“What a find!” says elise h. It’s Panda Country Kitchen, and it’s got some mean Szechuan—and Chongqing, and northern Chinese—dishes. “The list of house special dishes shows a surprising amount of regional, unusual dishes such as charred fire pork chitlins, chong qing style spicy chicken, chestnut with chicken stew, braised beef tendon, duck cooked with taro, and phoenix pork kidney flower.” The food is delicious, and an incredible bargain. And we do mean incredible: At lunch, three full-size dishes, rice, and soup ran her $14.
Melanie Wong was a little worried by the presence of a subtle, Cantonese-style soup and a Cantonese waitress, but the Szechuan dishes are fully Szechuan. There are plenty of whole peppercorns and dried chile peppers. Shredded pork with smoked tofu is excellent. The small strips of pork are lean but still tender and juicy, and the dish is full of the natural sweetness of the meat. The knife work was not precise, and the pork was not as finely cut as it should be for this dish, but the taste was all there.
Mapo doufu shows off the full flames of ma la’s numb-tingly power. It’s soft and silky tofu, nubs of course ground pork, complex spicing, and loads of Szechuan peppercorn and red chile pepper firepower, for a full-on Szechuan attack.
Eggplant Szechuan is lovely, says elise h: spicy, and a little sweet. It’s a dry-fried eggplant dish, with an acceptable amount of chile oil coating the bottom of the dish, but not a hint of the dreaded gloppy sauce. Dry-cooked green beans are nicely seared.
You may want to request spicier for everything—there is a chance Panda’s giving some visitors the gringo treatment.
Panda Country Kitchen [Richmond]
4737 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco