Grace Garden No S.
Fish noodles, spicy tofu pockets, whole crispy flounder (photo attached, take this with you and show it to them so you make sure to get the right dish), at lest one day in advance order the Pheonix Purse, taiwanese fish, pipa duck (pressed duck, order at least two days in advance, this is not on the menu.)
Ok, that's six dishes.
click on link for full Chinese menu.
1. Sichuan Triple treasures (tendon, tripe, tongue). Peasant food transformed into something worth traveling 500 miles for. If you can only order one item, this is it.
I've eaten this in pretty much every Sichuan restaurant I've been to on the east coast, and Chef Li's is *qualitatively* better. Despite mdpilam's claims (based on never having been to GG) in another thread, you're not going to get fuqi fei pian anywhere near this good on either coast.
2. Steamed pork belly with seasoned rice powder served over a bed of potatoes.
I've seen this on the menu at Red Pepper in Framingham, but they never actually had it and now they've removed it. It's common to find spareribs steamed with rice powder, but this is meltingly delicious pork belly doused with some Sichuan chili bean paste.
3. Steamed fish with rice power served on the deep fried crunchy and delicious corpse of the fish.
4. Sichuan style stir-fried pork belly, tossed (literally) with sweet peppers, leeks, and hot spices until it's crispy on the edges.
5. Taiwanese minced fish (with ground pork.) Sounds humble, but is an excellent pile of finely chopped and well balanced ingredients.
I've never been a fan of tofu; the tofu dishes I've had here were no better than the usual. Fortunately there are only three! BUT I'm not sure I've had the pocket tofu that Steve recommends, because it's described as "tofu mousse" and I'll give Chef the benefit of the doubt if tofu were being used as an ingredient, rather than a flavorless substance taking the place of flavorful substances.
I found the fish noodles more interesting than they were flavorful, and they're awfully pricey, but they're worth having at least once. A few things, such as the quail, have struck me as fairly ordinary, but for the most part, and with the notable exception of Hunan Taste, which is equally excellent in a different way, everything I've tried at GG here is at least as good, and usually MUCH better, than a similar dish elsewhere.
Chef Li really is that good.
SO, that's my five. There are other excellent choices which I never have since I can't get enough of my favorites, such as the beef with pickled cabbage and pork with mu-choy. The soft tendon was excellent if you don't mind the texture. Chef was trained in Hong Kong, so I'd expect all the seafood dishes to be first-rate. I just had the "vermicelli with [lots of] pork and pepper" which is his interpretation of Ants Climbing Trees, and it was excellent--again an interpretation that goes FAR beyond its typical implementation as a bowl of noodles with a tablespoon of meat if you're lucky.
If you can order in advance you have a few more choices. The pipa duck (a roast-y duck with lots of crispiness) was excellent, as were the Phoenix Purses. And the eight treasure steamed duck is also worth mentioning, though I've never had it because you have to order it ahead and I can't ever get anyone in DC to actually commit to anything in advance, but I might just order a whole one myself the next time I'm in town.
Note that they're Christian and are closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, Sundays, and two weeks in early January, and close at 9PM on weeknights. Arrive early if you want to order the fish with crispy bones, since the bones take half an hour to cook.
(Not in any particular order)
1. Ma Po Tofu (Extra ma la)
2. Spicy Rice Powder Pork Belly
3. Tea Smoked Duck
4. Fish Noodles
5. A dry fried Chicken dish that I've had on one occasion, but I do not believe is on the menu.
Inspired by this post, I'm organizing a mostly Sichuan dinner on New Year's Day, January 1st. I'll talk to Chef Li if there is enough interest.
MENU: Cumin Lamb, Dan Dan Noodles, Sichuan Fish Fillets, Sichuan Triple Treasures, Sichuan Steamed Whole Fish with Rice Powder, Vermicelli With Pork and Pepper (apparently his take on Ants Climb a Tree), Sichuan Steamed Pork Belly, Mapo Dofu, Pipa Duck (I know) and one of their green vegetables. I may ask Chef for a couple of other off menu items.
Are you interested? Available? We have had several outings to GG, but none specifically Sichuan.
GRR, so you aren't going to do this in the next few days? :-( I was just about to inquire.
I can't make it down on the 1st. End of January would work for me though. I've had all of those things except cumin lamb and mapo doufu, and they're all quite good. I'd be more interested in the rice stuffed duck and some of the dishes Chef made for the CNY dinner last year, which included among other things a sausage stuffed fish.
As Steve wrote, no S.
Now I'm hungry. Lucky me. Grace Garden is less than three miles from home.