A new Chinese restaurant has opened in the space previously occupied by Hong Fu, which until it closed recently served very decent Shanghainese food. The new restaurant's name, Dragon Asian Bistro, does not suggest anything in the way of culinary sophistication. But DAB is in fact serving very good Sichuan food -- good enough that I have a hard time imagining going to any other restaurant in downtown Highland Park for now.
DAB's menu consists almost entirely of classic Sichuan dishes, except for a page at the back offering "Hibachi" and maybe a couple of other Americanizations. Unlike Hong Fu, there are no separate menus, and all of the dishes are translated into English.
I've tried three of their dishes:
-Shredded tofu with spicy sauce. These are cut like thin noodles, and served cold in a chili oil similar to what one finds in other Sichuan chilled noodle dishes. This dish is close to being excellent. The only thing holding it back is the tofu, which I found slightly too dry.
-Mapo tofu. A very solid rendition of this dish. Not quite ma enough for my taste, and it was served with firm tofu, which is to my knowledge not the traditional preparation (and not one that I preferred).
-Chongqing chicken. Excellent -- one of the best versions of this dish that I've had. There was a lot of attention to detail in this dish. The chicken is mostly served on the bone, and was fried perfectly -- the outside was coated in a crispy fry, while the inside retained its tenderness. It was cooked with a large amount of fresh ginger, a non-overwhelming quantity of red chili peppers, and green peppers that had been prepared in a manner similar to tiger skin peppers. These green peppers were a complete novelty to me in this dish, and they were great as a smoky and slightly sweet accompaniment to the chicken.
For people who care about this sort of thing, the service is very friendly, and the plating is unusually nice for this sort of restaurant. They were only half full on a Friday night, so I guess word is still getting around. My main concern is that the name will draw in customers who get scared by the intestine dishes, etc, illustrated vividly on the menu, and that the restaurant will start dumbing things down. Hopefully enough Chow interest in this restaurant can help to prevent that....