Szechuan House in Iowa City
When I was home with my family over the Christmas season we went to the relatively new Szechuan House. It has all the hallmarks of a very authentic restaurant, from an infuriatingly long and non-descriptive menu to a mostly Chinese-speaking clientele.
The menu translations were a bit different than I'm used to from the Bay Area, but everything we ended up ordering was quite good.
Sichuan Dandan noodles
Sichuan Bean Noodle Salad (from this description, I wasn't sure if this would be the dish we got, bean flour jelly in mala sour sauce that we got, or "double skin", bean thread sheets with vegetable mix-ins and hot mustard)
Sliced Fish and Tofu w. Spicy Sauce-this was a classic dish that would appear as "water boiled" on menus I'm used to, ignoring the fact that the fish and tofu are served in a bath of chili pepper and Sichuan peppercorn flavored broth and oil. When we asked about differences between 3 seeming indistinguishable dishes on the menu, Sliced Fish and Tofu w. Spicy Sauce, Sliced Fish w. Soft Tofu, and Spicy Bean Curd Fish we were told that the one we ordered was actually spicier and included peanuts.
San Bei Grassfed Chicken--this dish was served on a sterno plate and had glass noodles at the bottom (or were they rice noodles? it's been a while). The chicken is served on bone, and the broth is very well balanced.
Lamb in Thin Wrap--the most confusing menu name of the night, but a very delicious dish. It was cumin lamb served with (relatively thick) steamed bao.
I will definitely go back when I'm in the area, and my parents have been taking their friends there ever since our meal.
Oops, meant to include pictures. Here they are, in order of dishes mentioned. And since it is currently Dan Dan month in the Bay Area, and I forgot to expound on the dandan above, the noodles here had a good balance of mala (heat with numbing sichuan peppercorns). I didn't notice any preserved vegetable or sesame paste, but enjoyed the dish, and it was the only one that was completely finished by the end of the meal. The bean noodle salad had sesame paste and a significant amount of vinegar added relative to the Dan Dan saucing.
How was the service? I went there when they first opened and thought the food was decent, but the place was incredibly disorganized. We waited for perhaps an extra half hour after we had finished all our other food for the final dish to come.
The food could also have been spicier.