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Sichuan Specialties at Crouching Tiger Restaurant in Redwood City

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In another thread “Deeg67” posted this heads up on October 19, “Had lunch at Crouching Tiger today, and apparently one of the chefs is from Little Sichuan in Fremont, which i know is well-regarded these parts. It's a nice spot - spotless and stylish interior, very courteous and attentive service. They have a pretty good sprinkling of Sichuan faves on the menu, plus some Hunan standards. I look forward to trying it a few more times to get a sampling of the more authentic menu items.”
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5577...

A few days later, William joined me for dinner there. Crouching Tiger’s rear entrance on the parking lot is a few doors away from La Casita Chilanga. It occupies a relatively small space and is decorated in stylish contemporary fashion complete with flat screen TV. Water is served in cheesy 49ers logo beer glasses that are functional but completely out of character with the design of the dining room.

The vivacious owner waited on us. We learned that she’d closed her restaurant in San Carlos to move here. Her chef had worked for her before some years ago. The chef is indeed ex-Little Sichuan of San Mateo and Fremont, which gave us a clue about which dishes to order. Our top picks here turned out to be the ones that we’ve liked at Little Sichuan. We also asked the owner for her recs on the Sichuan side of the menu.

Pao cai and roasted peanuts are complimentary.

Spicy beef combination (fu qi fei pin), $6.95 – This was a strong start. Well-spiced with a heavy Little Sichuan level of burning heat and complexity. Especially liked the texture of the tripe, whereas the beef shank pieces were somewhat dried out. We told the owner that there should be more tripe and less beef, the ratio was off.

Hunan preserved pork, $8.95 – The cold version of this dish was recommended by the owner. We opted for the stir-fried preserved pork instead. The veggies didn’t pick up any wok char. The pork was fine, but too lean, as we were expecting a bacon-cut. Not as good as another version we’d tried recently that was smokier with better texture.

Dry cooked prawns house special, $11.95 - Highly recommended by the owner, who talked us out of ordering the chongqing chicken. Not as spicy as it looks. Shrimp had good texture, but the breading was too thick and undercooked/floury in spots. I’d rather have chicken on the bone.

Shredded potatoes stir-fried without chilis, house special, $7.50 – Excellent texture and knife-work on this classic, and the first time I’ve seen it served with chopped scallions. Unfortunately, what makes this potato dish work is the subtle flavoring imparted by a well-seasoned wok, and that was completely lacking here. We wondering if the chef didn’t have high enough BTUs or maybe his woks are too new still.

House special Sichuan cold noodles, $6.45 – Very good and especially welcome and refreshing on a warm night. Huge portion, and just like the version at Little Sichuan with a fresh lift from a touch of tartness in the finish.

Xinjiang lamb, $10.50 – Best dish of the night, more refined and less gamey than Little Sichuan’s, well-roasted dried chilis and fresh jalapeño slices, juicier meat. Decent sear, but again, needed a hotter flame under the wok. William commented that it wasn’t gritty like most versions from coarse ground cumin,
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

We’d ordered a stupid amount of food for two people, and this is what the table looked like AFTER we’d eaten our fill.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...
Hardly made a dent in these dishes and had lots to take home, but I’m glad we cast a wide net or we might have come up empty. This was a pretty good showing for a spot that’s only been open for a month. Like most of our favorite Chinese restaurants, the quality varies and satisfaction will depend on figuring out the strongest dishes. The weird thing is that we felt the two dishes the owner recommended were the weakest, so that wasn’t much help in navigating the menu. I look forward to revisiting in the months to come to see if the kitchen can get into a more consistent groove.

More Crouching Tiger photos -
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

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Crouching Tiger
2644 Broadway St, Redwood City, CA 94063

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  1. I've been back a few times, and I'd agree that the Xinjiang lamb is the best dish I've tried. It's one of the hotter versions I've tried but the flavors are well balanced and the meat is tender and juicy. I also quite liked their rendition of twice-cooked pork - again, the flavors are well balanced and the meat is expertly prepared. They offer it in an "authentic" fatty pork style, and a lean style. Needless to say, go with the fatty pork.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Deeg67

      Oh yes, you want the belly cut (fresh bacon) for twice cooked pork, otherwise, why bother? Does the dish have leeks in it?

      Is there anything you'd steer us away from ordering?

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Oh yes - leeks a plenty. I haven't had anything I'd consider an out and out bust in the 4 or 5 times I've been - everything was no worse than competent and sometimes much better.

        1. re: Deeg67

          Thanks for the rec. Meant to ask you, still liking Classic Sichuan in Millbrae?

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          Classic Sichuan Restaurant
          148 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I do, but there seems to have been a minor falloff in the last couple of months - the food is saltier and the balance is just a little off in some of the dishes. I suspect there's been a change in the kitchen, and hopefully some of the inconsistencies will work themselves out. Have you tried Classic yet?

            1. re: Deeg67

              I've only been the one time for dan dan mian and wasn't that thrilled, so haven't made an effort to return.

    2. Good eats at that spot, and an excellent addition to Redwood City. It's right along the strip with City Pub near El Camino. For easiest access, park behind and use the back door. It's a small place, about 15 tables, cosy. Prices were reasonable (ate a lot of food for less than $20 per person - no alcohol). My GF loved the flatscreen fishtank, quite mesmerized.

      Unmentioned/untried my Melanie is the dry cooked beef, which we found excellent. Lots of peppers to pick through, incredibly juicy morsels.

      They give you a nice little pre-appetizer of boiled peanuts and daikon in hot oil, which was appreciated. Service was pleasant and on the ball - we had to wait a few minutes for menus but the apologized profusely, and we had the peanuts to amuse ourselves.

