Shui Hu Ju, Hong Kong

While we were traipsing around in Guilin, Carolynne made reservations for us at Shui Hu Ju for our meetup in Hong Kong because we all definitely wanted at least one Sichuan dinner with some kick.

Shui Hu Ju, Hong KongShui Hu Ju (水滸居), named after a mystical mountain in a Chinese fable, is tucked into the restaurant-packed Soho district in Central. But it can be tricky to spot. Look for the two red lanterns at the top of Peel Street before the staircase. There’s no English sign.

It’s an intimate, low-lit restaurant that feels like you walked into an early Zhang Yimou movie (comparison stolen from Fodor’s).

Sitting in high-backed lacquered chairs, our utensils and napkins are cleverly hidden our narrow table’s side drawers.

The menu is much bigger than what’s posted online. I don’t know if it was the restaurant’s intention or the nature of the six dishes we ordered, but each dish moved from cool to blazingly spicy.

Shredded duck with cucumber (手撕鴨) was a perfect example of Shui Hu Ju’s rustic-style Northern Chinese dishes. Salty duck meat paired with cool cucumbers isn’t fancy, but it’s full of appetizing flavours.

Shui Hu Ju, Hong Kong

The few times I’ve tried okra, it’s been mushy. The okra with wasabi and Chinese soy sauce (六角山葵) here not only kept its shape, it was slightly crispy. The wasabi was more refreshing than spicy in this light sauce.

Shui Hu Ju, Hong Kong

We also had some ground pork with lettuce wraps, spicy beef stir-fry (I can’t remember exactly what it was) and dry-fried green beans under a mountain of addictive garlic flakes.

Shui Hu Ju, Hong Kong

The star of the night was without a doubt the show-stopping deep-fried black chicken with Sichuan chilies (大紅袍烏雞). It is literally a platter of about 50 ruby red chiles with chicken pieces buried underneath.

It was so tasty — but matched with a fire that was out of this world. I’d say my spice tolerance is normally 7 out of 10; this felt like a 12, and then much more as my lips went numb.

Such an experience had Mark alternating between joy that prompted him to exclaim: “I would happily rub my nipples with this!” and pain that made him observe: “The water is broken!”

I’m guessing the chicken was a Silkie, only because I don’t know of many other edible black fowl. I only wished the chicken had been boneless and not cut-up, bone-in pieces.

Shui Ju Hu’s prices aren’t rustic — the chicken was HK$188 ($30 CAD) — but the atmosphere, unfaltering service, and food are worth the visit.

Shui Hu Ju, 68 Peel St., Central/SoHo, Hong Kong, phone 2869-6927. Open daily 6 p.m.-midnight.