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Alvin Garden

Reviewed by
October 1, 2013
4850 Imperial St.


Many Chinese restaurants promise hot and spicy; Alvin Garden delivers with a vengeance. This is real rustic Hunan cooking, where chilies are used in all their untempered glory. (Locals like to claim that they fuelled the fiery exploits of China's most famous son, Mao Tse Tung.) There is a greater use of braising and smoking in Hunan cuisine, and the dishes are deeper and stronger in flavour and colour. Ask for big heat (da la), and you'll get it. Start with a plate of sliced pig heart, charcuterie on spice overdrive, or a salad of celery and tofu skin glistening with chili oil. Beef stir-fried with pickled pepper has fantastic wok heat while the Hunan bacon with smoked bamboo shoots hums with warmth. Though more of a Sichuan dish, the filets of tilapia, poached in a spicy broth, is a treat here. Though not all dishes feature Fear Factor heat, it's best to have a big bowl of rice and icy beers on hand.


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