Mountain View’s Trend Restaurant: Next Installment of “Find the Sichuan Chef”
- Melanie Wong Aug 10, 2008 11:51 PM
This post by “CYL” in a discussion about Hong Kong Restaurant sent us to Trend Restaurant in Mountain View for tonight’s Chinese meal.
My brother and I ate at the previous restaurant at this location, Wynn’s, on April 7, its closing night. A few days later, Trend opened in this spot. While the restaurant offers Sichuan, Shanghainese, and northern style dishes, our server told us the specialty was actually Sichuan cuisine.
Trend Restaurant -
I asked our server where the owner had come from and learned that this was his first restaurant venture. The chef started here three months ago, coming from Great Szechuan in Richmond. The menu reads like Great Szechuan’s including a list of “bamboo basket specials” and the much-debated “Szechwan Braised Chicken with Taros”. Our waiter said that anything we liked at Great Szechuan, we could order the same here.
Looking back at my post from my April 19 visit to Great Szechuan,
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5084... , the name for suan ni bai rou (garlic mud white meat) is translated the same here, and the presentation is identical as shown here.
Sliced "bacon cut" pork with spicy garlic sauce, $5 – Thinly shaved slices of poached pork belly rolled up into cylinders and bathed in a carmelized garlic sauce.
Spicy cumin sauce lamb, $9.75 – The weakest dish of the bunch, but not bad. Thin strips of gamey lamb with some gristle sticking them together, puddle of oil on the plate, not that spicy hot or complex.
Garlic A-vegetable (A-cai), $7.95 – On tasting this, William said, “you can tell this was cooked in a hot wok, smokey.” Excellent job on this conserving the fresh crunch of the juicy stems and smooth tenderness of the leafy parts.
Chongqing chili chicken, $8.95 – Amazing amount of toasted chili pods and Sichuan peppercorns, very crispy skin from dry-frying, and rather than marinated, seasoned with a sprinkle of sea salt. The best pieces were from the bottom of the pile where they’d absorbed some of the red oil.
Seafood handmade (knife-cut) noodle, $8.95 – Thick and firm uneven strips of knife-shaved dough, very tasty stir-fry with carmelized veggies, chunks of fish, shrimp, and squid.
Close-up of flower-cut squid – When this dish came to the table, both William and I thought it had baby corn on first glance. Then we thought they might be fresh sea cucumber. But on closer inspection, those delicately carved tubules seem to be flower-cut squares of squid curled and flared out.
The Chinese newspaper ad is posted on the wall. The manager gave us a $4 coupon (10% of our bill) for a future visit.
On the way out, we noticed tubs of homemade chili oil for sale ($10) by the door.
Thanks a bunch, CYL, for the tip. We’re looking forward to exploring the menu here.
400 Moffett Blvd, Mountain View, CA
I noticed that they actually have a website.
It doesn't have a menu (just some examples of dishes) but it does have their hours:
7 Days a Week
11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
I notice a lot of the Yelp reviewers aren't understanding that the specialty is Sichuan food, so I hope Chowhounders can spread the word. There was a mention that the menu has over 300 items.
re: P. Punko
Thanks for finding the website. The posted hours are 11am to 10pm, as noted in the Places record. No website listed on the menu, business cards or the discount coupon. I also asked the manager about a website and he shook his head "no". Looking at the website, I think that wherever it says "citron", substitute "sichuan". (gg)
Ha! Yes, I could get into "citron" cuisine. Actually when I first read the name in CYL's post, I thought this might be a branch of the Szechuan Trenz (Spices!) folks who have the two restaurants in SF and one in Oakland. But no blaring music videos or fluorescent colors, and our server didn't ask me what regional variation of Sichuan cooking (e.g.,, Beijing, Taiwan, Chengdu) I wanted for our order. That said, the concept that David Sloo mentions below of Sichuan outside of Sichuan is the same as Szechuan Trenz.
re: Ruth Lafler
Couldn't say for sure. Our waiter said that the Sichuan chef came from "the restaurant with Ranch 99, north of Berkeley", which I think means Great Szechuan. (ggg) I don't know the Chinese names for Great Szechuan or China Village. He didn't seem to recognize China Village when I talked about it. We've been trying to figure out what happened between the April meals that Marlon and Yimster had at GS and the somewhat disappointing June chowdown dinner. Maybe the chef at Trends was not the main guy at GS, but the change in the kitchen and loss of talent may have contributed to the chaos we experienced.
When I was in Fresno in May, Chef Liu said that a very good Sichuan restaurant had opened "near San Jose". Seeing the grand opening sign at Chili Garden in Milpitas last month, I thought that might be it. With Trends opening in the same period, maybe this is the place. Or there could be another one (or more) out there yet to be discovered.
re: Melanie Wong
From I know (which not much) is that there were a couple of chef at Great Szechuan in Richmond one of which at least worked at China Village.
