A group of eight Reno-area Chowhounds and their friends/significant others held a Chowdown Thursday night at Oriental Express in Sparks with great success.
The idea originally was to have food off a special menu in Chinese that Oriental Express introduced a few months back. Only three of our items, the spicy chicken, the eggplant and the Sichuan tofu, came off that menu. The rest were specially prepared by Oriental Express for our meal.
It was all great. If you were looking for sweet-and-sour chicken, this wasn't the place to be. These were authentic Chinese food items, many with a Sichuan orientation.
The first three items were appetizers: lobster chips, purple meatballs and Chinese spareribs. The purple meatballs were meatballs covered with a sticky rice. The spareribs may have been my favorite item of the night. They're not like any other ribs I've gotten in Chinese restaurants. They were meatier and and had a darker, heavier sauce for flavor. I liked them quite a bit.
We also got fish served in a kind of soup. There was oil and peppers in the soup. You didn't eat the fish like soup. Rather, you pulled out the fish and bok choi and put it on your rice. Also quite tasty. Glenn noticed they used peppercorn on the fish.
Another dish was called tiger skin jalapenos. They took the seeds out of larger jalapeno peppers and grilled served them. They weren't too spicy.
Also we got Sichuan eggplant, which was mildly spicy. Some thought it was one of the better dishes of the night.
I had warned everyone that the spicy chicken would be spicy. When it came, everybody realized I wasn't kidding. It had both red and green fresh peppers and the dried peppers common in Chinese cooking. NVJim and I both liked it. Everyone else seemed to think it was too hot. I have a one-word response to that: Sissies.
We also got a tofu dish that was pretty nice. Like a spicier version of mapo tofu. The last dish of the night was a beef stew soup. Lots of flavorful, tender beef and a tasty broth, I liked this quite a bit, too.
The bill for all of this came to $133, so it was lots of good food for a reasonable price. I liked it so much I think I'll have to do it again.
From left to right are the lobster chips, purple meatballs, Chinese spareribs, fish dish, Sichuan eggplant, tiger skin jalapenos, spicy chicken, Sichuan tofu and beef stew soup.