"Recommend me a good Chinese restaurant", a friend of mine asked me one day. "What type of Chinese food - Cantonese, Taiwanese, Szechuan, Chiu Chow or Hunan?", I queried. She looked at me with bewilderment and a glazed-look. Yes, much like most other types of cuisine, there are significant regional differences. One misunderstood type of Chinese cuisine is Szechuan. Sure, there are a few popular restaurants such as Szechuan Chongqing, but in reality, they cater to more mainstream tastes. Hey, I'm not hating on Szechuan Chongqing. They serve their clientele well. However, when one wants the "real" thing, it gets a bit more complicated (as in being really spicy).
Meeting with Louisa in Richmond, she raved about this small little spot tucked in the 4200 plaza on #3 Road. I left the ordering to her as she picked 3 of their specialties including the Garlic Pork. The fanned out fatty pork belly was super tender dressed with chili oil and of course garlic. There certainly was a kick to the dish, but not as much as the visuals would suggest. I'm okay with that because when something is too spicy, you can't really taste anything else. Continuing on the spicy train, we had the Spicy Chicken. Once again, at first glance, the dish seemed to be "blow-your-socks-off hot". But nope, it was only mildly spicy (at least for me), thus, I could taste the chicken. Being the free range variety, it had a slight chew. The skin was jelly-like while there was the requisite layer of gelatin underneath.
And here it is, one of their most popular dishes - The Spicy Fish Hot Pot. In addition to chili oil, there were dried red chilis and Szechuan peppercorns. Suffice to say, this had a good kick. However, once again, it was not pain-inducing heat. That I liked as there was still some tongue numbness, but I could taste and enjoy the delicately prepared fish. This was made all-the-more enjoyable with 4 cold Yanjing beers (a great deal at $10.00). For me, this was a well-executed and authentic Szechuan meal. I guess there is another reason to make the trek into traffic-hell central...
- Spicy, but not so much you can't taste anything
- Carefully prepared
- Relatively comfortable dining space
- During more peak times, you may not find a parking spot as the lot is small and shared by other businesses
- May not be spicy enough for some, but you most certainly can ask for it