Return to Lao Sze Chuan
Kerensa and I went back to Lao Sze Chuan last week to explore some other parts of the menu. It was a satisfying meal if not overwhelmingly good. The tea-smoked duck was phenomenal again -- maybe even better than at the chowdown: perfectly cooked, a little greasy, exploding with smoky duckiness. We were also very pleased with the soup - sour pickle and fish(#313). For 6 bucks you get a huge bowl overflowing with greens, tangy pickled something or others, with a great big hunk of firm whitefish, in a complex and interesting broth.
We would have been fine with just that, but in my zest to cover all the menu bases, i insisted that we also get the LaLaLa Extremely Spicy Fish and some Napa Cabbage with dried little shrimp. Both of which were disappointing. The Lalala fish was (I think) tilapia, or something equally bony, hacked into hunks, with blacks of steamed tofu in a szechuan peppercorn, chili oil, and other stuff sause in a rectangular baking tin, witha little wire strainer to serve it up instead of a spoon. The fish itself was fine, once we were able to maneuver the flesh off the bone. The tofu was also fine. But I was extremely disconcerted to discover that when you bite into szechuan peppercorn (still attached to a little stem, and resembling a miniature half-popped kernel of popcorn) your entire mouth first goes numb and then tingles unpleasantly for the next half-hour. That kind of turned me from the fish despite it's otehr pleasant qualities. The napa was well cooked, but the little dried shrimp proved to be less delicious than we had hoped -- a little too pungent for our delicate palates. So not a big hit.
So, I think we're making some progress in the classification of the menu into keepers and avoiders.
I, too, returned to Lao Sze Chuan recently, although it was with my mother and sister who primarily enjoy what I refer to as "Schaumburg Chinese". You know what I mean: sesame chicken, sweet & sour pork, fried rice, egg drop soup.
It has always been my mission to introduce them to new, delicious things, and Lao Sze Chuan was enjoyed by all of us.
I ordered the Lamb with Cumin again, which was my favorite (along with the tea-smoked duck) from our chowdown. It was good, although not as good as the night of the chowdown. I had to respect the non-adventurous palettes of my family, but I'll admit that the sesame chicken and the fried rice they ordered were excellent. They gave their smiles of approval, licked the plates clean, and declared it to be the "best place in Chinatown." We also really liked the spicy cabbage appetizer (I almost, *almost* got them to go along with ordering the cold tendon), and a soup we ordered (I forget what was in it) was top notch.
I asked if Tony was around, but he was at his new take-out place on Taylor street, which is now apparently open for business.
An amusing moment: my mother, fancying the delicious-looking meal at the table next to us, asked the server what it was. When the server pointed to "Chopped Intenstine in Pork Blood Sauce" on the menu, my mother went very pale indeed and I started to reach for the smelling salts. Mission accomplished! :)