I have no illusions - you may very well say "Chantilly ... naaaah!" or "They have a buffet? Ick!" Stop that right now!
Sichuan Village, 14005 Lee Jackson Hwy (Rte 50), just east of Rt.28, Chantilly, 703-631-5888, same strip mall as Il Mee. These are the former Formosa Cafe folks from Crystal City.
I went there Sat eve and came home with such glowing reports that my kids made me take them Sunday! We each went a different path, and we each were delighted.
Elder son ("I don't like anything I haven't been used to eating from babyhood") had the American-style Kung Pao Chicken (his constant order everywhere). I say "American style" because the menu starts with pages of "Authentic Sichuan Dishes" and then come pages of "American Sichuan Dishes." We extrapolated (always a little risky...) "The authentic kung pao is guaranteed to be too hot for him ... the American kung pao, could it possibly be as bad as the American kung pao at China Star? What the heck, I'll take the chance!" The result: A very generously-sized dish, no sauce to speak of but instead all the flavor clung to the morsels of chicken. Subtle and complex flavor, well-adjusted heat, a dish I would be glad to order any day! (PS - I wish I could cook that well!)
Younger son ("I'm just beginning to branch out in my tastes but I'm game to try new things") had the buffet. I didn't go over there, but he reported it was varied and interesting, far better than the usual buffet (except the rice had dried out). He tried 6 or 8 things which I nibbled, couldn't place any of them but they were pretty good, and he kept going back for the very nice duck.
And me: Sat eve I was welcomed even in my psychedelic pants (half my Birthday Magician costume) and with my rolling walker (some places don't quite know what to do with the walker or, for that matter, what to do with me ... feed me or call a cop because I might be dangerously crazy). Asked for Chinese menu, was asked if I read Chinese (no) - the Chinese menu is exclusively in Chinese, no translation, but the helpful hostess was convinced that I wanted it spicy and suggested either the "Tofu and Fish Fillet in Very Hot Sauce" or the "Chengdu Beef". I was in a beef mood and found myself with a BIG bowl of tender beef slices, celery and Napa cabbage (mostly beef) swimming in quite a lot of a very spicy and beefy sauce - delicious! A lot of oil, but not "greasy", the balance was perfect. Not as hot as China Star, but close ... and frankly, not everything has to be THAT darned hot (and this was still really REALLY hot!)
My order tonight was the Tofu and Fish Fillet in Very Hot Sauce. Picture a large glass deep-dish pie plate filled to the brim with plenty of perfectly-cooked boneless fish (each chunk enough for 2 or 3 bites), meltingly tender chunks of tofu (how they kept it together during cooking is a mystery) and a red-brown sauce, again a LOT of it and again VERY spicy. I catch on finally ... these dishes from the "authentic" side have to be, generally, plenty for two hungry diners. This is one of the few times I have found unflavored soft tofu anything but boring ... in this dish, it was a wonderful mild complement, the fish was a wonderful mild chief ingredient, and the sauce was GOL-DURNED HOT AND WONDERFUL!
I have rarely been welcomed in so friendly a fashion or guided to two new favorites (three, if I can tear myself away from the "authentic" menu to order the American kung pao) so accurately.
Go! You won't regret it!
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