The south-side of the block of Hastings Street just east of Boundary Road where Mr Chilli is located is a totally non-descript strip of businesses. A couple of used book stores, Comor Sports on the corner, a float tank shop, and well, not much else going on along the block.
Perhaps a challenging location for a new restaurant to get a start in the marketplace – but the people behind Mr Chilli are not letting their location in this block dampen their enthusiasm for making delicious and SUPER spicy foods.
While the outside of the Mr Chilli restaurant is rather unassuming, the interior is warm and welcoming with lots of natural wood used in the decor.
And the food? Well, as the interior of the restaurant has a warm appearance, nearly all the food has an incredibly spicy flavour.
They use peppers in nearly every dish. Loads of peppers!
And just in case you find the food to be not spicy enough, they bring extra dishes of sesame oil and pepper sauce to the table!
The starters that were brought to our table were all loaded with peppers – this ChongQing style food is not for the weak.
In the picture above, the dish on the right – the one with the long white rectangles is a good starting place. The white jelly strips are sort of tasteless – until you smear a little of the pepper paste onto them. Then their flavour pops.
The dish to the left is under-cooked chicken in, you guessed it, spicy pepper sauce. Although most of us at the table were nervous about the “under-cooked” chicken, I did try it and found the meat to be incredibly tender and full of flavour.
The spicy pig ear (pictured above) was actually quite pleasing to me. Yes, as I bit into the very thinly sliced pig’s ear I could tell that I was biting through cartilage – don’t think about the Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield heavyweight boxing match while eating this one and it will be more enjoyable. I liked it.
But if you want spicy – try the dish quite perfectly named “spicy chicken”. Equal amounts of red peppers with mixed with crispy bits of chicken. I avoided the peppers and enjoyed the crispy nature of the chicken. Yes, once again, there was heat in this dish – loads of heat.
One of the real surprise dishes for me was the “Spicy Fish Tofu in Soup”. From what I could tell, the dish was actually made of fish and tofu in soup. A soup of a million peppercorns!
The fish had a very nice texture and as along as I avoided biting right into the peppercorns, it was dinner time hit.
The other dish that I found to be very pleasing (I liked all the dishes but these were my two favourites) was the one listed on the menu as “rice-flavoured marinated beef.
From what I can tell, the dish is made from marinated beef mixed with a finely ground rice. Once again, it was the texture of the dish that really was a hit. The beef-rice mixture simply works really well.
Some of the other dishes I enjoyed were the Hock Soup” which was described as a favourite of the ladies in China because it is so rich with collagen. Apparently collagen is good for the skin.
It sounds funny to say but the broth was very a thin broth and yet it had many layers of flavour to it making it quite a hit at our table. How can it be a thin broth and yet so full of flavour?
Someone at our table asked if they had anything less spicy and within minutes a bowl of Wonton Soup arrived. Once again, the broth was thin, not watery, and complex and full of flavour.
The wontons were also wonderful little flavour bombs. The wrappers were like flowing gowns holding the precious morsels of meat in their centres. Creamy and delicate.
My one complaint about Mr Chilli is that if they are looking to entice a non-Chinese speaking/reading clientele into their restaurant their menu really needs have more information on it.
For example, the menu item of “minced pork peas noodle soup” leaves me wondering what to expect if I ordered that dish. That is just one example of many of the questions that I had about the menu.
When I asked the young lady who was serving our table about some of the menu items, she had a very limited ability to explain any of the dishes in much more detail.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and I will be returning to Mr Chilli on Hastings St in Burnaby – with the understanding that it is a restaurant that serves spicy food. After all, it is pretty clear from the name of the place that they have a special relationship with chilli peppers.
Disclosure; this restaurant tasting event was organized by the people who are organizing the Chopstick Festival 2016 – a sort of Dine-Out Vancouver event for Chinese restaurants in Metro Vancouver. As such, I was not required to pay for the food that I sampled. However, as always, editorial control of what I write on my blog remains with me.
Chopstick Fest (October 15-30th) explores the idea of a greater Vancouver “Chinatown” that stretches from its traditional and historic roots in Vancouver’s downtown eastside to the now Chinese cultural epicentres of Richmond and Burnaby. With a focus on food and food culture, we seek to embrace the diversity of the greater Vancouver region’s Chinese communities through cuisine.