I have become a regular at Chung King lately - Sichuan place much raved about. No further commentary necessary. Favorite dishes: beef and tofu hot pot and fish slices on the specials menu, and cold noodles. Favorite appetizers: ginger-marinated beef tendon, boiled peanuts with anise, seaweed.
But I wanted to post a brief note: I went there for the fourth time with a friend who speaks Chinese, who lived in northern China for a while, and who had a nice long chat with the waitress, and turned to me and said, "Look, Sichuan needs beer, and this place has no liquor license, but she says we can go buy some beer at the liquor store up the street."
Anyway - yeah - Sichuan and lagers is like steak and red wine, or like sake and those little goddamn Japanese rice snacks that I've been eating a bag of every night. Lagers restore the taste to ones tongue.
My feeling: go for a clean, cheap beer. Anything that has any hops taste to it will linger on your tongue and interfere with the Sichuan peppercorn action. Beer from spicy countries is invariably near-flavorless and cooling - most beer nuts hate 'em until they are halfway into a Sichuan hot pot, praying for their mothers, and trying to scrape off their tongues with a fork. I love, say, Anchor Steam Liberty, but I do not understand people who would drink a hoppy beer with Chinese food. I particularly do not understand people who drink wine with Chinese food. I get mad crazy interference. Anyway - we went with Rolling Rock. Doesn't taste completely like ass, and it restored my taste buds every time for the next assault. If I had prep time, I might have gotten a tub full of Singha. 7 of us tucked 3 six packs under the table and went through it by the end of the meal.
Oh: interesting comment from the friend who lived in Sichuan: she says the food in Sichuan is not insanely spicy. It is the Taiwanese who have transformed Sichuan into the concetrating pure edge of spice love. Chung King, she says, is Taiwanese-style Sichuan, and an exceptionally good example of it.