immersed in. Poached Fish in Chili Soup /川味水煮魚 ($14.99) is excellent, with tender slices of fish, soy bean sprouts and Napa cabbage swimming in the mouth burning stock. You may choose mild, medium or spicy – mild and medium taste pretty close – depending on your tolerance level.
The Chili Pot/ 幹鍋 items are also outstanding. We’ve ordered this on every visit, alternating between proteins such as Shrimp ($16.99) or Bullfrog ($16.99). It may look like it would tear a hole in your stomach, but avoid the dried chiles and Sichuan peppercorns, and you’ll find the shrimp, lotus root, celery, potato, and glass noodles, enveloped with the flavors without the chiles masking the individual flavors of the ingredients.
During dinner, you will receive a complimentary dessert of Sweet Fermented Rice Balls, but it is flavorless, and not worth wasting stomach space on. There are bits of fermented rice, but there is not one iota of the distinctive flavors of fermented rice. You may or may not find mochi balls in your bowl, but there are definitely a few goji berries dotted in the murky liquid. It is also on the menu for $7.99.
After a handful of visits, I would say Chili Party is great for many of its Sichuan dishes, and if you live in the area, it’s an ideal stop when you’re craving this sort of food. For us living in Irvine, Chong Qing Mei Wei is still the go-to Sichuan restaurant in OC.
17046 Magnolia Street
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
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