With the Chengdu Food & Cultural Festival slated to kick off this week in San Francisco, dreams of ma-la cuisine lead me to start a little early on exploring Sichuan eats. http://www.chowhound.com/post/nov-10-... A few days ago I headed to Tofu Village for a solo lunch. Formerly a Korean restaurant of the same name, it switched over to Chinese last year and the chef from Chengdu introduced a menu of Sichuan specialties. Studying the photos on its Facebook page in advance, the dandan mian and suan ni bai rou looked particularly good.
#34 Pork with garlic sauce (蒜泥白肉, suan ni bai rou), $7.50 did not disappoint. Surprisingly, the presentation was as depicted online, and it tasted as good as it looks. The slices of poached pork belly were layered with thin shavings of cucumber then rolled. The garlic "mud" was the pureed style with sweet roasted caramelized tones and medium spiciness.
#90, Szechuan Dan Dan Noodle, (四川担担面, dandan mian), $6.95 was pretty good. A small bowl of chewy noodles topped with scallions and coarsely chopped pork in a ma-la spiced creamy sesame-scented sauce was accented with fresh pea shoots. There was no detectable ya cai for a briny highlight.
Tofu Village also offers a long list of lunch specials for $7.95. Unlike other Chinese restaurants, the selection includes some of the Sichuan dishes as well, not just Americanized offerings. So I took the opportunity to try a little more. The lunch special included two vegetable side dishes, soup of the day, rice, and choice of entree. While the corn and egg flower soup was forgettable, I did enjoy the crunchy salt-cured celery and sweet red peppers and the spicy bean sprouts.
On the lunch, I tried Poached fish fillet in chili sauce aka water boiled fish (水煮鱼片, shui zhu yu pian) as my entree choice. Made with the ubiquitous "sole", this was a lovely version full of Sichuan peppercorns and dried red chile pepper spitfire. Under the garlicky hot red oil slick lurked Napa cabbage, bean sprouts, Chinese celery, scallions, ginger and cilantro. When my waitress noticed that I had hardly touched this dish, she offered to make it less spicy next time. I begged her to not change a thing, this was entirely as it should be.
The spice levels were varied across the dishes I ordered and true to type. With the streets torn up outside, the construction noise was annoying for now but otherwise, the simple setting was light, bright and inviting. Upstairs (no elevator), the mezzanine has two large round tables to seat 8 or 12 diners that would be good for a private party. With friendly and attentive service and a kitchen that can deliver robust flavors with finesse, Tofu Village made an excellent first impression.
1920 Irving St
San Francisco, CA
Earlier mentions of Tofu Village, http://www.chowhound.com/post/aruba-t...