Kerensa and I went back to Lao Sze Chuan last week to explore some other parts of the menu. It was a satisfying meal if not overwhelmingly good. The tea-smoked duck was phenomenal again -- maybe even better than at the chowdown: perfectly cooked, a little greasy, exploding with smoky duckiness. We were also very pleased with the soup - sour pickle and fish(#313). For 6 bucks you get a huge bowl overflowing with greens, tangy pickled something or others, with a great big hunk of firm whitefish, in a complex and interesting broth.
We would have been fine with just that, but in my zest to cover all the menu bases, i insisted that we also get the LaLaLa Extremely Spicy Fish and some Napa Cabbage with dried little shrimp. Both of which were disappointing. The Lalala fish was (I think) tilapia, or something equally bony, hacked into hunks, with blacks of steamed tofu in a szechuan peppercorn, chili oil, and other stuff sause in a rectangular baking tin, witha little wire strainer to serve it up instead of a spoon. The fish itself was fine, once we were able to maneuver the flesh off the bone. The tofu was also fine. But I was extremely disconcerted to discover that when you bite into szechuan peppercorn (still attached to a little stem, and resembling a miniature half-popped kernel of popcorn) your entire mouth first goes numb and then tingles unpleasantly for the next half-hour. That kind of turned me from the fish despite it's otehr pleasant qualities. The napa was well cooked, but the little dried shrimp proved to be less delicious than we had hoped -- a little too pungent for our delicate palates. So not a big hit.
So, I think we're making some progress in the classification of the menu into keepers and avoiders.