Red Chilli

Portland St. Manchester Centre.

Pork and Blackfungus (top) Fried Squid (below)

Red Chiili hit Manchester by storm in about 2004 ish?? sorry can’t remember – and has opened a second outlet on oxford road.  It was notable for having 2 menus, one Chinese and the other ‘Western Chinese’. If you’ve ever been gnoshing your boring MSG laden sweet and sour whatever and then noticed some impressive dish arriving for Chinese people, that wasn’t on the menu and wondered how they got it you’re not alone. Red Chiili was progressive in that it gave everybody access to the ‘real stuff’.  They still do all the old western classics – with some aplomb actually, however it’d be a shame to miss the more interesting dishes.
For the uninitiated the menu can seem quite daunting, with the literal translations of traditional Chinese dishes sounding somewhat unappetising by the adjective laden standards we’re used to in England – with whelks and pig intestines all being in evidence – as are pretty unfamiliar fish like Croaker and frogs legs.
We opted for a few starters from the conventional menu – scallops and squid and two dishes from the traditional menu - famously good Beijing dumplings and a larger main dish of stewed belly pork and blackfungus.  The scallops were off so in a hurry we got a chicken satay substitute.
Everything arrived at once – or as soon it was ready, which was fine by us. The only unremarkable dish was the satay – it was good, fresh chicken and a decent sauce, but nothing not seen before.
The fired squid was in a very light batter with a sweet sauce – again not remarkable in itself but the execution was superb, possibly the best we’ve ever had.  The dumplings were of the steamed variety, filled with minced pork and coriander, juicy and succulent with the ‘pastry’ thin and light. Again the best we’ve had certainly in a long while – perhaps since the last visit here.
There was some confusion over the last dish – it didn’t really contain the elements mentioned on the menu, we were keen for some green vegetables as a counterpoint to all the salty protein but none arrived, Just belly pork and mushrooms – though it was delicious and a generous portion, arriving in a small wok and sitting on a flaming stand quite dramatically. Good value at £8.50.
When Red Chiili opened it blew us away as almost unrecognisable from other Chinese restaurants (nothing was sweet for a start!) – now others have perhaps caught up a bit in terms of offering real food or we know better what to order as consumers. We’d like to come back and try more – there is a dazzling array on offer but it sometimes feels like a leap into the unknown –not so much in terms of ingredient choice but rather in terms of constructing a balanced dining experience.  Perhaps traditional Chinese meals could be suggested by the management - to prevent getting too much of one type of dish, much in the way they did all those years ago with the soup – dim sum – duck – mains format.  The price was £35 including a large glass of wine and we received a £5 voucher for next time. It’s really good here – if you’ve not been, do.

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