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The China Sichuan, Sandyford, Co Dublin

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Nothing can resist change. Taking the Luas out to Sandyford to have dinner at the China Sichuan, there was not a single person reading a printed newspaper or magazine or book in the two carriages I could see.
But, then, as people began to leave the train, I spotted a European man reading a tiny, missal-like tome. And what book was he reading?
Of course: it was Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs. The tedious and deflating personal story of the man who switched the world to screens.
More change was ahead of us.
Kevin Hui has begun to ring the changes on the menus at the China Sichuan. This is a brave thing for Mr Hui to do, for the CS is not just the best Chinese restaurant in Ireland. It is also one of the most beloved. Mr Hui knows this already, for he lost a tranche of his clientele when he moved the restaurant from Kilmacud to Sandyford. People liked the CS the way it was, and they didn't like the fact that Mr Hui was moving it upmarket. Some of us would go to the ends of the earth to eat CS food, but some so-co Dubs won't go from Kilmacud to Sandyford, even if the journey results in thrilling ethnic cooking.
The old-timers are missing out. Mr Hui's new moves, copper-plated by his new head chef, fresh from London's Hakkasan, shows that the CS of old, whilst enjoyable and lovable, can be shown a thing or two by the CS of today.
Take a starter of prawns with wasabi and mango. In the old days, this dish would have been about giving the prawn a shot of deep-fried tastyness. Today, the dish is all about freshness and contrast – hot wasabi, cool mango, sweet prawn, with a delicate hat of crispyness. It is stunning.
And then the same magic with crispy soft-shell crab, with chilli almond flakes. Again, the dish speaks of freshness and lightness, but the genius touch is the chilli note of the almonds. You expect one flavour from the almonds, but wind up getting an extra element.
This happens right throughout the meal. A dish of rabbit with tea leaves completely fools us. Yes, there is something chicken-like about the flesh, something pork and even squid-like about the flavour. Somewhere between the three is one of the best ethnic dishes we have ever eaten and, again, the flavours and textures are all about freshness and lightness.
By comparison, an old war-horse like chicken with cashews comes across as tasty, but one-dimensional. Turnip cake with chillies is a thrill, but long beans, another staple of the CS, seems mute by comparison. The kitchen shows great sympathy to Wicklow beef with bok choi, and here it's the arrangement of the dish that is as spectacular as the flavours, the steamed bok choi forming a fan and nest for the cubed beef. Short ribs smoked with tea are revelatory, and whilst a CS staple like lamb with cumin is delicious, it's not as engaging as the modern dishes.
Of everything we ate, only Chilean sea bass was a wrong note: a top-class restaurant like the China Sichuan should not be importing farmed fish from half way across the world.
Some folk will stay with their favourite dishes when they come to the CS, and will likely stick with plates and knives and forks rather than sharing several dishes as the Chinese style suggests. But sticking with the stalwarts will mean that they miss something radical, brave and exciting. Mr Hui recognises that change must happen, and he is navigating the changes superbly. The newer China Sichaun dishes show, once again, why this is the best Chinese restaurant in Ireland.

The Forum, Ballymoss Road, Sandyford Industrial Estate, Dublin 18 www.china-sichuan.ie 01 293 5100

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