In this city of hungry foodies, we’re not lacking in decent restaurants. However, while we have many eateries that are both innovative and inventive, spinning new world influences in décor and atmosphere while maintaining traditional culinary styles is something which is pretty uncommon. But Qi is doing just that – and doing it with flair. In a district which is home to some great outside-the-box concepts like The Pawn, Madam Sixty Ate, 22 Ships, Stone Nullah Tavern and Bo Innovation, this new eatery fuses traditional Sichuan fare with modern plating and décor in an expert manner – and deserves its place in the up-and-coming culinary area around Wan Chai’s Queen’s Road East stretch.
Qi is Sichuan – ergo Qi is hot, hot, hot. The restaurant comes from the same owner who brought us Liberty Private Works and Liberty Exchange in Central, and its name, defined as a shining star, is inspired by the common Sichuan ingredient, the star anise, and boasts an expansive menu that’s authentic to the Chinese province. This means many dishes piled high with roasted red chillies. Get your water jugs ready!
Even the restaurant’s setting is hot and sexy. Dimly lit, with thumping lounge music and a moody red haze created by the hanging tube lights, Qi has taken measures to ensure your face, once it’s a deep scarlet from all the spicy mala dishes and the booze, won’t stand out but rather blends in well with the hue of the rest of the restaurant. It’s a well decked-out venue, with one of side of the room completely encased in glass for a splendid view of the relaxing rooftop terrace. You won’t feel anything but 100 percent cosmopolitan while dining here. Those opting for a bit of privacy can take their seats in one of the dining sections beneath the giant portrait of two Chinese opera singers in full stage costume and makeup. It’s decadently cheeky in a Shanghai Tang sort of way – but still a lovely space to chow down in.
And chow down is just what we do. First on is the chilli dungeness crab, ($595), the grand-slam special on an already pretty special menu. Our platter arrives, a behemoth-sized creature of the sea all cut up, deep fried and seasoned with garlic salt and perched on a bed of red chillies, green scallions and Sichuan peppercorns. The crab is fresh and meaty, and each bite ignites a slow and mouth-numbing burning sensation. But ‘no pain, no gain’, right?
Second comes the lamb with roasted chilli ($260). Seasoned with earthy cumin, this dish is to-the-touch tender, the meat emanating a hefty gamey scent. And the best part, for those who aren’t as chilli tolerant as the Sichuanese, is that the lamb pieces on their own aren’t that spicy which allows the fragrance of the herbs and the richness of the juicy flesh to shine through.
We end the meal with something bright and comforting: a bowl of seafood stew paired with crispy rice ($170). It’s got marvellous texture thanks to the crispy carbs which crackle underneath the lubricious seafood and veggie soup.
Qi is definitely the sort of place that speaks to the young and hip of Hong Kong. It’s in a trendy culinary location, it exudes a nonchalant cool and it is brimming with delectable hot-and-traditional Sichuan dishes that should guarantee this restaurant plenty of loyal spice fans – and their water jugs – for some time to come. Janice Jann
Chilli dungeness crab $595
Lamb with roasted chilli $260
Crispy rice with seafood $170
Service charge (x2) $102.50
Total (for two) $1,128
Shop 12, 2/F, J Residence, 60 Johnston Rd, Wan Chai, 2527 7117; qi-sichuan.hk. Mon-Fri midday-11pm. Sat-Sun 6pm-midnight.