“Flavours of Sichuan Province at Stix by Chef Sun Wenlin.”
Since Stix was one of the first unique dining experiences Sarah and I enjoyed when we moved to Chennai a couple of years ago, we were excited when they let us know they were launching a new menu.
Ananya Banerjee, Marketing liaison for Hyatt, met us and introduced us to the staff, then got us started with a bowl of peanuts and we were both pleasantly intrigued as the salty, expected crunch yielded slowly to a growing, subtle heat that included a hint of sweetness.
A great start for such a simple invitation that spoke of fascinating complexities to follow, as we were reminded that Sichuan cuisine is known for bold flavors and is composed of seven basic tastes: sour, pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, aromatic, and salty, with liberal use of garlic and chilis.
First up—and a perfect foil for those charming peanuts—was a bowl of white pumpkin and seafood soup. Strands of shirred egg graced the surface of the soup and complimented the rich chicken broth, while allowing the finely diced white pumpkins’ mellow flavor to take the spotlight in partnership with the delicate, sweet prawns. A gentle combination that allowed the palate a breather in preparation for the spicier efforts we anticipated.
And we weren’t disappointed, as the next offering made Sarah’s day, with a serving of crispy lotus stems, one of her absolute favorites. Having never eaten lotus stems before moving to India, and now considering herself an expert in judging the dish, Sarah prepared to pass judgment on Stix’s Sichuan style version . . . how would it stack up? Lightly battered, just a hint of crisp tooth, with the lotus stem’s fruit still a bit al dente, and a perfect balance of sweet and savory, lighter and fresher, truly unlike any we had eaten before, these stems jumped right to the top of her list.
What could top that, we wondered? Try spinach with peanut sauce, a unique combination that opened new avenues for our taste buds. The deep green spinach, steamed just enough to maintain its full depth of flavor, was seasoned to a light savory, and the accompaniment of the peanut sauce, opulently rich and creamy with a light tang we couldn’t quite place—mustard, we were told—yielded another unexpected delight for us on our Sichuan explorations, especially since we were told this dish is rarely served outside of China.
Next up, back to the non-veg side with another favorite, crispy lamb. Once again, though, Stix delivered a masterful version, with a deft touch that placed the emphasis on “crispy,” with the lamb yielding to melt-in-your-mouth tenderness not often found in this dish. Another score and a reflection of the expertise of the preparation by Hisamudi, the sous chef. With the open preparation area, diners can watch the caring and masterful attention to detail and the skills that are necessary to produce such excellent results.
And now it was time for a selection of dumplings and bao. From crystal mixed veg to edamame to water chestnut and even a dark meat of chicken, the dumplings were uniquely flavorful, with the thinnest of wrappers allowing a glimpse of the gifts inside each one.
A Kung Pao bao provided a change of pace and spicing with its dark sauce and the yeasty texture showcasing the moist and juicy chicken. Finally, a basket of seafood dumplings completed this course, and included crystal prawn with a caviar sprinkle, a sea bass that thrilled with an explosion of flavor, and a lobster finale that came close to perfection. And all the dumplings were served on a translucent slice of carrot that added just the right contrast. Wow, if you love dumplings, don’t miss Stix!
As with all great artistic endeavors, the points of high drama are best enjoyed in a context that relaxes the tension, that gives one a breather, so Stix presented us a light, fluffy, spring onion pancake, and its delicate texture and milder, yet tantalizing flavor, proved just the right relaxer as we prepared for the steeper, spicier ascents to come.
Of course, part of the delight at Stix is watching the chefs prepare the courses and the Kung Pao Chicken was pure magic! The ingredients sizzled and danced and flew about the wok in a mesmerizing show that enticed all our senses. Once served, the Kung Pao Chicken stole the leading role in the show, with its wine-dark mellow flavor and tender, moist texture, bringing high marks from Sarah, rating it a “best ever” favorite.
The chicken was paired with a savory rice with more chicken done in a barbeque sauce, along with corn, spring onions, and a delicate tang that provided a wonderful counterpoint for the Kung Pao Chicken.
Next—yes there was more—came Dry Pot Vegetables, a medley of pea pods, mushrooms, and more lotus stems, all seasoned in a pungent sauce that brought a different dimension to the dinner and awoke a new echelon of our taste buds. Oh, my!
Finally, the preparation show continued as we watched the chef slicing noodles from a block of dough, something we’d never seen or even heard of before. The noodles proved a highlight of the dish, with excellent morsels of juicy lamb. The noodles were substantial and ever so slightly chewy, yet soft and quickly melting with a silky texture. Wow again!
But wait, there’s more, as we couldn’t turn away the desserts. I went for the Prune Chocolate Brownie and Sarah tried the Banana Fritters and ice cream with tender coconut bits. With a presentation that matched the flavors, both sweets provided a stellar ending to our trip through Stix’s new Flavours of Sichuan menu. The brownie was moist and oh so rich, with the prune sauce—go figure—adding a twist that delighted. Sarah’s banana fritters were soooo rich and creamy, and the tender coconut bits in the ice cream again added a unique new perspective. Great ending!
So, make sure you add Stix to your favorite restaurants list and don’t miss their lineup of exciting new dishes that will bring the Flavours of Sichuan Province right to your table. And remember to grab a seat where you can watch the preparation show that adds so much to the experience. Four thumbs up!
The Hyatt Regency’s Stix Restaurant
The Stix restaurant is located at the lobby level of the Hyatt Regency on Anna Salai. Table reservations are recommended over the weekend.
HYATT REGENCY CHENNAI
365 Anna Salai, Teynampet, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600018, India
Tel: +91 44 61001234
Mob: +91 9176633310