7 Old Bailey Street, Old Bailey Street, Central, Hong Kong
Food lovers with a penchant for spice will know all about Chilli Fagara, the local hotspot that’s been serving up the fiery food of China’s Sichuan province since 2004.
Named after the two main ingredients needed to create authentic Sichuan food – chilli and fagara (Sichuan peppercorns) – Chilli Fagara is managed by proprietor Tracy Wong. Growing up around her parents’ restaurants in Vancouver, Tracy developed a fond love for cooking and hospitality from a young age. When it came to opening a restaurant of her own, she turned to her family’s Sichuan roots. Inspired and educated by a long lineage of Sichuan chefs and restaurateurs, Tracy opened Chilli Fagara, embracing the ‘ma’ (numbing), ‘la’ (spicy) and ‘tang’ (neutral) Sichuan flavours.
This family owned establishment oozes heart and hospitality, not to mention an impressive reputation – the restaurant gained a Michelin star for three consecutive years from 2011 to 2013 and has since picked up numerous awards and accolades.
When demand exceeded supply, Tracy moved from her cosy Graham Street location. Luckily, Chilli Fagara was able to find a new, much larger space on nearby Old Bailey Street. Here, Chilli Fagara continues to serve its friends, family and regulars who have been there from the start.
The decor is certainly foretelling of the spicy onslaught to come – from the logo mimicking flaming branches to the bright, red painted walls. One glance at the menu and you’ll be double-checking that there’s a tall glass of water and a handkerchief on hand.
The heat truly is inescapable and despite handfuls of fresh chilli, dishes still present a nuanced and complex depth – thanks to the experienced hands of Head Chef, Chan Kai Ying. A native of Chongqing province (which shares its borders with Sichuan), Chan is well-versed in the complex components of traditional Sichuan food. Touches of sour, bitter, sweet and smoke are magnificently manipulated to accent deep and complex flavours, which sing in harmony, despite the cuisine’s scorching overtone.
Amongst Chan’s creations you’ll find Emperor prawns stir-fried with chilli peppers, home-style ma po tofu, slices of beef crisped and caramelised with a garlic and ginger-infused sauce, and the ever-popular deboned mandarin fish in a spice-infused broth, garnished with chilli, potato noodles, bean sprouts, Chinese leeks and cloves.
For meat lovers, the lamb ribs are a must try – tossed in a spicy coating infused with the restaurant’s house-blended chilli powder. Meanwhile, vegetarians can feast happily on veggie dumplings in a spicy sauce and crisp-fried tofu dusted with chilli powder.
The spicy Sichuan cuisine offers ample opportunity to sample the drinks list. Soothe the fire with an ice-cold beer, a refreshing cocktail, or work your way through the selection of red, white and sparkling wines on offer.
If you really can’t handle the heat, there are a handful of dishes that cater to a milder ‘tang’ palate, including sizzling beef slices stir-fried with Chinese leeks; and crispy smoked duck perfumed with jasmine tea leaves.
Chilli Fagara truly is a spice lover’s temple and at the end of the day there is something deeply satisfying about succumbing to the ‘ma’ numbing, head-tingling effects of traditional Sichuan flavours, prepared exceptionally by a Hong Kong institution that’s more than a decade old.