Update: We attended this venue in August 2019 and some details may have altered since then.
Bill Murray as Lost in Translation’s Bob Harris said it best: “What kind of restaurant makes you cook your own food?” And indeed, anyone who has been burned (literally and/or figuratively) by cook-it-yourself barbecue joints may wince at the thought of saddling up for another ride on the DIY pony.
But worry not. The only thing you have to fear at Rising Embers is fear itself – that and the three-chilli logo dotting the menu. The new home of Sichuan barbecue from the ever-expanding Dainty Sichuan empire (the modern food equivalent of Genghis, we say in complete admiration) banishes those sad memories of rubbery, overcooked meat with no one to blame but yourself and ten shochu highballs. It’s all thanks to a ninja-like team of waiters who’ll step in quickly to save the day, or simply act as a personal chef if you feel like relinquishing the tongs to the professionals.
You’d be brave or reckless to risk cooking a $128.80 platter of Kobe beef yourself, with more marbling than the Vatican, but the tradesman’s entrance to beefy good times is no slouch at a more wallet-friendly price of $16.80. Thin, bacon-like beef strips anointed with pickled chilli take just a few minutes on the mesh grill to render the fat, magicking each into soft, epically tasty two-bite paleo canapés.
Scallops on the shell – orange roe intact, sitting on a squiggle of noodles with enough minced garlic to stave off a vampire coven – cause alarm when they start to hiss and spit on the grill, but again, our knight in shining apron swoops in to snatch them off the heat at exactly the right moment.
Each table’s arsenal includes a dish of kimchi, marinated white radish and braised peanuts, a couple of dipping sauces and iceberg lettuce leaves for wrapping anything that takes your fancy in fresh crunch. Does that mean pork chitterlings, chicken gristle and lamb kidneys? They’re here too, in keeping with the Dainty stable’s ethos of not dumbing things down. The more WASP-friendly side of the ledger includes Viking-worthy lamb skewers, pre-grilled in the kitchen and handed out individually like lollipops, the meat spiky with cumin and chilli.
An à la carte section of the menu brings dishes ready-made in foil containers like a picnic with upwardly mobile aspirations. There’s a green thicket of Chinese chives in soy and sesame oil with braised Chinese eggplant with fried soybeans adding pops of crunch to an oily sea of chilli-spiked softness.
For dessert you can go for a fruit bowl, or sweet mung bean drink. Or order a steamed bun from the savoury menu and MacGyver yourself a treat thanks to its dipping sauce that, mysteriously, looks like sweetened condensed milk (“What is it?” we ask the waitress. “Sweetened condensed milk.”)
The place itself is somewhere you’ll want to hang without booking it for your surprise engagement party. A first-floor warehouse in Chinatown, it’s composed of white-and-red brick and plants. They’ll let you BYO wine for $8 a bottle. They’ll bring the dips and kim chi coming without the slightest hint of annoyance. And when it comes to the cooking, they’ll save you from yourself. There’s a lot to love.