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Jan 6, 2004 03:14 AM

We’ve Been Ma-La’d: Chowdown #1 of 2004 at Spices! II

  • m

Monday night, 20 chowhounds (including four year-old chowprincess, Maia) kicked-off another great year of chowing by feasting on nearly 40% of the Sichuan specialties offered at Spices! II. The garish, multi-colored décor, strobe lights, and thumping Taiwanese rock videos pumped up our party mood.

Marcella, the writing half of the Marcelory team, celebrated her birthday with us with Gregory and Maia on hand. Another new face, Leon, enthused, “where else would I have the chance to try so many dishes at once?” Victoria confessed that she had already eaten here nine times…maybe she’ll tell us about her other favorite dishes. Jen Maiser had photo duty and will soon share some pictures. Karen “RWCFoodie” summarized the meal at evening’s end with a satisfied sigh saying, “We’ve been ma-la’d!”

The list of dishes we ordered, along with the *spice levels indicated on the menu, follows, and the dinerss will comment on their favorites. Prices were easy on the pocketbook with a cost of $20 per person, inclusive, and plenty leftover to take home.


37. **Spices! Numbing Spicy Pork Kidney, $3.95
38. **Hot & Spicy Beef Combination, $3.95
39. **Spicy Chinese Bacon with Garlic, $3.95
40. **Numbing Spicy Beef Tendon, $3.95
43. * Spicy Pig Ear with Red Oil, $3.95
45. **Numbing Spicy Pork Intestine, $3.95
50. Scallion Salad Noodle, $2.95
51. **Chicken with Red Oil (mouth-watering), $5.95
54. Marinated Cucumber, $2.95
59. Crispy Salty Duck, $4.95
61. Scallion Pancake, $2.95 (two orders)
62. * Won Ton in Red Oil, $4.25

Special Soups:

122. Fish Fillet w/Pickle Cabbage Soup, $6.95 for large (one and a half orders)

Family Meals: 3 items for $17.95

82. * Shredded Pork with Pickled Chili
89. * Stir-fried Potato Strips
90. * Dry Braised String Beans

Noodle Plates:

95. * Tan-tan Noodle, $5.25

House Specialties:

1. **Cumin Lamb, $8.95
2. **Numbing Spicy Conch (cold), $8.95
4. * Smoked Beef Shank (cold), $4.95

Szechuan Trenz:

16. * Fire-Burst! Pork Stomach, $6.95
25. * Silky Tofu with Seafood, $8.95
26. ***Fish Fillet Bowl with Flaming Red Oil (water-cooked), $7.95

Plus steamed rice and for some cold, milky and sweet soothing, we sampled various flavors of blended fruit smoothies (Sagittarius, Libra, Pisces, Cancer, etc.).

Spices! II
291 – 6th Ave. & Clement
San Francisco

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  1. Since we asked to post about the dish we like the best I will be the first to post. The entire meal was very good and it was hard to pick the dish I like best, but after reviewing the list again this morning I was able to pick a dish.
    Numbing Spicy Pork Kidney, was cooked just right. Kindey is something that can not be overcooked and this was not. Normally Mrs. Yimster always tell the waiter to tell the cook that it should be cooked thur. But I like a little underdone (not raw) so the flesh has a crisp texture. We were lucky that one person at our table did not eat the kindey so there was more for the rest of us. One of these I will have to make this dish at home expect it is a lot of work to clean the kidneys properly.
    This was a three napkin meal, after ten dishes the pepper had my nose running.
    Where else can you meet so many nice people at meal expect for Chowhound. It was a great way to start the year.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Yimster
      Melanie Wong

      After reading your post, my dining companion from Dragon 2000 asked me which version I liked better. It's kind of a toss-up. The saucing at Spices! was definitely better, less sweet and with ample Sichuan peppercorns. Yet, although the texture was exemplary, it can't beat the handling at Dragon 2000. Wish I could have Spices' sauce with D2K's kidney - that would be perfect.


      1. re: Melanie Wong

        This verison was very good. But China Village is also very good, but not the same. But the one I have found was to the best to me was Shanghai Gourmet in Walnut Creek. The one we had there were a lot thicker and just as tender and cook to the doneness I like.
        With that said kidney's will depend on what the kitchen staff gets (the thickness will depend on the size of the kidney).
        I never have kidney at home because they are a pain to clean. If do not clean them properly they will have a bad taste.
        Thanks for arranging this meal.

        1. re: Yimster

          Had the ma la kidney flower last night at China Village - not good, muddy tasting and too firm, although the seasoning was great. The #1 chef was not in the kitchen, and I think it showed the most in this dish.

    2. v
      Victoria Libin

      My favorite dishes were the fireburst pork stomach, the chicken with red oil, the spicy pig ear in red oil, and the water cooked fish. All the dishes were very good, but those stand out in my mind. The pork stomach had a great combination of textures with the chewy meat, gelatinous tree ear mushroom, crunchy pickled red peppers and a very flavorful spicy garlicky sauce. The chicken with red oil was succulent, very spicy and had a nice amount of fried scallions for contrast. I really enjoy the crunchy texture of the pig's ear and the sauce is very similar to the chicken but with cilantro instead of scallions. The water fish was firm like a fish cheek, very fresh and mild tasting with what I believe was mustard greens, and a chili oil sauce.

      I keep raving about the large fried intestine and the giant sea scallop with fried minced garlic. The hotpots are also very good, but the numbing hot one, is really a feat to eat without choking from the heat and peppercorns.

      1. What a great way to kick off the chow year! I enjoyed meeting new people, people I feel like I've met but haven't (Victoria), and seeing old friends.

        One highlight for me was, after he looked dubiously at the pork kidney but vowed to try everything, Alan's face lighting up and him proclaiming it "really good"! Which it was, and I'm not much for innards.

        Since we're supposed to choose a favorite to describe, I'll go with the Crispy Salty Duck. This is almost like confit, I said to Yimster and Limster (what a lucky girl, getting to sit between them!). The skin was crisp and rendered, almost like chicharrones, and the meat (leg quarters) was soft and melting with fat, but not greasy. Plus there wasn't a drop of chili oil in sight, which made it a welcome relief from the rest of the red-stained dishes!

        1. I really enjoyed last night's dinner. The spice was intense, but it was a brief hit and then we were on to the next thing. Victoria mentioned that when she has gone in the past, she ordered a fruity drink along with the meal. I would do that next time -- we didn't order the drinks till the end. Having the drink would help to cool down your palate for the next dish.

          There were a couple of standout things for me:

          Chicken in oil. This was one of the very spicy dishes, and I liked the peanuts added to it.

          Lamb with cumin. I think this was the spiciest thing I tried. The lamb was presented in dry strips covered with a spicy seasoning.

          Cucumbers with garlic. This was just a small dish we had at the beginning that I really enjoyed.

          I can't wait to return.

          The link for photos is below -- sorry I didn't do the link in the post. I have had bad luck with that in the past.


          2 Replies
          1. re: jen maiser

            Are those carvings edible ? Lots of work for $8.95

            The dishes etc looked great and presentation gets high marks for a bargain place like that or maybe it's special treatment ?

            1. re: Han Lukito

              It was not special treatment -- I saw the same presentation of the same dish on other tables. BTW, the carvings varied -- the ones on our two tables were completely different.

          2. “We’ve been ma-la’d!”

            Is that like being numbstruck?

            Without my fellow hounds, I undoubtedly would have been numbfounded by the menu!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Hey, the menu came in both languages. You would have handled it like a champ. (Say, is that menu on-line anywhere?)