Granted, the last time I had done this was January 2009. Sichuan Pavilion, located in God’s country in beautiful downtown Rockville, Maryland, is of course awash in praise from folks like Tyler Cowen who make a point to know these things (well, he certainly does not know economics). Indeed my own memory was pleasant as well – come to think of it, I need to expound more on Sichuan in general instead of shorter posts (well with the exception of Mala Tang). Of course all of this prefaces my visit recently to Sichuan Pavilion as part of a lovely evening in clearly the nicest place on earth – and while Sichuan Pavilion is a rock solid thumbs up, Cowen’s relative comparison to Hong Kong Palace is simply incorrect.
For this occasion, we got a chance to enjoy a mega family style sort of feast of all sorts of food. The nice thing about this is that – well, you’re full, you try a lot of things, and get a solid cross-section of insights about the restaurant. So, how was EVERYTHING??
- Cold Noodles in Spicy Sesame Sauce – edible, but not very good. The sauce resembled a fairly standard Satay type of deal flavorwise. There was nothing memorable here.
- Lotus Root Salad – a decent job. Lotus root, in addition to looking nifty, has a jicama like quality to it. That said, the salad did not pop.
- Cucumber Salad – not as good as Mala Tang. I like cucumber though.
- ChengDu Dumplings – Sichuan flavored Pork Dumplings. Are you kidding me? Of course these were yummy. The sauce though lacked the complexity and multiple notes of other places. It was just not as floral, and the Sichuan Peppercorn was muted.
- Ma Pu Tofu – a block and tackling sort of dish I understand. The sauce was flavorful, although once again muted in the Sichuan flavors – a cuisine that normally attacks you in a good way. I guess some will call it subtle, and I am a Cro-Magnon. However, the subtlety can be there while the flavors are assertive – they aren’t mutually exclusive.
- Cured Pork Belly and Chinese Sausage with Garlic Sprouts – lovely. Arguably the best dish of the night. Of course it is bacon and sausage – so how can that not be awesome? It feels like there was a lower bar to achieve here.
- String Beans with Ya Chai – I have no idea what this Ya Chai is. I mean I learned, it is preserved vegetable, but it is essentially a seasoning. That added to string beans made a really tasty vegetable. It was probably the best dish of the night since they did not have that pig meat head start.
- Chili Chicken – My tablemate was looking for the amazing fried chicken with stuffed chili peppers of Hong Kong Palace. Heck, so was I. But alas, this is a standard chicken dish. It is spicy – the peppers do give the heat, but not a lot else. The chicken was also overdone, and sort of became too tough.
Overall, this is a solid B+ performance. It is an excellent choice for Chinese, but Uncle Liu’s empire need not worry. God I could use some Hong Kong Palace …