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Most authentic sichuan/szechuan restaurant?

Trying to please a finicky Chinese friend who has not been happy with any of the Sichuan restaurants she's visited in the Bay Area. The only one she's been satisfied with (which means she says two dishes are good, the rest are crap) is some restaurant in Milpitas (I don't know the name - maybe South Legend or Chili Palace?). Took her to Crouching Tiger in Redwood City today and her thoughts were that it was too Americanized and not even close to being spicy enough. Are there any other restaurants I should be taking her? I am open to anywhere in the Bay Area. Thanks!

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  1. Give Z & Y in SF's Chinatown a try.

    1. Which other ones have you tried other than South Legend and Crouching Tiger?

      4 Replies
      1. re: sfbing

        I don't know which other ones she's tried unfortunately, and I'm not Chinese so I don't think I would steer her right on my own choices. She just commented that she hasn't found any good authentic places yet, and I was hoping maybe those in the know here could direct me to some options I could throw her way. I'll give Z&Y a shot, thanks!

        1. re: alina555

          In SF: Panda Country Kitchen, Z&Y, Spices
          Millbrae: Classic Sichuan
          Richmond: the Sichuan place in the Pacific East Mall

          Actually, Z&Y might be the last one I would try (although you should try it). It isn't terribly spicy to me and isn't as good as when it first opened, I think.

          1. re: sfbing

            The chefs from the Sichuan place in Richmond opened Happy Golden Bowl in El Cerrito.

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            Happy Golden Bowl
            10675 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA

            1. re: sfbing

              I would not recommend Classic Sichuan in Millbrae for spicy boiled fish/beef/meat.
              They do have a large selection of Sichuanese dishes on their "traditional/specialties" menu. Disregard most of the other dishes on their menu.

        2. Perhaps your friend should visit Chengdu or Chongqing. I hear they have a lot of sichuan food there. If she's in the Bay she should be eating tacos, pasta, fresh fruits and veggies, etc.

          1. If you could find out what dishes/preps she uses as a benchmark that would help pick a place. Every restaurant has some dishes that are better than others.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Perhaps I can share what she ordered at Crouching Tiger (I assume that would be her benchmark): dry cooked beef, double cooked pork (Hui Guo Rou), spicy boiled fish (this one in particular she said should have been more spicy and with more chiles?), cold rice jello.

              1. re: alina555

                The spicy boiled fish at China Village in Albany is my personal crack. It's usally pretty spicy, occassionally very spicy.

                1. re: SLRossi

                  I love the one with soft tofu. It's practically Korean in terms of color and heat.

                2. re: alina555

                  Sadly, I've yet to have an outstanding rendition of spicy boiled fish in the Bay Area. (Disclaimer: I haven't been to all the Sichuan restaurants yet.)

                  The problem is that most restaurants will use frozen fish fillets and do not use nearly enough (or any at all !!) Sichuan peppercorns. I think there are a couple of restaurants where (if you call a day ahead) will use a live or at least fresh fish.

                  My Sichuanese coworker also likes the South Legend restaurant in Milpitas. There is another Sichuanese restaurant in Fremont (it has an odd English name which I don't remember; it's located adjacent to a Cantonese seafood restaurant) which she also really liked, where the cooks and owners are from Sichuan.

                  1. re: alina555

                    I've found crouching tiger to be variable. It's hot when I look them in the eye and say "HOT!". Sometimes the woman has said "the cuisine of our region isn't that hot", but their menu is covered with "spicy specialties". Schizophrenia.

                    I think you do have to go into a chinese restaurant and ask for it Chinese style, or extra spicy or whatever.

                    I also think your friend is playing you, saying everything's not good enough, but this isn't a dating advice site!

                    My choice for consistently hot food is Nipa-pon in San Mateo. Ordering thai-style gets you thai hot every time. Woodside Thai Spot was hotter, but the new owners (who changed the name) have toned it down a bit (although it's pretty tasty). As a very general rule, Thai is hotter than any Chinese regional cuisine.

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      The woman was right...generally. Sichuanese food isn't supposed to knock you off your seat and make you want to drink liquid nitrogen. There is a delicate balance of red chili peppers (or chili oil) and the Sichuan peppercorns (if used for the numbing effect).

                      I think many times restaurants (not necessarily Chinese) can hide poorly made food with lots and lots of chili spice. Lots of times people will scarf it down and say it was good even though all one could taste are the chilis.

                      1. re: bbulkow

                        Yeah, we didn't make any special requests on spiciness, because I kind of assumed it would be to her liking since it was highly rated. I've taken her to Ruen Pair in Albany for truly "hot" food - we ordered dishes at their spiciest level, and she enjoyed that place very, very much.

                        I agree with Cary's comment below; it seems like she is looking for something with lots and lots of red chili peppers and peppercorns. I'm not sure if all that chili would make anything taste good, but it seems like that what makes it "authentic" for her.

                  2. Sichuan Fortune House in Pleasant Hill is not that easy to find but they are passionate about the authenticity of the food. Just make sure you stick to Sichuan dishes. Many of the standard Cantonese/Mandarin dishes are labelled "Classic."

                    1. Thanks for all the great suggestions! I will take her out and give many of them a shot. :)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: alina555

                        I would agree that China Village in Albany is great. Super super spicy though not sure they could add any more sichuan peppercorns in there. Fish is tender, everything is super flavorful......and it brings the heat.