Stop number 1 on today's South Bay Chow Tour (wonderfully organized by Lambert and Melanie) was House of Yu Rong in San Jose. (I guess that's not counting the tamale detour, with Lambert or the quick & light breakfast at Boulange de Cole right before we took the train down.)
I ended up with the menu and was going nuts trying to decide what not to get. Lots of great stuff on the first page that is only in Chinese. I wanted to try everything. Good thing Melanie was on hand to provide guidance based on her recent experience (see link below).
On the whole, the flavors at Yu Rong were wonderful, the cooking very finessed but the heat level was very mild -- I regretted forgetting to request extra heat. But very enjoyable nevertheless and I'd strongly recommend this place. Overall, I'd rank this better than Little Sichuan -- more delicate dishes and a vaster menu.
We focused on the small eats since we had a heavy chowing afternoon before us and wanted to pace ourselves but still sample a variety of dishes.
Here's a tour of the spicy flavors we tasted (as well as some lighter non-spicy ones for contrast):
numbing and spicy rabbit cubes ("tastes like chicken") -- a dark red spiciness, littered with sesame fragrance and textures of peanuts and wilted scallions. Bone fragments made things a bit difficult, but I tohught it worth the trouble.
fragrant oil spring bamboo shoots with a light sharp snap
red oil dumplings - good stuff! heat from the red chilli oil is sweetened with a soy-based fermented sweet sauce. Lovely complexity of flavors backed up by well crafted dumplings. Probably the majority favorite this afternoon.
red oil clam slices - the red chilli oil here is light and lovely, dressing the crisp thinly sliced giant clams in an equally thin aura of spiciness
sichuan cold noodles - the heat adds to the slight sweetness of the aromatic peanut/sesame coat on the good chewy noodles. Much better than the one I had at little sichuan last week. Still, I'd hand a slight edge to the version at Sunset Star in the Sunset for the addition of bean sprouts to give a slightly fresh raw crunch for contrast.
garlic "mud" pork slices - spiciness here takes a garlicky turn with the deeper complexity of soy sauce. Added soft crunches from slices of chinese zuchinni (anyone know the right name for this?).
shrimp with spring onions - shrimps cooked just right, with a glistening resilence.
dry fried eel - clean flavors and a slight amount of heat, sweetened this time with peppers and onions
water cooked pork slices - a rounded rich spiciness littered with flakes of peppercorns. A good old sichuan standby succeeds pleasurably. At the bottom, scallions and napa cabbage for a soft vegetable crunch.
tea smoked duck - a supple earthy duck, with delicious depth and (in lieu of a better word) smokiness.
green peppers with potato -- good lightly cooked stripes of potato still left with an crunch not unlike soft apple
I skipped the dou4 hua1 a.k.a. tofu flower -- it's a typical szechuan dessert I believe, but also very common in SE Asia -- Lambert had plans for a good vietnamese version which we enjoyed later that afternoon.
Things that I'm still curious about:
the eight treasure tea (last had this back in Singapore...forgot they had this and ordered chrysanthemum tea which I thought was the closest approximation)
chengdu rice dumplings/balls
varieties of pig's blood
numbing spicy beef tendons
steamed twisted bun (in lieu of rice)
Once again, many thanks to Melanie and Lambert for picking this restaurant. This was a winner.