Sichuan Home, Geary near 15th (SF), reports?
Opened recently. Any reports, other than the glowing review in the Examiner?
Based on the glowing review in the Examiner, I went out there the other night with the hubs. I have to say I was disappointed. While I often agree with Patricia Unterman's taste, I do feel that her Asian restaurant reviews are not as reliable as her European restaurant reviews.
We ordered spicy fish stew, wontons in chili oil, the dao chow noodles and pea sprouts. First of all, the pea sprouts tasted as if there was sugar added to the dish. Not my fave. The wontons were maybe the best of the bunch...little nuggets of meat wrapped in silky wonton wrappers swimming in a pleasantly spiced broth. The noodles were fine, but not really that special. I wanted there to be a much bigger kick of both spice and ma lah. Plus the noodles were too thick for my taste (even by knife shaved noodle standards), and the meat was fatty yet still managed to be a bit dry.
All of the food was edible, just not incredible. I would definitely rather go to Z&Y or Spices.
re: Ruth Lafler
Agreed. The kitchen is competent, and I wondered if we suffered from white girl treatment, dumbing down the spice level. Our servers were very nice, if not speaking a lot of English.
The man next to us ordered in Chinese and had a great smelling bowl of (beef? pork?) spicy noodles. Two guys at another table were photographing their shrimp wraps, but didn't offer us any.
Ma po dofu used soft tofu in a flavorful sauce with barely a hint of Sichuan peppercorns. Prices are reasonable, and they seem a bit overwhelmed. I saw at least one patron clutching the Examiner review.
I was at Spices last week, and the garlic cucumbers at Sichuan Home were fresher and cleaner--but not spicy and addictive like the ones at Spices. Ditto for the chicken in red oil.
It didn't feel like anyone from Sichuan was cooking here.
Jonathan Kauffman's review in this week's SF Weekly is very mixed. Apparently the chef is Sichuan trained, but then he doesn't use Sichuan pepper. Trying a modern take on Sichuan, but that shouldn't mean dumbing it down.
Kauffman says the cold dishes were good. That's the only thing I have heard that would motivate us to check it out. Any comments on experience in this category??
I went with a friend tonight and thought it was quite good, actually. Kind of a long wait as the restaurant is fairly small. They appear to take reservations, although making one might be difficult as English is a bit limited. Staff is very friendly. Most of the customers appeared to be mainland Chinese families, some of whom had some nice dishes I couldn't identify from the menu. (If anyone goes, tell me where the mustard greens in broth with ham, and what looked like a wok filled with braken are on the menu.)
We started out with a complimentary dishes of Sichuan pickled cabbage and a seaweed salad. Very pleasing balance of flavors: briny, tart, garlicky, a little spicy.
Red chili oil wonton were in a spicy and mildly sour broth garnished with a few big pea sprouts (a nice touch). Distinct flavor of sichuan peppercorns. Wonton were too meaty for me, but it was a decent dish.
Couples delight was excellent with plenty of tripe, as was our other cold app of red chili oil mung bean jelly which was garnished with slices of cucumber, chopped peanuts, and cilantro. I really like the mung bean jelly dish, which is pretty hard to find around here, let alone done well. My only quibble is that I wish the jelly was a little less set.
Dry fried green beans were perfectly executed. Seemed like they came straight out of the wok to our table. Not too salty or too greasy, garnished with bits of chili, black beans, meat, and huge garlic cloves, the beans had a perfect crisp tender texture.
The chicken in a wooden bucket was very chickeny, garnished with sweet goji berries and a very rich broth. Good if you need a nonspicy dish.
The star of the meal was the Chef's special spicy fish stew (be careful ordering this as there are several dishes containing various combinations of the words "spicy" and "fish") which was on practically every table. This version comes in a large rectangular casserole filled with a spicy broth studded with fish, pickled red chiles, chopped fresh jalapenos, seaweed, bean sprouts, and what appeared to be konnyaku. Very spicy and addictive, as you could tell because people all over the restaurant kept going back to the dish. I especially liked that it wasn't covered with an inch of chili oil.
Complimentary soup dessert was a mochi soup flavored with osthmanthus flowers and garnished with kernals of rice. Weird. I wasn't a fan.
I do think that the kitchen doesn't use a ton of peppercorns but Sichuan food doesn't necessarily mean that the food has to hit you over the head with ma la. Overall, I thought the spicing was very nuanced and balanced. Dishes were well executed with everything coming out at the right temperatures and textures, which was impressive considering the chaos in the restaurant.
Went back last saturday and had a wonderful meal. #32 may be one of the best dishes I have had in SF all year. It is a deceptively simple stirfry containing garlic chives, slivers of lotus root, pine nuts and shreds of taro that have been previously deep fried.
Brought along a friend who spoke Mandarin, who talked to our waitress. Chef is definitely from Sichuan, and his specialty is sizzling hot fish pots, hence the large number of fish dishes in the menu. It also is the name of the restaurant in Chinese. According to the waitress, he's planning to change the menu every once in awhile with new specialties.
Yeah, I know. Whenever we try a different fish stew, the verdict is always, "this isn't as good as the chef's special spicy fish stew. wish you had ordered that instead."
avoid the weird eggrolls with yam and shrimp. They seem like his interpretation of cha gio. Not a fan. Noodles are not a strong suit either.
Very good stir fry technique though. A sichuan friend likes the stir fried pork belly with taro, which I found way too rich. The taro is interestingly cut into paper thin slices instead of chunks.
It is the sort of place to scope out the dishes the chinese tables are ordering and also to insist that you want it spicy, I think.
I went last night and was disappointed with the meal.
We had the cold chicken dish to start, which was essentially chopped chicken on the bone in chili oil, garnished with cucumbers and cilantro. I've seen this dish served with shredded chicken which is a better prep to absorb the oil and spices, but maybe that was Hunan style. This dish was very difficult to eat, as the slices were too thin, and not much heat to the dish.
The wontons in chili oil were fine, a decent version.
#30, Sichuan fish?, was deep fried tilapia I believe, sliced with the bones. This was again very difficult to eat, getting fish bones in almost every bite. It was garnished with fried rice crakers, jalapenos, and dried chilies. The fish was muddy tasting, and needed more seasoning.
I liked the complimentary plate of seaweed and pickled cabbage.
I've given Sichuan Home three tries, and for the life of me I cannot understand all the great reviews. The place is clean and nicely painted, the staff friendly, the food very well presented. I suspect that's all it takes for a Chinese restaurant in SF to be well-reviewed by people who are used to dirty Cantonese joints. I'm a big fan of the Sichuan menu down the street at Dong Bei Mama - amazing depth of flavor. Try the "Fish A la Szechuan," the Chonqing fish filets, the fish in dry wok, all delicious.