Greatest Hits Tour at Sichuan Delight in Redwood City
- Melanie Wong Jun 27, 2009 06:51 PM
Last week, William and I hit up Sichuan Delight in Redwood City. Neither of us had tried it previously. Before Crouching Tiger opened, this was said to be one of the few Chinese spots in the area making a claim to authenticity. Neighborhing Target, it seems to be doing well with a smattering of family groups, both Chinese and not, and a busy take-out business.
We ordered some of our favorite Sichuan dishes here to see how they compare to versions prepared by the field.
Spicy beef tendon, $8.50, has a pile of bean sprouts underneath propping it up. Huge pieces of tendon, cut a bit thicker than most too, and slightly softer. William liked the texture, but he felt that those who like a little crunch to cold tendon might not. Excellent flavor with numbing Sichuan peppercorns and a slow to build up burn.
Spicy fish filet hot pot from the whiteboard, $13.95, was our seafood choice instead of the water-cooked fish we’d planned on. And, it a goodie. The price might seem high, but this pot was packed with filets of firm white fish and no filler. Saucy rather than brothy, the smoky dried chili pepper pods continued to transfer their delicious heat to the brew. I could eat the first few bites, but soon it grew too hot for me to handle. Hard to stop though as this was quite delicious with garlicky highlights.
The least of the dishes we ordered was the Sichuan smoked pork, $8.95. Looks good and the texture of the bacon cut pork belly was spot on and sliced a bit thicker than usual. But it wasn’t that smoky and could have used more salt, not something I say often in a Sichuan restaurant. Prepared well with tender leeks and sweet red peppers, but didn’t do it for us.
My favorite dish was the Chong Qing spicy chicken, $10.95, made in the traditional way with hacked wing pieces. The ma la seasonings were sizzled into the dry-fried skin to reach deep into the flesh. Just a little sweet, this helped balance the fiery chilis. These looked like the cute upturned facing heaven pepper variety to me. After a while, I found myself laboriously picking out the chili pepper seeds embedded in the chicken to cut down on the heat. Worth it though, so tasty.
The one non-Sichuan order was the handmade noodles with ground pork, $8.25. The pork was in strips and not ground. This seemed like it was made by a different hand as the vegetables were cut so haphazardly and included everything but the kitchen sink. Well, actually snow pea pods, asparagus, carrots, onions, bean sprouts, and more. But the critical part, the thick and chewy noodles were great, and William commented that the wok searing was quite expert.
This was a better showing than I expected, since we’ve not heard about this place for some time. Sichuan Delight deserves more chowhound attention.
2525 El Camino Real, Redwood City, CA
I agree with Yimster that they are as good as ever. The spicy beef noodles are a family favorite. Sometimes the beef could be stewed more, but when that happens my mother brings home the left overs and simmers the beef to perfection.
One of my favorites there is the water cooked beef. I've probably had it a dozen times and I think it's the best rendition I've had on the Peninsula. For me It has great balance between the strong, competing flavors. I also like their tea smoked duck. We've ordered it maybe six times and it was great five of those times.
The chong qing chicken at Trend seems more in keeping with the versions I've sampled in Chengdu. Trend uses significantly more peppers. The great thing about this dish is that every time I would have it in China, you could barely see the chicken because it was buried in the peppers. Then a relative would lean over and tell me not to worry -- that the dish wasn't too spicy and the idea was to pick up the fragrance of the peppers. Of course you'd look at the bowl of peppers and say, uh, yeah, sure. But it was always as they said, and the chicken would be redolent of the peppers, garlic, green onion and salt -- and not too spicy. The variety of pepper used differed from restaurant to restaurant, so I don't think it's anything cast in stone. This is one of the great dishes of China.
We always get the spicy tendons. Love them.
Their bathroom is usually relatively clean, which is a plus.
The chongqing chicken and charred rice noodles look great.
I thought facing-heaven chiles were stubbier than those in the chongqing chicken photo. The chiles in Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty photo and in the Shanghai market where I bought them (and thought we communicated successfully that these were the hotter Sichuan red peppers) look stubby like these:
Were these what were in the chongqing chicken? Or perhaps the shape is not the defining characteristic of facing-heaven chiles?
re: david kaplan
The chongqing chicken I had there this week was average at best. The peppers were standard sichuan peppers, and the succulence and fragrance of the dish at Happy Golden Bowl, CV, even Trend wasn't in evidence here. On the other hand, some chongqing chicken is better than none!
Happy Golden Bowl
10675 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA
I guess I need to try this place again, because when I worked in RC I tried it many times and thought it was just OK. I'm quite pleased with Crouching Tiger for my Sichuan needs when I'm down that way, but based on reports I guess SD needs another look.