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In April William and I hopped off Hwy 85 in Cupertino/San Jose for a dinner break. When our server asked if we had been here before, I told him that I'd eaten at three different restaurants that previously occupied this venue next to the halal butcher shop. He said that new owner took over four months ago. We were given two menus. One was a single sheet of dumplings, noodles and simple dishes. The other was a heavy bound version with blown up illustrations of Hunan and Sichuan specialties, plus a section of American Chinese dishes identified on the front as Hunan Cuisine Si Jie Sichuan Restaurant (located in Fremont). Trying to decide if this was a Hunan or Sichuan specialist, the answer shouted out when the first big photo in the menu was Chairman Mao's pork belly (mao shi hong shou rou). Since they put that iconic Hunan dish in front, let's go with that.
Hong shao rou, $17, was presented quite beautifully in an imperial yellow tureen with each precisely cut cube of pork belly arranged just so.
The saucing was less thick and dark than other examples I've had locally, and plenty oily with pig fat. I loved the balance of flavors . . . not too spicy, just enough sugar without being candied and subtle herbal nuances. Despite being barely warm, the rind and fat layer melted in the mouth and the striated flesh offered not much more resistance to the tooth. My brother commented, &quot;This is very good. But we probably shouldn't eat more than two pieces each.&quot;
Suan cai yu (pickled cabbage with fish fillets), $14, one of our favorite but not well-known Sichuan dishes was particularly fish-heavy here with less of the chicken-fish stock. Our server confirmed that we liked &quot;spicy&quot;. Even though we picked out the floating red chilis immediately, this dish hit us as the hottest version either of us have tried. Hurts so good.
But what about those buns?!? Sheng jian bao, $9, had thin, tender leavened bread dough wrappings and crunchy, well-browned bottoms. It was easy to punch a small hole in the top of my first one to release the steam before biting. Picking it up after waiting a few moments apparently alarmed our server who ran over to the table, cautioning, &quot;Be careful! Very hot!&quot;
Plenty of juices inside, more than the tiny spoon could catch. The flavor of the lean pork meatball and soup was rather plain and could have used more fat. And ginger. And salt too. Wish the flavor were better, as these were baked so well. The seam-side down bottoms were beautiful golden brown and crusty.
More seems to be said on the web about the glitzy interior with mirror tiles on the walls, bright lights and paper lanterns, and shiny metallic upholstery than the food. Maybe we didn't quite love the buns, yet I'd probably get them again. And the Hunan/Sichuan chef seems to be competent.
Love My Buns
1530 S De Anza Blvd
San Jose, CA
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