Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hot 'n Spicy Just Down the Street

When both Ed Tijerina (restaurant reviewer for the Express-News, @etij) and Chef Jason Dady (@chefjasondady) recommend a place, one tends to sit up and take notice. So I buzzed just down NW Military Hwy to Sichuan Cuisine (2347 NW Military, just north of Lockhill-Selma).

Generally speaking, I am not a fan of Chinese food. But I am beginning to learn that if I say "I don't care for xxx food," it usually means I've just eaten bad xxx food. I don't know much about Chinese cooking, but I do know (if for no other reason than watching Chef Kenichi on the original Iron Chef) that it's spicy. I can only do so much spicy, and this place suited my palate just fine.

For starters, they don't have a liquor license, so BYOB. (Ed also recommended, in his review, bringing your own glassware.) The spacious interior was rather plain, and Anthony Bourdain played on the television (an odd choice, given the weird things he eats sometimes).

I immediately noted their spice levels: one chili="hot and spicy," two chilis="medium spicy," and three chilis="extra spicy." I decided to stay at the one chili level.

The menu is quite extensive, with stand-bys like General Tso's chicken and more unusual fare (kung pao duck tongue, various dishes with tripe, and a pork intestine and pork blood cake). Vegetarians will be happy here; there's an entire section of tofu dishes (although some have meat) as well as a section of vegetable dishes.

I started out with sliced pig ear in hot chili oil (bottom right of above photo). I enjoyed the texture. Instead of having a lot of flavor of its own, the pig ear carries the flavor of the hot chili oil. It was spicy, but pleasingly so.

I ordered the house special bean soup for my entree. And here's where I have two pieces of advice:

  • The portions are enormous. (My soup easily could have fed three to four people.) It would have been nice, given that I was dining alone, if my waiter had advised me of the size of the bowl when I ordered. Other entrees appeared to be of a more normal size, although it looked to me like there would be plenty to share.

  • Unless you are extremely familiar with Sichuan cuisine or the specifics of a particular dish (which I am not), I advise asking the waiter what the dish includes. To my surprise, my soup included shrimp and tilapia. Which is fine for me, but would have necessitated a send-back for my husband, who cannot eat shrimp.

I had to ask the waiter about the tilapia. It was amazingly tender and didn't taste like fish at all; quite delicious. The waiter told me that in Sichuan province, they like their meats tender. The broth had a pleasant earthy flavor, and I brought home a lot.

They're open seven days a week from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm. I highly recommend a visit.

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