I had heard for some time that you could request a Szechuan menu full of interesting things at (and ONLY at) the Charlie Chiang's at 660 South Pickett Street, Alexandria.
I went today at lunch with ... well, it doesn't matter, my ENTIRE family is unadventurous so I'm on my own.
The service was good, but the place seriously needs a top-to-bottom cleanup followed by a coat of paint. Some people were seated in their little sort of "back room even though it's in the front window" alongside piles of storage boxes and stuff that belonged in a closet. I enjoy venturing into little "hole in the wall" places, but most of those I've seen were more careful about their appearance than this. A lunch buffet looked unappetizing.
The Szechuan menu came on request (no puzzled looks or trying to talk you out of it) and was in both Chinese and English, with a moderate range of appetizers and soups and a broader range of entrees you won't find on a regular menu. Conjveniently, one asterisk for "hot," two for "very hot."
My brother ordered Chicken with Cashews. My reaction to a taste of it: characterless. But hope remained for my Pork with Hot Peppers. It was a bit more like Hot Peppers with Pork. Maybe 2/3 julienned peppers (I believe almost certainly jalapeños but I could be wrong, and be aware I have no problem with jalapeños in my Chinese) and 1/3 or less pork. No Szechuan Peppercorn flavor. My own verdict: edible, but nothing special.
Maybe they do better at dinnertime, or maybe with some of the more exotic dishes, but I think I'll stick to TemptAsian for "authentic" and Golden Dragon for "pretty darned good."
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