I was at Great Szechuan last night and the food was even better than the night of the chow down.
Soup of Death (named by Chow Fun)
Flowering Pork Kidney's
Dry Braised Frog with Sichuan pepper corns (I wish I know the right spelling)
The soup had the richer taste of Chicken and Pork not just made by using Fish Stock. Deveena I think that it is not sure the true the way it should be but for my taste buds it is more flavor.
The Beef were juicier than normal.
But the standout of the meal was Dry Braised Frog. A dish we did have room for our posted meal. This was outstanding where the texture of the frog and the Ma La effect of the Sichuan pepper corn.
The meal was great so maybe they got their act together now. Or it could be that ability to space the serving a large meal is a skill which China Village did in one of the best manner I have seen is not something GS is good at.
After reading your report Trends I had ot tried it. I first warned a couple of hounds not to go due to reports from a friend and a son that the Cantonese food was awful. But the style is Sichuan and tomato beef chow mien should not be to good.
We had the following dishes:
Beef Pancake drier that GS gets this one.
Had the Cumin Lamb almost a point for Trends more heat and flavor Trends get this one
Pork Kidney was better at GS.
Chongdong Fish Fillet medium hot, after having this dish at a recent chow down I should have had this fully hot. The fish was cooked perfectly crisp and a little too mild to my taste.
Since one is much closer to me I will be only too happy to return to Trends again to check up the menu again.
Actually, the "Red Bowl of Death" was named by Melanie. A lot of people are under the misunderstanding that the name refers to the similarly chile-laden West Style Spicy Fish Soup, but actually it was coined in reference to the spicy tofu and fish fillet dish. See: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/23605
Which did you order?
re: Ruth Lafler
We had the West Lake Style Spicy Fish Soup with clear noodles.
By the way I was sitting next to ChowFun last night along with another Chowhound at AT&T Park during Jewish giveaway night munching on Chinese BBQ. Pork Spareribs, Roast Pig and Salt and Pepper Wings.
During a bad innings for the Giants I read your reply and asked if I was losing it giving ChowFun the credit. He reply that he remembers naming it the "Soup of Red Death".
By the way in the last four months I have been on a Pork KIdney kick. I have too more leads to follow up on and I will be posting my list of great Pork Kidneys and Deep Fried Pork Intestines. All before my next blood test.
We had a very enjoyable lunch at Trend's yesterday. Thanks, CYL and Melanie, for recommending this place.
We pretty much followed Melanie's suggestions but substituted beef tendon for the bacon cut pork and the smoked pork w/leeks for the lamb.
One thing that we really liked was the spicy pickled vegetable dish that was placed at our table when we were seated. It was just delicious! The corn soup that was also complimentary at lunch was a bit too sweet for me, but it wasn't bad.
We really enjoyed the chongquing chicken -- it was really cleanly deep-fried and had a wonderful crispy coating and juicy meat. There were loads of peppers, but the dish could have been a bit spicier.
Everyone loved the al dente texture of the long strips of handmade noodles, but we'll probably order them with a different protein next time because the seafood mix tasted too much of surimi.
The A-vegetable w/garlic was a big hit as was the beef tendon (though I thought that this dish should have been spicier.)
The weakest dish for me was the smoked pork (belly bacon) w/leeks. It was too fatty for me and not spicy enough -- I like Hunan Home's (Los Altos) version much better.
All in all, it was a very good meal and we'll be back to try a number of dishes that we didn't order yesterday -- the menu is huge!
re: Nancy Berry
Yes, Trends does a good job with pao cai, the pickled cabbage, carrots and cucumbers in red oil. It tastes just like Grand Szechuan's, which also provides this on a complimentary basis.
I found here and at Chili Garden in Milpitas that it was worth waiting a bit to eat the chongqing chicken. It seems like it takes a while for the chili oil to reach full strength and soak into the bits of wing. The dish is brought to the table flaming hot, so it's still quite warm/hot if you can patient. Next time I'll give the dish a toss to distribute the seasonings more evenly and coat the meat with the oil. The chili peppers and peppercorns were mostly on the top.
We only had a couple pieces of surimi in our noodles, not enough to be objectionable. I'm with you, don't like the fake-o sweetness of the stuff.
Glad you gave it a try. Yes, the menu is enormous and seems so promising. I hope more 'hounds will give it a whirl and help us work through what's good here.
We had three dishes that worked out quite well for us at lunch today at Trend in Mountain View. I'll explain after the individual dish recommendations why I think this worked well and why I will definitely go back to Trend.
