*** Another post on Spicy House can be found here.
I mentioned that Shanghai City was gone in this post. A few days later the sign went up announcing "Spicy House". Of course being the good Chinese Restaurant they were schedule to open on 08/08. I was told by several sources that this place was run by the group that owns Spicy City. For some reason, I've never been enamored with Spicy City, but thought we should give this place a try.
And like most of these types of restaurants, there's a selection of cold dishes on display. The interesting thing, was there was one item that gave signal that there was something more then the signature Sichuan-Yunnan Spicy City thing going on here.
After a brief discussion with the Server, the Missus found out that they have three chefs working here. They've retained the original Shanghainese Chef, which is why I saw several of the old Shanghai City menus, and have brought on a Sichuan Chef, and a Hunan Chef. Now this sounded interesting, but I was still not sold....... and especially after having a selection of the cold dishes.
The Fuqi Feipian was too tough, and lacked Sichuan Peppercorn. The pig's ear was also lacking in flavor. The Kaufu, wheat gluten was too chewy, not melt in the mouth soft as, say what they serve at Tianjin Bistro.
The pickled long beans were also disappointing; salty, but lacking that true pickled flavor. Earlier in the week, I tried to explain the difference between salty and briney to someone.... and these were a pretty good example.
We were ready to be underwhelmed when our Dried String Beans with Duck($10.99) arrived.
Man, this smelled good! It was a sort of hybrid Sichuan/Hunan dish. The dried green beans, sliced into tiny pieces, almost like a brunoise, were nice savory surprises. Three different types of chilies were used, and the orange/red peppers we enjoy with many Hunan dishes added a nice, fruity sweetness. The addition of minced ginger, slices of garlic, and peanuts, meant that every bite would have a different flavor. The duck was typical of Hunan/Sichuan dishes; it was less meaty, more chewy, with a mild gamey flavor. Not too many seeds as is typical with Hunan dishes, but there were a few there. Not quite Hunan Chilli King, but not bad.
There were a couple of things that surprised us about the Crisp Fish with Pepper ($10.99):
First was the portion size, it was huge. This was all fish, there wasn't anything in the middle or bottom to "prop up" the food. Second, we noticed this was eel! We found out later that it was supposed to be Crispy Fried Eel with Chilies on the menu, but there was some mix-up. Third was the distinct smell of one of my favorite seasonings hitting me when the dish arrived..... the smell of cumin. And yet, the flavor of cumin was in the background.... I think it was added to the batter. Though the middle pieces were on the greasier side, the pieces of fish on the outside were nice and crisp. I'd say this was a pseudo-Sichuan dish, as there were Sichuan Peppercorns present, though not in large quantities. An interesting note was, even though this dish looks aggressively flavored, you could still make out the taste of the sesame seeds that topped the dish. The Missus, who loves Chinese Eel dishes, thought this was good. Strangely, I thought the dish could have used more salt!
The dishes we had shows enough promise.... i think we'll be back to try more in the future. The service was adequate.... though on a very hot day, they seemed to not want to turn on the A/C which made me do a "double sweat".... one from the chilies, the other from the heat! The portion sizes were generous, and the prices pretty good. We were sad to see Shanghai City go, but this place shows some promise.
3860 Convoy Street #105
San Diego, CA 92111