Chowdown Update -- Menu Comments?
The Place: Lao Sze Chuan
2172 S Archer Av
The Date: Sunday, Sept 2, 2001
The Time: 7:00
The Guests: The current count is 17, as delineated in VI's post below. (We are all right re: money, if as few as 13 show up.)
The Current Menu:
An Assortment of Hot and Cold Appetizers
Seafood and Tofu Soup
Spicy Salt and Pepper Crab
Whole fish with Tofu and Spicy Sauce
Dry Chili Rabbit
Szechuan Eggplant (Veggie)
Peapod sprouts with Frsh Garlic (veggie)
Lamb with Pure Cumin
The cost: $25 / Person. (i think this includes tip, but I think I'll call to double check: does anyone who's arranged something like this before have any idea if it's standard to include or not include tip?)
Booze: BYO! (There was no mention of a corkage fee)
Notes: Please peruse the menu and let me know if there are any glaring omissions, unbalanced elements, etc. For thems that have access to a menu, let me know if there are any items there that seem like must-eats. I myself was waffling between the Twice fried pork with Cilantro JiaZhou style and the Lamb dish. Vincent (tony's partner) is very willing to make changes during the week this week, so please don't be shy about expressing your preferences. I'm also dubious about the crab, but Vincent seemed insistent that everyone would like it. Do we need dessert or would our dollars be better spent on sampling another entree or two?
I'm looking forward to meeting you all on Sunday...
I am borrowing a Sony Mavica from work, so we'll have quick snaps. If there's someone who wants to take care of putting the pictures up, please bring some IBM-formatted floppies so you can take them home with you. (someone could bring a laptop so we could copy them for folks too)
One comment on the menu. If that rabbit dish is the one they call "Crazy Woman Rabbit", it was disappointing. Plenty hot, but not much flavor (and as Melanie Wong says, Szechuan has plenty of flavor), and the rabbit was tough.
About 18 of us ate there a few weeks ago celebrating a couple of our birthdays. We ended up purely serendipitously with one spicy table and one non-spicy table. I suggest you all do the same if you can.
Having been unemployed for six months as fallout from the dot-com-bomb, I can't afford to be there Sunday, but I'll enjoy it vicariously.
All righty. In light of Melanie's comments here and on the advice of the hounds on the general topics board I have added one dish to our menu: a szechuan spicy dumpling entree, which I hope will turn out to be like this thing that Limster (?) describes: hong you chao shou (small wontons in a red chile oil sauce). And I think that we should leave the dessert in place.
Furthermore, i asked Vincent about the tip, and he said that it would be on top of the $ 25 per person. So...Assuming 17% tip, that brings us to 29.25 per person. Does this push the price out of the range of reasonability for anyone? Let me know soon (as in today or tomorrow--my email is above), so that I can renegotiate with the restaurant.
1 - I will bring a bottle or two of wine (probably white)
2 - my guest's comments on the menu:
"Seems to be a decent mix of spicy and not spicy; tilted towards the spicy, but this is a Szechuan restaurant. I would advise strongly against dessert, not just additional ones but even the fruit and pudding listed. Dessert is not a Chinese tradition. This means that 1) it's not authentic and part of our goal is authenticity and 2) it's probably not going to be very good. I like the idea of lamb; it's a bit alien to standard Chinese cuisine but very authentic with the kinda-muslim population, who tend to use lamb instead of the usual pork.
Sorry to butt in again, but these comments on dessert and lamb were so odd to me, I had to say something.
Hong Kong has the highest per capita fresh orange consumption in the world because slices of orange will be served as a fruit plate after nearly every meal. At fancier restaurants, depending on the season, you'll also have some mangos, melon or muscat-type grapes on the fruit platter. Before the fruit plate will be a warm thick dessert soup, such as red bean, tapioca and taro, coconut and lotus root, etc. For special occasions, a sticky rice pudding called Eight Treasures (or Precious) will end the banquet. If this is the rice pudding your restaurant is serving, it's absolutely authentic. You can read a further description in Jim Leff's account of his Hang Zhou banquet.
Keep in mind that there is no "standard Chinese" cuisine just as there is no such thing as standard Italian. Chinese cuisine is regional cooking. Lamb is widely used in northern dishes, even in non-Muslim places.
You can follow the thread linked below for advice to me from Limster on what to order at one of our local Szechuan restaurants. Most of the dishes at an authentic place will be so hot, they'll blow your head off. If the folks in your group are capsicum-shy, be sure they leave a water pitcher at your table and have lots of beer handy. Ice cream helps too.