G3, ChongQing chili fish. 重慶辣子椒魚片. Literally, 'Chongqing chili / Sichuan-pepper fish slice'. This is a very good dish -- battered, fried white fish filets (unremarkable fish, but nice batter) tossed with a large number of hot-toasted chilies, handfuls of Sichuan peppercorns, and quite a bit of salt. We both thought that the chilies were maybe too cooked -- the browner ones were quite dried out and had no chili sweetness. But the dish is so good that it stands up even to that slight failing. (Beautifully served, too, in a basket.)
L6, Spicy Garlic Eggplant. 魚香茄子. Literally, Yu-xiang (that is, fish fragrant, but here it's the name of the sauce) eggplant. We ordered this because my friend Mike said he's always looking for dishes that compare to his mother-in-law's specialties, and this is one of them. I was skeptical because I didn't look and realize it was Yu-xiang, but we ordered it anyway, and I am delighted. This is one of those totally tame dishes that won't gross out the sort of people who don't eat innards or who can't contemplate chewing through half a basket of pretty dry chilies -- though it is meaty. The eggplant was steamed then quick fried with the quite sweet sauce, which was full of fresh ginger flavor -- I think the last part marks good Yuxiang. There's a fine richness and some of the chili oil to the sauce, too.
N1, Trend Special Cold Noodle with Chicken in Sesame Sauce. 川外川雞絲涼麺. Literally, Trend (the restaurant's name is 川外川 -- which I think means 'Sichuan away from Sichuan') chicken shreds ('silk') cool noodles. Okay, here's a dish that didn't impress me at first, a ring of cucumber shreds surrounding a net of thin noodles with some white-meat chicken shreds on it, all atop the pool of sauce. Pretty enough, but how good would it be? This dish came first, I tried it, and I said, "maybe I'd like it better if these were shreds of bitter melon, or something". It seemed missing an element, like we should sprinkle vinegar on top. The sauce was, again, sweet, but with plenty of sesame flavor.
Which brings me to what I enjoyed most about Trend.
So much for the three dishes. Good enough in their ways, but not perfect. Now here's the point: after a little while, we both realized that we kept taking from each of the dishes. Mike aptly described it as 'making a round'. Then you'd get to the end, crunch through a few more chilies, think that maybe you were done, and then start another round. The food worked as a meal, which is unusual. And I don't think we just lucked into ordering three very different dishes; I think that Trend has individual ways of making each of their styles, and it really showed through.
To sum up: individually, one would criticize each of the dishes on its own. The noodles were plain, the eggplant maybe too sweet, the chilies with the fish too well-toasted. But they went together well. It sounds from a few other reviews like maybe many people find the food a little oily, maybe too sweet, and maybe not sufficiently fiery (although plenty 'má' -- my tongue still feels the Sichuan peppercorns), but I thought that Trend really kept my mouth interested and I wanted to keep at the food.
These were pretty big dishes, but we ate them all. (I was reminded of the lesson: if you want to eat a lot, have your lunch late and skip the rice.)
- What else looked good
The hot pots on others' tables seemed to be emptying fast. The pieces of tofu in particular looked good. I noticed empty plates with the remnants of thick noodles on them -- I believe these are listed in the menu as something like H& made noodle.
- The service
Perfunctory, but accurate and efficient. We used English for our interactions, with no hiccoughs or confusion.
- The outlay
This was a moderate, huge lunch for two. Under $30. It's especially cheap if someone else pays.
- extra delight, if less chowish
Trend seems to have a very pleasing way with editing: not only was there the menu's h& made noodles and some accurate transpositions like 'fired' for 'fried', but their Web site uses the transliteration 'citron' for Sichuan. Before you just snigger, think of how clever this is -- the pronunciation of citron in English is far closer to the Mandarin way of saying 四川 Sichuan than you will get from most English speakers with either pīnyīn 'sì chuān' or, especially, the nearly opaque Wade-Giles 'sze1 chwan4'. (What? You want she one chew and four, ma'am?)
I hope someone (KK?) will correct mistakes in my Chinese. Note for learners: the menu is all in traditional Characters. Not so bad for most dishes, but Chongqing might bewilder, and how many beginners know the character for 'tendon'?
400 Moffett Blvd Mountain View CA
re: David Sloo
David, thanks for your very thoughtful post. Especially liked how you articulated the inherent harmony in the dishes and how they work with each other. That ability really shows high touch by the chef.
In my second meal, I asked our server to explain the name, 川外川 . He said that there is another meaning, Sichuan better than other Sichuan.
He also recommended trying the beer duck.
Wonder how the Sichuan cooking is at New China Delight these days. Anyone been there recently?
Let us know if you go again. I asked because the Sichuan chef decamped to Panda Country Kitchen in SF about a year ago, and the Shanghainese chef went to Jade Palace in Palo Alto. But maybe there's someone even better in the kitchen now. China has a near infinite supply of chef talent with which to grace us.