A few years ago, I read Fuchsia Dunlop's book, Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper. I then went out and bought a copy of Land of Plenty. Although Uwajimaya happily sells just about everything you need to cook Sichuan food at home, I quickly realized that my apartment's electric stove was not exactly designed for authentic Chinese cooking methods. As a result, I have had to farm out my Sichuan meals to local restaurants. Here's what I've found so far:
Sichuanese Cuisine (ID): Not very exciting, at least if you don't order hotpot (that's what all of the Asian folks in the restaurant seemed to have done).
Chiang's Gourmet: Surprisingly good, given that Sichuan isn't really the focus. Certain dishes seem a bit pricey (e.g. lamb), and the staff has occasionally tried to talk me out of ordering things like pork belly and offal, but I am almost always happy with the food. The spicy stuff is genuinely spicy, if not tinglingly-so.
Szechuan Chef: Apparently it used to be good, but I can't say that I was very impressed when I ate there.
Spicy Talk: This is where the former owners of Szechuan Chef went. I've been underwhelmed both times I visited, first by the pork with pickled vegetables and secondly by the dan dan mein (I was hoping for ya cai and ma la, but all I got was chicken and sesame seeds).
Szechuan Noodle Bowl: If you ignore the first part of the name, it is pretty good. The dan dan mein is just noodles in sesame paste, but the other things I've eaten there have been tasty.
Bamboo Garden: Probably the best so far, but they were stingy with the Sichuan peppercorns even for supposedly spicy dishes from the "wild side" menu. Still, it's a decent lead.
So far, the only really good Sichuan food I've had in the area was from Utopia Cafe. Despite the fact that I'm a beer-drinking white guy with a beard, they happily gave me full-on spicy food that actually delivered on the promise of Fuchsia Dunlop's recipes. Alas, it has already been replaced by a generic-looking Vietnamese restaurant.
My remaining leads are Spiced, on the far side of Bellevue, and Three Sisters, in Tacoma. Is that really it? Where do you guys go for authentic Sichuan? Do you have any tips for getting places like Bamboo Garden and Spicy Talk not to assume that you're just some sweet-and-sour-pork-eating sissy?
15015 Main St, Bellevue, WA 98007
202 106th Pl NE, Bellevue, WA 98004
Szechuan Noodle Bowl
420 8th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104