The lamb with cumin dish Limster recommended was one of the most delicious and evocative lamb preparations I've ever tasted. If it's prepared half as well for your dinner, you're in for a real treat.
re: Melanie Wong
Melanie, I've read your posts with great interest ever since you started posting here, and loved them all. But what you said about water and spicy foods contradicts everything I've ever heard about the subject. From what I understand, drinking beer or water after eating something too spicy only makes the situation worse. I can't remember the explanation exactly, but it goes something like this: capiscum is an oil-based substance, and when you mix oil and water together, it just causes the oil to spread out in a thin layer all over your mouth.
In my experience, it's much better to quickly grab and eat something absorbent-- like plain rice or plain noodles or tortillas or cornbread or whatever traditional accompaniment is handy. This soaks up the oil and prevents it from spreading further. Follow that up, if possible, with a milk product (or anything else with a basic ph). As you mentioned, ice cream works well for this.
Try it and see!
re: Beth P.
What you've said is all true. I'm suggesting the extra liquids as accompaniments to the meal. Water alone will not shake loose the chili oils. The alcohol and acid in beer will, cleansing the palate to be assaulted by chilis again. I like the alternating coldness of beer with the spicy hot of the food. However, it's also necessary to rehydrate because you will sweat buckets and need the dilution effect to keep the chilis from burning a hole through the stomach. The hot complexity of Szechwan spicy seasonings will be felt all the way down and out the other end.
To put out flaming mouths, lots of starchy materials will help. They should make sure than steamed rice is always on the table. Or you can just do the direct approach and wipe the oils off with a dry paper towel.
I almost always have an horchata with Mexican food and a lassi when eating Indian for the reasons you describe.
Looking now at what I've just written above, it hardly sounds like I'm describing a pleasant dining experience! Let me say that while Szechwan food is some of the hottest around, it's also incredibly complex in flavor with interesting balance of salty and sour notes too which make it worth putting up with some pain for the whole spectrum of experience. Good luck to the spicy-shy, I look forward to your reports!
re: Melanie Wong
I was reading Melanie's comments and I was thinking that Sichuan (note, I use the only spelling I remember, this is not some kind of stab at authentisim in spelling sichuan) is not the spiciest food we chowhounds eat in chicago.
my wife and i were talking and we came up with the following spicier cusines in reverse order of spiciness:
5) southern indian
also, i remember when we were in hong kong, the word was that hunan cusine was even hotter, but that true hunan resturants in hong kong were rare.
I just started reading this board. Love it and wish I could make the dinner but I'm out of town. I wanted to pass along an opinion though. I'd definately go for the rice pudding if it's what I'm thinking of--the eight treasure rice pudding. That's made from glutinous rice with red bean paste (which you may have had in other Chinese desserts such as moon cakes) and various nuts and preserved fruits. It's not too "weird", especially for this group. I've had the version at this restaurant and it's pretty good. However, I should note for the vegetarians that I'm pretty sure it contains lard, and quite a bit of it.
Is the crab soft-shell or hard? I happen to think the salt-pepper style preparation is one of the best ways to eat soft-shells. It's fine with regular crabs but much of the flavor is on the shell and you have to be willing to work on the shell (polite way of saying suck/chew on it) to get the flavor.
The impulse for BYO was to simplify the paying process: no need to fight one's way out of food coma to deal with complex calculations at the end of the meal. If that seems overly cautious, then people should feel free to order liquor at the restaurant, and settle up separately with the bar.
Oh, good. I was under the impression from one of the first postings that they did not have a liquor license. In fact, i think someone else indicated that they will bring beer. But i'm there for Tsing Tao, and it will be easy enough to find if this is not the case. Thanks for the info.
Seth, thanks again for setting things up.
Unfortunately, i have misplaced my menu but FWIW My vote would be more entrees,less dessert. That pork dish sounds very nice indeed.
Hey after all we could always walk down the mall and grab a bubble drink from joy yee's or grab something from the chinese bakery.
Sounds really good to me.
In terms of tip, it's pretty customary that a preset price would include tip, but I would certainly call ahead to ensure that this is indeed the case. At the very least, our server(s) will appreciate it!
Thanks for organizing this, and looking forward to seeing all of you on Sunday.
Great job Seth. The menu sounds great. I would not subtract anything!
As there are 18 people who have indicated they want to come, if we add anything, I'd suggest some dumplings or related that are on the menu under, i believe, snacks. At a minimum, we need some buns to go with the duck (they come with anyways, but it the traditional side for sichuan duck, as pancakes are for peking duck).
As to desert, i'm all for it. for one thing i'm all for desert in general. for another, chinese deserts can be pretty special and unique and something most of of us seldom get to try. when we ate sichuan in hong kong, we had these great donuts for desert (suggestion for tony?)
i'll bring some kind of booze option