We had a great day today checking out the new years festivities in china town. While the dragon dance was, perhaps, not as explosive as in SF, there is something quite stimulating about the taiko-like chinese drumming (I know china's culture is in many ways the origin of japanese culture, not vice versa) and the dragon's jolting dancing.
Our appetites were stimulated so my wife and son and I tried the well referenced Spring World in the chinatown mall.
1. Under the bridge noodles: A theatrical dish. First a small plate with chicken, fish filets, and shrimp flattened paper thin and plastered to its surface. Along with this, a bowl filled with Yuba, green onions, 1/4 inch cubes of fried tofu, and scallions. Then a ceramic bowl of still vigorously boiling broth was brought to the table. The ingredients were added to/flash cooked in the broth, along with some noodles- consistency was like a lighter udon, caliber roughly that of chow mein.
It was not the most flavorful dish, but was a satisfying broth with elegant ingredients like yuba and paper thin fillets, that was akin to a yunnanese chicken noodle soup with the yuba replacing matsah balls.
2. Jellyfish with green onion paste. A refreshing dish. The textural bite of the julliened jelly fish accented by a salty oniony dressing. I liked this dish, but prefer the japanese version which has a more sour and sweet dressing with toasted sesame to offset the saltiness of the fish itself.
3. Beef with wild mushrooms. This was a revelation. Thin slices of beef, thinner slices of porcini mushrooms(boletus edulous as identified by the board's mycologists) garlic, szechuan peppers, jalapeno slices, and minced onion flash stirfried in a spicy, oily soy sauce. The texture of the soft slices of starch dredged beef played beautifully off of the thin al dente porcini slices . the flavor play however between the salty beefy juice of the meat and the woody, truffle like perfume of the mushrooms was perfect. Just perfect. and the oily spicy sauce was chinese at its best. No starchy suspension, this was the simple compination of salty soy, firey peppers, garlic and onion infused oil and most importantly the juices/fond from the incredible ingredients. This goes on my lifetime top ten dishes list, guaranteed.
4. Scallops and snow peas with a garlic sauce. This was suggested (and cooked) by the owner as something my three year old would enjoy. He did, and so did we. It was composed from a bed of crisp, steamed snowpeas, upon which were laid about 10 perfecty fried discs of scallop, each about 1.5 inches in diameter, and 1/4 inch thick. Over all of this was a rich golden garlicky sauce. The dish was simple without being simplistic. Wonderful flavor ensemble, perfect execution.
5. Young chicken in ginger spicey sauce. A heaping mound of 1/4 inch cubes of young chicken meat, covered in a fiery, sauce redolent with the flavor of szechan peppers, garlic, ginger, spring onion, and (are you ready for this) caraway seeds. I dont really think of caraway seeds when I think of, well, anything but rye bread, but hey....it worked. The real star of this dish however was the young chicken. The meat was firmer than chicken, no stringiness or dryness in the breast meat, and the texture was just plumper, juicier, and more resistant to the bite. It was to chicken as lamb is to mutton, more subtley flavored with a more supple texture. I would like to try it in a simpler sauce a la the beef with wild mushrooms.
Finally the service was great. When we gave our order to the man (who I assume is the owner, he seemed to take a great interest in us, and even offered to cook the beef, young chicken, and scallops, himself.
And spying on the table next to us I spotted a whole fish with miso sauce, and a clay casserole of beef with vegitables that I can't wait to try. on our next visit.