Having read the review in the Nov Washingtonian of China Star, a revamped Chinese restaurant in the Fair City Mall in Fairfax (Main St/Pickett Rd), we went there last night and were generally pleased with the results.
The restau is not much to look at--pretty plain decor and relatively small, with much of the rear devoted to a buffet set up that appears only to be used during lunch. The menu is very extensive, and includes a large range of Sichuan specialties, including traditional Sichuan versions of wontons. As the Washingtonian states, they use traditional Chinese cuts of meats, so the pork is indeed fatty and the chicken has bones. This adds to the flavor, but of course entails some sacrifices in the healthfulness factor.
We ordered rather too much, a cold dish of spicy rabbit chunks (ma la tu ding), an order of tiger skin peppers (hu pi qing jiao), boiled beef with lettuce (shui zhu niu rou) and wontons in chili sauce (hong you chao shou). The rabbit was a bit lacking in the "ma" sensation--that characteristic numbing spice associated with Sichuan peppers--but was otherwise very good. We even pointed out to the waitress that the dish was not "ma" enough, but she (and all the other waitstaff, it seems) was from Fuzhou, on the east coast, and not an afficionado of Sichuan cooking. (The chef and owner are from Sichuan.) The peppers were very good, though somewhat untraditionally prepared--usually this dish is served relatively dry, but this came in a boatload of sauce (which happened to be delicious) and seemed to have meat in it, which is also unusual. The beef was not nearly as spicy as we like it (or as spicy as my other favorite NoVA Chinese restaurant makes it, Peking Village in Merrifield), though it actually was fortunate for this, since everything else was pretty hot. And finally the wontons were made with store-bought wrappers, which seems a shame to me, though I suppose this is a picky concern.
The prices here are quite reasonable, and the place was hopping; we even had to wait for a table (though not too long--certainly not a Seinfeld-ian wait). Worth a try.
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