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Sep 23, 2010 06:43 PM

Sichuan Pavillion in Rockville - Report

Eleven Chowhounds ordered quite a few dishes at this Sichuan restaurant with plenty of depth on the menu. We had:

Spicy gizzards
Lotus Root
Tendon and tripe
peanuts with anchoives
Dan Dan Noodles
Bean Jelly Salad

Intestines in Hot Pot
Minced Chicken ya cai
pork belly and sausage
flounder and vegetables in spicy soup
salty crispy eggplant
beef with fresh hot pepper
vegetabels over rice cakes
creamy custard shrimp

The creamy custard shrimp was simply a dry-fried shrimp with preserved black beans, so not a good translation, but a very tasty dish.

The best thing about the meal was the variety of flavors and textures. The next best thing was that everything was very agreeable, even the intestines and the gizzards- actually two wonderful dishes.

The intestine hot pot had a thick brown gravy, enough heat, and Yibin pickled peppers to make it all go down smoothly. And they didn't skimp on the blood chunks! The gizzards were super-crispy and had a very satisfying garlicky aftertaste.

The tendon and tripe dish, kind of the classic husband-and-wife Sichuan cold plate, was the best of its kind I've had at any restaurant. The bean jelly salad was cool and refreshing - not as spicy as the menu indicates, the lotus root was deliciously crunchy, and the smokiness of the bacon/sausage dish was a delight. The rice cakes came out nice and toasty - so easy to love. The fish was very good but they went easy on the hot and numbing.

The only serious disappointment was the salty crispy eggplant which was neither.

All told, this is a great place to explore Sichuan food.

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  1. Steve -- Have you had the tendon, tripe, and tongue at Grace Garden? If so, how does the tendon&tripe at Sichuan P compare? (I'm disappointed I couldn't make it to this one.)

    Grace Garden
    1690 Annapolis Rd, Odenton, MD

    4 Replies
    1. re: sweth

      Yes, I've had it. It is great there as well. An embarrassment of riches. I would say that the tendon at SP was some sort of tendon 'terrine' which was served in very proper rectangles and was soft, not really chewy. There were small bits of tripe that were delicious. The whole thing was more swimming in a red oil sauce than at GG, where it has a clinging sauce with lots of fresh cilantro and peanut on top. Maybe if I had just been to GG, I would say that's the best.

      We did not have the crispy bread dish at this meal, but I would say you should definitely try that as I don't know any other place in the DC area which has it - and it really epitomizes the kind of NW Chinese cooking which is unavailable in the US - Although it is pared with pork here so still very much Sichuanese.

      1. re: Steve

        I have to disagree with you on the tendon and tripe. I prefer the warm, garlicky tendon at A&J to the pressed slices we had at Sichuan Pavilion. The texture was interesting, but I think they need to be warm to get the full gelatinous impact that tendon can have.

        I loved the gizzard slices, which were very thoroughly spiced. I had not expected the gizzards to be served in thin slices; offal haters might not have even known they were gizzards.

        On the whole, I think that the cooking at Hong Kong Palace is more nuanced; we can detect more layers of flavor on dishes there. But this was a good meal with a fine crowd of adventurous eaters.

        Hong Kong Palace
        6387 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22044

        1. re: PollyG

          I guess I was comparing the cold dish to other cold dishes. But I agree that A & J has so many deeply satisfying dishes, including the tendon. I felt that the tendon dish at Sichuan Pavillion would be a good 'intro' for someone trying this for the first time.

          Hong Kong Palace is excellent. They are getting quite a crowd there on weekends, mostly Chinese from all over the area plus tourists who have heard about the place. I find most of the gold on the specials menu on the wall.

          Hong Kong Palace
          6387 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22044

          A & J Restaurant
          1319 Rockville Pike C, Rockville, MD

          1. re: Steve

            I had the fuqi fei pian at SP as well as at GG in the past week. It's hard for me to compare any other rendition of that dish with GG's, because I find GG's version qualitatively better. In fact, it really sucks that Lipoff missed it on his recent visit. :-(

            I didn't actually consume the SP version for 36 hours, so I expect it'll be more aromatic when fresh. What I did observe is that it had some really tough bits of something in it. The "knife work" as Lipoff would say, was also irregular. And I didn't find the tendon to be much different from the slightly chewy, slightly crunchy usual. All in all, if I *really*really* want this dish, I'll make the trip to GG, even from Boston.

            Jon Singer and T.bias also reported that "Hunan Taste" has a very good rendition. I tried their tendon-only dish and wasn't impressed--the flavor was okay, but huge lunch-meat sized slices of tendon aren't very easy to actually eat.

            As for the question of whether HKP or SP is a clear winner, I think I agree with Polly that HKP has a lot more nuance and tends to make every dish at least very good, rather than some being great and some merely okay.

    2. steve, that sounds just offal!

      1. Which pork belly and sausage? That was the dish I was looking for and couldn't find. Including the Chinese names is useful, though I'm generally too lazy to do that except for things out of the ordinary.

        Yibin pickle is a salted leaf, BTW, also known as ya-cai, as in the minced chicken dish. Figuring out which of the numerous pickled vegetables is the right one is always a challenge.