Is usually reserved for when some good friends of mine visit. They like the place....I'm thinking because as a whole they don't like their Sichuan too spicy? Anyway, we were headed to the new hot pot place Red Cate. The lighted sign said open; it was just after 11, but they looked at us like we were from Mars when we entered. Apparently they don't open until noon. Sigh....
Anyway, the place filled up pretty quickly. We started with some liang cai, cold dishes.
The Fu Qui Fei Pian was the best of the lot, not too wet, cut perhaps a bit too thickly, but it at least had some of the nice salty-anise-chili tones along with a slight amount of "ma" (numbing), brought on by the Sichuan Peppercorns. The pig ears were cut too thin, which took away from the nice crunchiness and was pretty bland. The green beans....well, I know this sounds a bit strange, but I like this dish on the briny-salty side and this was kind of weak; though it had some numbingness to it.
Wanting something I hadn't had in a while; I ordered the Deep Fried Shrimp with Egg Yolk.
This was pretty good; though not nearly as savory and crisp as what Ba Ren used to serve (but what is?). It was still nicely crisp, if a bit too dense. The shrimp were fine, nice and moist, and there was even a bit of numbing in this as well. On the rich side; you can't eat too many, but pretty good overall.
It had been a while since I've had Shui Zhu Yu, so I decided to order that. Good lord, look at the portion size of this thing!
Strangely, this wasn't very spicy and lacked the doubian savory-spicy-beany flavor, or even anything to really cut the oil, making this seem a bit heavy and greasy. There was an abundance of fish; which hadn't been velveted too well, making it mealy and lacking the buttery texture of a masterfully prepared version of this. There were no off flavors though and in fact, the mung bean sprouts actually had a better flavor and texture than the fish had.
As is the new norm.....more about quantity than quality. Though, while the dishes had some of that good "ma" going, it was strangely short in the "la" (spicy) department.
3860 Convoy Street #105
San Diego, CA 92111
I'd been hearing that Szechuan Chef has been getting better over the last year or so. We couldn't figure out where to go for a relatively early lunch (just at 11), so we opted for here.
We shouldn't have opted for the liang cai, which was wasn't very good.
The Fu Qui Fei Pian lacked any hint if Sichuan Peppercorn and had some strange, almost Korean influenced type sauce on it. The pork stomach was very bland....I guess that makes the smacked cucumbers the winner by default?
I ordered what my favorite dish during my visits several years back; the Beef Sour Soup.
While not as bracingly sour; this was still pretty good. The preserved vegetable adding the nice sour tones and a good dose of white pepper keeps things interesting. This was nice and scalding hot; the thinly sliced hot pot cut beef was fine; but almost an after thought. A decent spice and mild ginger tones heightened the dish. This would be great stuff if you're ever under the weather.
Candice had mentioned a beef tendon dish that was really good. There were several on the menu; but I went with the Beef Tendon with Pickled Pepper (Pa Jiao). And while this really didn't have very much Pa Jiao in it; it was, by far, the best dish of the meal.
We really enjoyed the make-up of this dish. The tendon had been nicely cooked; toothsome, but not hard, some pieces almost buttery, and many slices had meat attached to it. What would usually be very tough meat, had become soft with an intense beefiness. Just spicy enough to help me develop a nice sheen on my forehead, this wasn't too hot. A touch of sour helped keep everything in balance.
The one clunker was the Stir Fried Kidney with Chilies.
As you can see; the kidney was over cooked, so it was like eating rubber bands. This wasn't very spicy and the overall flavor was pretty weak. I'm passing on this dish the next time.
Still, this was much better than meals I've had here before......really ncie service as well. Maybe because we were the only customers in the place?
4344 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111
So there you go....strangely, Spicy House, really lacked spice. And Szechuan Chef really lacked the numbing Sichuan Peppercorn flavor. So I guess that's the state of Sichuan food in San Diego....you have to choose "ma" (麻) or "la" (辣). Or perhaps the best Sichuan food in San Diego in made at a hybrid Dongbei "slash" Sichuan restaurant?