Chili House at 8th and Clement? [San Francisco]
I was grabbing some groceries at New May Wah this morning and was stopped in my tracks by the huge, colorful photos of chili-laden dishes in front of Chili House. There are Grand Opening signs up and pics of a bunch of tasty-looking Sichuan-style food. I didn't have a long time to look over the menu, but the printed menu looks like typical Chinese food like beef with broccoli. The pictures, however, are pretty appetizing. A Yelp search reveals that it's possibly the sister restaurant of Z&Y, in which case I am definitely giving this place a try. Anyone been?
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Meh. Just answered my own question at lunch today. Went with a few friends so we managed to order *a lot*. Everything was pretty disappointing and average. The boiled fish was overcooked and underspiced, nowhere near as good as Z&Y's version of the same dish. Mapo tofu was bland enough for our baby to eat (she loved it though). The pea sprouts were fine. Pickled beans flat and one-dimensional. My husband did like the spicy dumplings, but I thought the filling was either chicken breast or the blandest pork I've ever tasted. The Yunnan rice cakes were gluey and the bacon in the dish was flabby. Green beans needed salt. The beef tendon was refreshing, well-balanced, and possibly the best-executed dish of the bunch. Overall not terrible, but completely average: a C experience, in my book.
After a very good experience here a year ago with the dan dan mian I swung by last night and tried the mapo tofu. Not so good- MaMa Ji's is better, as is Dong Bei Mama's assuming they make it as well as they did when they were Panda Country Kitchen.
The menu here is very similar to Z&Y, with the "grilled Turkey spiced chicken" and so forth discussed on a Z&Y thread.
I've eaten here a few times over the past year or so, and the quality of the dishes meets what I've eaten at Z & Y. I'd recommend the following:
House Special Fish Fillet Boiled in House Spicy Sauce (aka water boiled fish)
Chicken with Explosive Chili Pepper (aka Chongking style chicken, boneless)
Spicy dumpling. This has a round wrapper folded into a chewy crescent shape, so it's not the wonton wrapper they use for their wonton with spicy peanut sauce or the "folded arm" red oil dumpling served elsewhere. Tasty with or without the red oil, and the sesame seeds add a bonus texture.
Yunnan Style Fried Rice Cake : less gummy rice cakes than what I recently ate at Z & Y ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8000... ), but the sauce preparation wasn't quite as present. Still damn good though.
Seasonal bok choy (ordered for balance rather than excitement)
Dan Dan noodles: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8843...
Gill lamb chops with crispy garlic : the only tjhing I wouldn't highly recommend. Sinewy and strong tasting lamb was spiced with Cumin and coated in a mountain of fried garlic.
I don't know if this was just idiosyncratic of the dishes we ordered, but on a trip this week they only used the green citrusy variety of Sichuan peppercorns. I've noticed these with increasing frequency. Am I eating at different places than I used to, or are kitchens increasingly stocking this variety?
re: Prabhakar Ragde
I only know one place in the bay area that sells the green ones at all and those are dried (Marina Foods in San Mateo).
Are fresh or soft preserved red Sichuan peppercorns available in the US? Considering the blight that made these guys illegal for so many years, I'd be surprised to find them available fresh.
I've also seen a large bag of the green varietal at the Lion Supermarket on Story Rd. in San Jose. I'm no expert, but it seems to me that the green version is a different varietal than the red version, the green being less numbing and more floral than the red. I got a version from the Lao temple in Santa Rosa that seemed somewhere in between the two and went well with the Kachin pounded beef with herbs in Naomi Buguid's Burma cookbook.
Finding details about varietals/species isn't as straightforward as I thought it would be. Andrea Nguyen has a good intro here http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/...
This page is a bit more detailed
Apparently a related species Zanthoxylum americanum can be foraged, particularly in the Eastern US http://eattheinternet.blogspot.com/20...
Anyway, I also wondering if anyone has seen fresh peppercorns, and if so what are they used for?
I ate at Chili House for the first time tonight, and unfortunately didn't have that great a meal. The main problem was that everything was much too salty. Actually, if that hadn't been the case, it would have been just fine.
The Yunnan Rice Cakes were pretty good, and the noodles themselves had a good texture (i.e. not overcooked), but there was minimal sauce (less than in hyperbowler's picture) and it was only mildly spicy. Overall, just much too saltiness, especially the bits with the pork, which are super salty to begin with.
Spicy dumplings -- Also much too salty, but otherwise pretty good. The dumpling filling tasted very salty to me, as did the sauce. I think I prefer the wonton version of this dish, though, so I would order that next time.
Seasonal Chinese broccoli with garlic -- Too salty, but otherwise would have been good.
Mu-shi pork, served w/ pancakes - A pretty typical American-Chinese version, which wasn't bad, aside from the fact that it was.....(you guessed it): too salty.
Not sure if others have that this experience, or whether it was just an off night (Monday), but I probably wouldn't return based on this one meal, despite the interesting menu and the friendly service.