      I was slightly disappointed by the dumplings in hot oil. The sauce was inventive but lacked a certain something, and the dumplings were really wontons. Wonton skins aren't exactly dumplings. It was all good, though - the "dumplings" disappeared in about 15 seconds.

      About the portions - they were large, but not "stupid large". Certainly big for the price. I had worked out the in the morning and skipped lunch, so we managed to plough through two entrees.

      This place is certainly on my eat-again-and-again list. I like a few places in the up-and-coming redwood city, but not enough to be a real destination - we'll usually eat elsewhere before catching a movie. (City Pub's an exception, they have the best selection of IPAs close to my house, and a decent burger) Crouching Tiger changes that.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bbulkow

        The configuration of that corner of the block can be confusing. Coming in the back door, it seems so close to Casita Chilanga. But when we were chatting with the owner and mentioned the place, she didn't know it. Then William told me to walk out the front door and see the "illusion" for myself. La Casita Chilanga is actually around the corner and away by quite a bit if you follow the street.

        Thanks for giving it a try and ordering something different. This place might do "dry cooked" dishes particularly well though we struck out in our order of the shrimp.

      2. How spicy were the House special Sichuan cold noodles, Melanie? I can handle only about mild spice in my food. Is this super hot?

        4 Replies
        1. re: addictedto60fps

          Haven't hold the cold noodles, but only one dish that I've tried - the Xingjian lamb - was really, really hot. They definitely don't shy away from the chilis in dishes where it's appropriate, but it seems to be in reasonable harmony with the other flavors.

          I tried the hot version of the Hunan preserved pork yesterday. Like Melanie I would have liked a little more searing on the cabbage, but it was very good - the quality of ingredients was outstanding.

          1. re: addictedto60fps

            We ordered dishes that had hot marks by them, and they were appropriately hot, possibly slightly hotter than I would consider average for the dishes, and in good balance. We didn't ask for spicy.

            The hottest dish was "Dry cooked beef", but elsewhere on the menu it says "Dry Cooked Shredded Pork Sauteed lots of Chili and Pepper, Chongquing Style", which is accurate and would lead the spice challenged in another direction entirely. My nose was running pretty seriously.

            Some of the non-heat dishes: Tea Smoked Duck, Braised Pork Knuckle, Beijing Pork (with 4 pancakes), all the "sizzling style" dishes, Fish Fillets with Mixed Vegetables, all the chow mien/chow fun's. Perhaps you can go with a spice loving friend and try some of theirs for calibration?

            Looking at my takeout menu, it looks like we ordered "Yu Shiang" chicken, which I thought was great - lots of vinegar taste, lots of heat, excellent white meat chicken, much like dishes in china.

            1. re: addictedto60fps

              While that item is flagged with a chili pepper icon on the menu, i didn't think it was spicy at all. You'd be best to consult with your server about spice levels.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Yes, agreed - I liked the preserved pork, but I didn't find it especially spicy.

            2. Thanks for the report. I used to cite Redwood City as a part of the Bay Area that had a void in authentic Chinese restaurants but with Crouching Tiger and Bento House I can't say that any more.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Chandavkl

                When I was in college, there used to be an excellent Cantonese resto that my extended family would actually leave the City for to eat there. The chef was an expert in carving and the dishes would be decorated with elaborate figurines of birds, butterflies and flowers.

                There is another Sichuan place in Redwood City, Sichuan Delight. There've been a few reports, but i've not tried it yet. At the very back of the online menu, it has a selection of what look like classic Sichuan dishes.

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                Sichuan Delight
                2525 El Camino Real, Redwood City, CA

              2. I'm excited about the Cold Sichuan noodles- when people do Sichuan on the board, they usually get the Dan Dan Mien, and I always gravitate to the other one, because we make it at home and I like to compare. Did they have the Cold Sichuan pickles on the menu? I never got to try them at Trend in Mountain View because we didn't get any with our take out when we tried it.

                2 Replies
                1. re: P. Punko

                  Not obviously, looking at my takeout menu.

                  1. re: P. Punko

                    The Sichuan pickles, or pao cai, are complimentary. Here it was mostly daikon with a little bit of carrot, as bb mentions in his report.
                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                  2. I've been there a couple of times, and my hubby's favorite is the Dry Cooked Prawns - it's been plenty spicy for us - the other good thing is their fish and preserved vegetable soup. The fish is tender, and the preserved vegetables give it a tangy flavor, which is great. Love their Sichuan cold noodles.
                    Last time we tried their fried chicken appetizer (sorry, don't have their menu in front of me), which were drumettes that were frenched, and deep fried - the coating was not too thick, and the chicken was tender.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sandrachang

                      The first time I ever had that style of fish and pickled veg soup was at San Mateo's Little Sichuan, and it still makes my favorite. Can't wait to try it here.

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                      Little Sichuan
                      168 E 4th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                    2. Tried a dish here I'd never had before - chong qing beef. I enjoy the eponymous chicken version but somehow I always feel unfulfilled by it, no matter the restaurant. There was more substance to this dish, and the flavors really jumped - that numbing, citrusy garlic and ginger tang in full force. This place has shown me a lot in my visits - it's rather good.

                      1. We ate here last night. Huge portions and high quality. Could have made a whole meal of appetizers alone. This should be a top Chinese spot for those of us who live near here as we had a variety of fish and veggie dishes, some which they split 1/2 with meat for our meat-eating one, such as the awesome pot stickers. The Sichuan spicy and sour cold rice jello (noodle-like) with a sauce so good we took home the left over.
                        Loved the interior with the wall waterfall and changing digital pictures of their food and places in China. Good feeling, small, tho not noisy when nearly full.
                        Everyone wants to return.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: idtoca

                          They're very good at to-go as well - they're now my normal sunday take-out. Fast efficient and cheap-for-what-you-get