Mountain View’s Trend Restaurant: Next Installment of “Find the Sichuan Chef”
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/508483#3803284 , 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
Finally made it to this place; took my mom and sister here for an early mother's day dinner.
We ordered a lot of food:
Spicy beef combo (fu qi fei pian)
Garlic "A" vegetable
Frog with sichuan chili (N11 dish)
Tea smoked duck
And from the special card-menu on the table: Crab "head meat" tofu flower (basically kind of a stew) (xie huang dou hua; in Cantonese Hai wong dou fa)
The winners for us were the catfish and the xie huang dou hua. I was expecting the latter dish to be less salty than it ended up to be.
My Cantonese mom and sister were, um...taken aback by the liberal use of chili peppers, chili oil, and to a lesser degree, salt. Personally, I found the seasoning and usage of oil to be about right for Sichuanese cuisine.
Seeing KK's excellent post on the Sichuan beef noodle soup, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/569535 , I guess I'd better post about my return here last week to add to our intell on this spot.
First, I was incredibly pleased to discover Mr. Wong working here, who some of us know from his years at Sam Lok in San Francisco.
Finding Mr. Wong -
Now, to the food, we tried
C 10. Fish filet with pickle soup, $6.95, as shown here,
Like the fish soups at Great Szechuan in Richmond, the base here is richer with meaty tones and a darker, cloudier appearance. Personally, I prefer the lighter and more refreshing fish stock only. Still, this was quite delicious with filets of soft white fish poached in the stock and accented with tart highlights of pickled cabbage.
A cold dish new to us here was
A6. Chili oil thin sliced pigs ear, $3.95 - this was a huge serving for the price. Cut a little thicker than seems to be the fashion these days, but the better for satisfying bite with some chewiness yet still tender. Delicious spicing with layers of flavor, and tasted different than the red oil on the fuqi fei pian.
Repeats for us were A21 spicy beef combo, I35 seafood handmade noodle (no surimi at all this time), L9 garlic A-vegetable, and B14 sesame pancake (da bing). I wanted to order more, but our waiter stopped us, and he was right. We had quite a bit leftover to take home. The spicy beef combo seemed spicier/hotter this time, and the tripe pieces were particularly good, will have to try to get just tripe some time. The red oil from the cold dishes was a nice condiment on the noodles, giving it just the right lift.
We finally got a chance to try this out and went 3 for 3. The Szechwan spicy wontons had a great fresh taste to them. Spicy garlic eggplant was a nice rendition with some beautiful eggplant slices. The Szechwan dry cooked frog was the ma la champion of the night. The presentation is somewhat like the ChongQing chicken, with lots of chili peppers and Szechwan peppercorns, but with fewer chili peppers and a wide variety of other vegetables. These included onions, peppers, ginger slices, and some slender root-vegetable-like items that added a nice taste and texture.
As mentioned, the complimentary cabbage and other vegetables in red oil made a great start. Beer is limited to Tsingtao.
We will be back to explore more! These dishes taste like what we had in China.
I simply had to take pictures of it to show! These two pictures are worth two thousand words and seeing is believing. Shown here is the ChongQing Chili Fish, or maybe, it should be called Hot-Toasted Chili Peppers and Szechaun Peppercorns With Fish at the Trend restaurant.
Actually, surprisingly, the fish really wasn't that hot, but it had a very well-controlled/contained hint of hotness! I also endeavored to munch on about half a dozen or more of the chili peppers as a further test. Didn't need any ice water to put out the fire afterwards niether!
Thanks again, CYL, for the pointer toward this place.
Here's my photo of the Chongqing chicken by Chef Liu in Fresno,
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3258/2... . Much more chilis and peppercorns, plus garlic, and bigger impact on the palate.
Hope you saved the chilis and took them home. There's still a lot of firepower left in them for home cooking.
We went back last week for lunch to use our discount coupon. We tried:
Tan tan noodles, $5.95 – The least of our five dishes. The thick noodles were too soft and near mush. On the bottom, a little bit of red oil and diced preserved oil. On top, minced pork and spinach leaves. Mixed together, this was lacking in flavor and harmony. Spiked with some of the red oil from the spicy beef combo and eaten with that dish, it was much improved.
Spicy beef combo, $6.25 – Fu qi fei pian, very thin slices of tendon-y beef shank and beef tripe that were so tender and smooth in texture, I had to wonder whether this kitchen used sous-vide. Not super spicy hot, but quite a bit of citrusy and numbing peppercorns. Low on garlic, but the native flavor of the meats came through under the marinade. The leftovers were considerably hotter after soaking in the red oil overnight.
Twice-cooked pork, $8.95 – Solidly packed without a lot of onion and bell pepper filler. Thickish slices of firm, poached pork belly sautéed with frazzled carmelized onions, scallions, charry slivers of fresh jalapeño peppers, and garlic. No fermented black beans, red oil, leeks, or jarred seasoning sauces, so this was quite different not being as sweet or salty as other preps. We liked it. Our server said it’s one of their special dishes.
Water spinach with garlic – Again, a good hand with the vegetables. This is on the menu as a spicy version, but we ordered it with just garlic since we’d picked so many things with chilis. Too stemmy for me, but they’re crunchy and not stringy, so others might not take issue.
Big sesame pancake, $4.95 – Not as big and puffed up here, but so tasty just on its own. Liberal amount of oil and more scallions shot through than other examples, sort of mid-way between a green onion oil pancake and sesame bread.
