Well, I've now been four times in the last several weeks, and have only begun to scratch the surface of the enormous menu, along with the dozens of "off-menu" specials.
This is not the (tepid, lacklustre) Joe's that many folks remember from years past -- apparently there are new owners (last two years or so?) and quite obviously a new kitchen staff. The focus is on sichuan cusine --and it seems to my uneducated palate to be fairly authentic (that is to say, it doesn't resemble what passes for "szechuan" food at the mine run of chinese restaurants).
I don't have much to compare it to except for one recent (delicious) meal at the vaunted, Chowhound favorite Grand Sichuan Int'l in Manhattan, but having said that, I'm inclined to say that this is the most interesting, most consistently eye-opening chinese food that I've had in this area in some time, and almost a match for GSI. A quite amazing array of different tastes, textures, preparations. I've loved just about everything I've had.
For what it's worth, the place has been fairly crowded when I've been there -- usually late in the lunch hour on the weekends -- and I don't recall seeing any non-Chinese clientele other than my own party. Of course, I don't subscribe to the myth that the best chinese restaurants are necessarily those with the most chinese customers, but in this case I think it's an indication that something worthwhile, or notable, at least, is going on at Joe's.
Is there anyone out there more knowledgeable than I about sichuan food who can confirm my suspicions that this is a real find? Are there any other worthwhile sichuan restaurants in the area to which it can be compared? I've heard a couple of stirrings about Peking Village in Fairfax (apparently the name is a misnomer) -- anyone been?
I think Joe's would be a great place for a Chowhound event -- hey, if enough hounds showed up, perhaps we could even check out, say, 5% of the menu.
Oh, by the way, you'd be hard-pressed to spend more than about $15 per person, unless you're planning to take quite a bit of food home.
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