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Chef Z's opened this spring, taking over the food court venue from Sichuan Chili (http://www.chowhound.com/post/sichuan... ). The current owner-chef, who came out to our table to check on us, was born in Kunming and raised in Chongqing and his wife is from Kunming. This makes his spin on Sichuan classics a little different than prepared by Chengdu chefs. And the menu includes some Kunming/Yunnan specialties as well.
Sliced beef with beef stomach strips in chili sauce (fuqi fei pian) - Chili sauce was extremely salty and tasted more of soy sauce than chili or spicing. Beef was tough and dry, being sliced too thick did not help.
Dan dan noodle with spicy ground pork sauce - Served cold, the chewy noodles used were great. Rather faintly spiced and too sugary in the balance. A small amount of ya cai was visible but not really perceived on the palate.
Chongqing style fried chicken with bone - Now we're talking, as might be expected, the chef from Chongqing excels with this dish. Not as spicy as the pile of chile flakes would suggest, there was no Sichuan peppercorn shortage either for a solid ma-la hit. Ordered bone-in, the cut sections of wing joints were lightly dusted and deep-fried yielding crunchy skin and juicy succulent meat. Nearly greaseless, making the overall impression lighter yet so addictive.
Crispy rice cake with assorted meat - Strips of chicken and fish as well as shrimp in a thickened gingery gravy with tomato, wood ear and scallions was poured over the crispy rice triangles at the table. This gave the palate a break from the spicy dishes.
Pickled cabbage stir fried potato - The first time I've seen this variant of the Sichuan potato strips on a menu. The chef said that this was Kunming style. Perfectly executed with waxy firm potatoes, wok seasoning, smoky and lightly spicy chile pepper notes and the pickled lilt made for my favorite dish of the night. Highly recommended.
Chef Zheng is quite personable and enjoys chatting with customers. His cooking was a mixed bag and a step down from the overall fine quality served up by its predecessors Sichuan Chili and Chef Ma's earlier. Yet, the execution of the potatoes and the Chongqing la zi ji shows promise of other gems to be uncovered here if one orders strategically. I would return and will probably focus on Yunnan and Chongqing specialties, such as the Chongqing xiao mian listed on the menu as Chongqing legend noodle in spicy soup.
1600 S De Anza Blvd
San Jose, CA 95129
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