Specials menu card – As big as the menu is, here’s an auxiliary menu card with some of the chef’s special dishes. A little translation help, anyone?
Another satisfying meal here.
Tomato and squash vines growing outside
re: Melanie Wong
I just noticed the old link to the special menu photo at Trend at the bottom of Melanie's post. A recent thread (about China Village) prompts me to try this place -- and since no one has translated the special menu, I decided to give it a try. I am not a Chinese speaker or reader, but have had an old hobby of trying to decipher Chinese restaurant menus.
The photo is nearly a year old, but from a recent post seems to still be offered. Here is the best I can do on the 10 items in the center. In parenthesis are character by character translations as best I can get them -- I totally gave up on 2 characters. Preceding these are my best guess at an overall translation for the item -- many of which are still quite obscure.
Maybe this will inspire someone who really knows Chinese to get this right.
?? Handmade pork blood dish of some sort??
(hand blood flourishing/prosperous) $9.95
(floating fragrance spareribs. -- some flower tea is sold with this name) $9.95
Chicken with young bamboo shoots.
(thin bamboo shoot chicken ?character?) $10.95
Three treasure precious flavor red (chili oil?) soup.
(red soup precious flavor three treasure) $10.95
Sichuan style sour stewed cod with tofu.
(river style bean sour-stewed cod) $15.95
Crab roe and silky tofu.
(crab roe bean flower) $12.95
Dry cooked grill-flavor?? shrimp.
(dry wok skewer/string-as-beads flavor shrimp) $12.95
?Sichuan? pepper and cilantro shrimp in shell.
(?character? pepper fragrant leaf = cilantro large shrimp) $12.95
Pepper flavored fatty beef rolls?.
(pepper fragrance fatty beef roll) $14.95
Homestyle dry braised duck.
(private house dry simmer duck) $15.95
I ate at Trend tonight based on Melanie's post, and came away pretty happy.
First, it's a great little home-style place. There's no sign at the curb and we drove around the block once after missing it. Dinner for us came to $45 with a very generous tip and two small beers, and we took home about half of what we ordered.
The strength of this restaurant is some of the more subtle taste interactions, somewhat unexpected from a sichuan joint. The peppers are all nicely toasted and fried, but not much of the heat is escaping. The roasted chili smell hits you as you open the door, and never lets up. But the dishes aren't spicy per se. If china villiage is 9, these guys were a solid 7, but with good char taste underneath.
I walked in and saw one dish on two tables, and just said "I'll have that". It turned out to be Taste Special Fish Soup or something similar. Lots of chilis, lots of peppercorns, a nice delicately sliced battered and braised fish. Interestingly, the delivered us someone else's order, which wasn't the Taste special version, and the standard version the char really comes out. But in our dish, they scooped out all the chilis and peppercorns almost immediately. Under the fish was bean sprouts.
second dish delivered was cucumbers in chili sauce. The sauce was good, had a sweetness that reminded me of wuxi, and the cukes were a good break from the soup.
Third dish was a hot oil dumpling translated as Zhong's Dumplings. I thought they were only OK (comparing to the spicy oil water dumplings at CV), and they were falling apart a little. The oil wasn't quite as bright in taste, and neither was the filling. Still, the dumpling part was fresh and thin and properly cooked, and any water dumplings are good water dumplings.
As David Sloo said, you could pick faults in each dish, but as a whole meal, you walked away satisfied. The entire experience is friendly and down-home (unlike, say, Hunan Home's which feels too big).
I'm probably a little more critical than the girlfriend because I got 2 china village meals in the last month, she hasn't eaten any sichuan for 6 months, and I don't know anywhere peninsula-way that's even close for sichuan - let along 10 minutes from our house.
We will be going back. For a $40 meal, this hit the spot. It's exactly how I like my chinese restaurants - a little rambunctious, quick and accurate service, and taste-eee.
[Rambunctious - two girls were playing some kind of escalating pattycake game that terminated in them playing while standing on multiple chairs at the same time. Another table had 10 people crammed in tight, some kind of soju like bev on the table, and they were having big fun.]
Thank you for your excellent reporting! I hope we'll hear from other 'hounds who give it a try. The menu is huge and the kitchen seems to be talented, so it shouldn't be hard to come up with some winners as long as one sticks to the Sichuan offerings.
When China Village first came on the scene a few years ago, it seems like 'hounds soon got into a rut ordering the same ol' thing every time with few willing to experiment. Then the great chef left and the opportunity was lost. I hope that we'll continue to hear new reports from this restaurant, as you never know when things will change.
1335 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706
Great Szechuan (closed)
3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA
re: Melanie Wong
My husband and I ate there this weekend. The hot pickled veggies, brought to the table when we first sat down, took me right back to China.
I have had a serious need for good shui zhu yu (水煮鱼) since consuming large quantities of it in Xi'an when I lived there a couple years ago. I was delighted when the big bowl, smothered in red peppers, arrived at the table. It could have been more la (辣), but had enough ma (麻) to get that zingy, numb-y sensation I crave.
On our visit, the chili peppers were perfectly done, just beginning to color, not overcooked, and delightfully fragrant.
There were just two of us this time, and I was frustrated that we could only order three dishes (we still took home almost half the food.) We also ordered the Chong Qing chili chicken and dry cooked string beans. It was all so good that we kept eating even after we were full.
I am looking for an excuse to go with a bunch of people so we can try a wider variety of items from the menu.
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?
re: Melanie Wong
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.
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.
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.
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)
re: Melanie Wong
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.