I visted this place last Friday with two friends (one of them Chinese) for lunch, and I just wanted to report what we found. I think it's fair to say we found it excellent. My Chinese friend (who is from Beijing) dislikes most of the other Chinese food she's had here, so perhaps her liking this place really means something. Or it could be just because she doesn't like Cantonese food very much.
As has been posted earlier, this is the restaurant that was in Greenwood across from Gordito's (apparently that one was sold to a waitress and is still there, serving the same menu, and still good). I never went to the previous incarnation, so I don't know how they compare. The new location is 1207 S. Jackson, in that magical part of the Intl. Dist. so often discussed on this board (you can see Malay Satay Hut out the window), in the second story of a strip mall. They've only been there for 3 weeks, but I was really distressed by the fact that we were the only people there for lunch! In a big room! I hope they do better at dinner. I would think the Chowhounds alone would bring in more than 3 people for a Friday lunch.
OK, on to the food. When we sat down they gave us a plate with these amazing marinated peanuts sitting next to a kimchi like concoction of spicy pickled vegetables. With a free appetizer like that you always know good things are coming. My friend did all the ordering in Chinese, so I have no idea what was said, but I think she asked to try their specialties. The first to arrive was the Chongquing chicken (according to my friend), which may or may not be the same as the Chong Gin Hot Chicken listed on the menu. Anyway, it was served cold (or at least lukewarm) in a bowl with some vegetables and spices (and more peanuts, hard and crispy this time) in a broth, and was delightful. I wish I knew what the flavoring was---maybe fennel bulb? The only annoying thing was the presence of bones in the chicken pieces, which got a bit messy. Then arrived the crab, which may or may not be the Szechuan Crab listed on the menu. It had been fried and was served coated in a sort of salty chili oil spice mixture that was delicious and got all over your fingers. The frying made the junctions between the legs and body get all puffy and spice coated and delicious. Very messy to eat, as crab always is, but they provide many napkins and a bowl of warmed water to wash up with. We also had the steamed dumpling appetizer, which was fine but unexciting compared to the other dishes. And also the tea leaf smoked duck, which may or may not be the same as the Szechuan smoked duck. It was richly fatty and had incredible smoked flavor---it kept reminding me of ham, but was better. It came with a dipping sauce which we did not discover till the duck was all gone, unfortunately. We ended up wishing we had ordered something with a few vegetables, but we were full and happy and it didn't really matter.
They have lots and lots of other things to try, such as Smoking Pork with Garlic Leaf and Sour Shredded Potato etc etc etc, so we'll be back for further research. Anyway, I encourage people to go conduct their own experiments. It scares me to see so many empty seats in such an enjoyable space. Prices ranged from $6 to $10 per item, by the way, with a few things on the menu as high as $12. Slightly pricier than the Sichuan Noodle Place across street, but the broader range of flavors made it worth it. Enjoy, and please let me know what you think!
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