Six hungry hounds gathered on a warm night for some hot food at Little Sichuan in San Mateo. We ordered the dinner for six at $88 and added a few dishes to make sure we completely overwhelmed ourselves in terms of volume.
Overall, it was a fine meal with some huge hits and some big misses as well.
Here’s what we had:
Spicy Jelly Fish – easily a highlight. It’s all about texture with jellyfish and this was bright and springy, with a great spicy sauce full of Szechuan peppercorns. Sublime.
Cold Spiced Beef – thin slices of beef shank cooked with five-spice. Looked a bit lonely on the plate. Needed something....
Young Bamboo with Sweet Red Peppers – fresh-tasting but ultimately lost in the chili storm
Smoked Pressed Tofu Strips – standard smoked tofu but the sauce was delicious
Spicy Szechuan Cold Noodles – tasted fresh, the texture was right but I think others liked this more
Szechuan Salty Pickle Fish Soup – Excellent. A wonderful sour/salty flavor made this stand out. The fish chunks started to break up and thickened the soup. Would order this again.
Kung Pao Chicken – unremarkable. Not hot, not really flavorful. Avoid.
Dong Po Pork – yes!! This was a whole pork trotter served on the bone in a wonderful anise broth. Loved this. The broth was more pungent than previous Shanghai version I’ve had and it served as a nice break from all of the chilis.
Sizzling Rice Dried Squid – for me the worst dish of the night. The squid was cut oddly and tasted a bit dated. A plain, boring brown sauce. Avoid.
Spicy Shredded “Fish Flavored” Pork – this got better as I ate more. Very vinegary, in fact vinegar was all I tasted when it was piping hot. As it cooled down it came into balance.
Whole Fish in Spicy Bean Curd Sauce – this was only ok for me and didn’t stand out from other similar dishes I’ve had.
Steamed Powdery Tender Beef – I really wanted to like this more than I did. The beef wasn’t close to tender and my pieces had more bone than beef. The “powder” treatment was interesting texturally but couldn’t make up for the tired beef chunks.
Xin Jiang Stir-Fried Roasted Lamb with Cumin Powder – oh my god! This was a revelation and maybe the best Chinese dish of any variety I’ve had all year. Garlic, peppers, onions, and chilis all roasted down to an almost a hash-like consistency, tender lamb slices and a heavy shot of cumin. Eyes closed you may have thought it was a Mexican preparation. Wouldn’t be bad with fresh tortillas. Not a bit gritty despite all of the powder. Couldn’t stop eating this. Inspired.
Spicy Boiled Tender Beef – not good at all. How could they blow such a classic dish? One-dimensional – just heat. Tasted like beef plunked down into a thin spicy broth. No sautéed garlic. Oh, the disappointment.
For dessert – mochi filled with read bean paste and oranges
All of the above plus a round of beers, rice, tax, and tip came to $24/pp. – a tremendous value.
Thanks to Melanie for organizing and, as usual, it was a pleasure to dine with my fellow hounds.
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