Yesterday I posted about a high-end hotpot restaurant, today I want to show the gap between that and a mass market (more economical) hotpot restaurant. Seriously, there’s not such a big gap except for price.
Watch Out for that Dragon
小龙翻大江 The Way of the Dragon is a chain Sichuan hotpot restaurant from Chengdu, with the same parentage as 小龙坎. The first shop was opened in the tourist hotspot of Kuanzhai Street 宽窄巷 and very quickly gained popularity in cyberspace for its over-the-top decor. This one in Chunxi Road 春熙路, the famous pedestrian street right in the middle of Chengdu, was even more outrageous.
As you enter the gates, you are immediately greeted by a large dragon panning across the ceiling, looking at you menacingly.
They had placed two chairs in the middle for one to take photos for Instagram, which attracted hordes of tourists to this shop. Very smart free publicity. As a tourist, I was attracted by this gimmick too.
With its pavilions and double-storey hallways and ornate carvings, the interior is like a Sichuan teahouse inside a modern building. One cannot make out night or day, everything seems to be a bustling teahouse at night.
A swarm of koi swimming up the wall decorated the main tea hall. The tea table is made out of a single tree truck. Sichuan’s tea culture is also represented in this hotpot restaurant.
The dining hall is a typical Sichuan hotpot restaurant with its long benches and square tables. Unlike most of the hotpot restaurants elsewhere, where round tables are used, the Sichuan hotpot can also come in square pots.
For the restaurant to stay competitive in the cutthroat world of Sichuan hotpots, having only a good decor and superb hardware is not enough. You need to innovate in terms of ingredients as well.
The signature 小龙翻大江 Dragon boat came with a serving of sliced sirloin, a whole rock lobster, assorted mushrooms, including the rare termite mushrooms. Everything was placed on a bed of crushed ice in a wooden carved dragon boat. While the beef is a constant, the seafood and mushrooms will change based on the season.
冰球鹅肠 Goose intestine in an ice sphere is a must order. Instead of crushed ice, the intestines were kept cold and fresh in the ice sphere. There’s a very novel way of blanching these intestines, it can be viewed in this video by another diner.
现切吊龙 Hand-cut sirloin is a prized cut in Teochew beef hotpot. This is the least exercised part of the cow and the meat is tender and juicy, perfect for steak. Here it was hand-cut to uneven slices. Hand-cutting beef allows the juices to be intact that machine sliced beef will not have because you need to freeze them before slicing. However hand-cut beef also means that they have to be done ala minute.
You can see the difference in the meats with this machine-sliced pork loin.
Sichuan hotpot cannot go without blood pudding. 牛奶鸭血 Duck blood pudding was silky as tofu.
Sichuan is close to Yunnan, so mushrooms and fungi are as fresh as they get.
We ordered a mild spiciness based with a tomato soup for our hotpot, hoping that the tomato soup will neutralise the mala (numb and spicy) soup. And with mala base, every taste profile get overwritten in the soup.
The price for the whole dinner (note the amount of food) was only a third of what I paid for the high-end hotpot in Shanghai. The ingredients were not top-notch, but still better than most chain hotpot restaurants. The service and hardware definitely matched the high-end ones. The only thing was that it had a rather eclectic mix of clientele being a tourist hotspot. But you can get some privacy with the private rooms on the second floor. Recommended if this is the first hotpot you are having in Chengdu, otherwise there’s other that offer the same food quality at even lower prices. Yes, you are paying the extra for the sense of ceremony 仪式感.
The Way of the Dragon 小龙翻大江 (春熙店)
Tel : 028-86948888
Date visited : Dec 2021