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Chef Zhao recently opened a second location in San Mateo. Permanent menus will come soon, but I ordered from what might have been an old menu from their Mountain View location ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/881994 ). There are lots of photographs on the menu, and it looks to be curated towards Sichuan dishes.
Sichuan green beans : awesome. crisp, wrinkled and potently flavored with garlic and a generous dose of ya cai (http://www.fuchsiadunlop.com/sichuane... )
Spicy beef with soft tofu (something like that...) : on its own, the beef struck me as over tenderized, but its soft texture works here as a middle ground between the crunchy chile flakes, Sichuan peppercorns, and deep fried soybeans on top and the soft tofu below. They don't hold back on the numbing spice from the red Sichuan peppercorns.
The chef (owner?) is from Chengdu and he came out of the kitchen to ask how the customers liked everything. I took that as an opportunity to ask him some questions about Sichuan peppercorns. With the help of the woman who works the front of the house, he explained that he uses red Sichuan peppercorns (花椒, Hua jiao, "flower peppers") for their numbing power in fiery hot dishes flooded with chili oil, and that he uses green Sichuan peppercorns (藤椒, Teng jiao, "Vine peppers") in dishes that emphasize light and fresh flavors. He whipped up a sauce using green Sichuan peppercorns and scallions so I could appreciate this distinction on some tofu from the above dish. Next time, I'm going to order a cold dish pictured on the menu consisting of poached chicken and a green Sichuan peppercorn sauce.
Closed Tuesdays, takes credit. Mostly square tables, but there's one round table big enough for a party of ~10.
Chef Zhao Bistro (in the former Jade Garden space)
2450 S El Camino Real
San Mateo, CA 94403
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