The Gravina clan suffers from a hereditary illness. It is a hideous condition that impacts on the most important aspect of my life, eating. I have christened this illness; ‘Gravina Stomach’ and I have to admit that for a long time I doubted its existence. But a few years ago I began to feel the first gurgling sensations that mark its onset. I now know that a spicy meal will result in 24 hours of burning stomach pain and other unmentionable symptoms. However I will not let the affliction defeat me and in the spirit of walloping my stomach into submission I headed to Sichuan House for dinner.
There is something about an establishment in an alleyway off one of Melbourne’s one way ‘little’ streets and up a set of darkened stairs. Even if everybody else knows about, evidenced by the lack of empty tables, it still feels like you have discovered something. Sitting at a hastily made up table we were handed oversized menus in which there were photos of most dishes. This did make for easy ordering, maybe too easy.
We shared 4 mains between 3 people. It was an obscene amount of food. Every dish was undoubtedly too large for a single person however we couldn’t decide between all of the fiery delights on offer. The aforementioned photos in the menu didn’t help and neither did seeing meals arriving on nearby tables.
If there is one dish that is recommended above all others at Sichuan House it’s the cumin coated crispy pork ribs. As the other dishes arrived on the table it was difficult to stop munching flesh of the bones to put the other food into my mouth. Although hot all of the flavours of the individual spices used in the dish shone through. They came covered in a mixture of dried chilli pieces, sesame seeds and spring onion. It was a mixture that made my eyes light up, my mouth salivate and my brain tell my stomach to get back in its place. Putting out the fire in my mouth with sav blanc may not have been the best choice but I was too busy shovelling food into my mouth to beckon the waiter to bring water.
Ma Po Tofu proves that tofu is not just for vegetarians, mainly because in this dish it’s mixed with meat. Silken tofu is the star but pork mince adds to the texture. To round off the meal we ordered stir-fried eggplant which was succulent and rich as well as a chicken stir-fry which to be frank didn’t stand up to the other star dishes on the table. Even though I was bursting at the seams I was still envious when the table next to us had beef skewers delivered covered with the same red chilli mixture that enlightened the pork ribs.
We definitely over ordered but this did mean that I got to take a doggy bag home. And yes Gravina Stomach did come to haunt me but I didn’t let it get the better of me. I just showed my stomach who’s boss by eating the left overs for dinner the next night.