RED Chilli on George Hudson Street has long been one of our favourite Chinese restaurants in York.

It is properly authentic, specialising in Beijing and Sichuan (spicy) dishes. And yet it has pulled off the difficult trick of appealing to both western and Chinese palates. You can tell that from the customers - usually a mix of Chinese people, and locals in-the-know. Even the decor is unusual: the interior discreetly lighted for a Chinese restaurant, with tables cleverly back-lit by green panels. This makes for a surprisingly quiet, intimate atmosphere, even when the restaurant is crowded (as it often is).

We always expect high quality at Red Chilli. And our latest visit was no exception.

There's an extensive menu, with what, to western ears, sound like some pretty exotic dishes. Dry braised pig's intestines with fried beancurd, anyone? Or how about the sliced ox heart, ox tongue, ox tripe and pork blood with beansprouts stew?

If you were to pluck up the courage to try that, you'd probably be surprised at just how tasty it was. But there's plenty more to choose from that might be more readily appealing.

In the days when I still ate meat, one of my favourite dishes was the Dongpo braised pork belly. This is a famous Chinese dish said to have been invented by the classical poet Su Dongpo, who lived almost 1,000 years ago. It consists of pork belly slow braised in a sauce of garlic, ginger and soy mixed with a little flour to give it a thicky, gloopy texture.

The meat is so tender it literally melts in your mouth, and the flavour out of this world.

Now that I'm a vegetarian, such dishes are not for me. And it has to be said, the choice at Red Chilli is more limited if you don't eat meat. But I still had plenty to go at. And my wife Lili, being a confirmed meat eater, was in heaven...

We ordered drinks first - a glass of excellent pinot grigio (£4.90) for me (it goes very well with Chinese food), plus a pot of jasmine tea to share (£2). As usual at Red Chilli our waiter brought us a small bowl of fresh peanuts and another of pickled vegetables to nibble on while we pondered the menu.

We decided to share a starter of salt and pepper beancurd (£4.50), always one of my favourites. I have had this at several different Chinese restaurants, but nowhere does it as well as the Red Chilli. It is a dish of fresh beancurd sliced into small cubes, then deep fried at a high heat very quickly and served garnished with salt, and finely chopped raw onion and sweet peppers. The Red Chilli version arrives piping hot, the outside of the beancurd cubes very lightly crisped, the inside melt-in-your-mouth. And the flavour, a tantalising combination of saltiness mingled with that raw onion, makes the taste-buds tingle. The perfect appetiser.

We then pushed the boat but, ordering a selection of dishes from the main menu: stir-fried diced potato, aubergine and red and green pepper (£8.50) and beancurd, vegetable and vermicelli casserole (£9.50) for me; stir-fried soft shell crab cooked with garlic and salt (£10) and fried beancurd with sliced pig's stomach casserole (£9.50) for Lili. We also ordered a portion of Beijing-style fried spring onion pancake (£5) to share, and boiled rice for two (£4).

The tables at Red Chilli tend to be on the small side - so with all of this food to manage, it was a good job we'd particularly asked for a slightly bigger table when we arrived.

My beancurd casserole was essentially a thin consommé-style soup containing thick, tender slices of friend beancurd, freshly-cooked Chinese leaf and thin rice noodles. The Chinese leaf was delicious - clearly cooked in the soup so that it retained some crunch and was full of flavour.

This soup is not as salty as some Chinese dishes, so it went well with my stir-fried potato, aubergine and pepper. Again, this was piping hot, the ingredients deep-fried quickly at very high temperature and then mixed with a starchy, sticky sauce of garlic, ginger and soy that gave a great flavour. The peppers in particular were cooked just right: tender, yet retaining a hint of crunch and all the flavour of fresh raw peppers.

Lili's soft shell crab came in the form of a mound of tender flakes of crab cooked with garlic and salt in a light flour batter. It was, she assured me, very good: as was her dish of thin-sliced and naturally peppery pig's stomach.

One of the highlights of the meal, however, was the Beijing-style pancake: a freshly fried wheatflour pancake made with lashings of chopped spring onion in the pancake mix. They were piping hot and wonderfully satisfying - and a great complement to my stir-fried potato, aubergine and peppers.

We ate until we were bursting, then packed up what was left in takeaway cartons the restaurant provided. Re-cooked the next day, these made for a second great meal.

The bill came to just under £57, including drinks. Not bad for four first-rate meals (two on the day, and two the next day...)

Stephen Lewis