China Lounge, Pleasanton...new Chengdu Chinese in the (far) East Bay.
- PeterL Jul 19, 2014 01:27 PM
How were the wontons in chili oil? They look about right in the picture, and I was hoping the liquid would be good enough to drink, even if it wasn't quite spicy enough.
I no longer order China Village's version since their former chef moved to Fresno, but when I do visit Fresno I am reminded of how great that dish can be.
Just read Boer's article for Chron about this place and his inexperience with the cuisine is showing. A waterfall backsplash is quite common behind wok stations, but sounds like he's never seen one before. Higher grades of Sichuan doubian jiang are made with fava beans, not soy beans that he specifies, or perhaps this place is not using better ingredients.
Looking at the photo of jiaozi, the thin and uniform wrappers appear to be machine made type, and would not be as highly regarded as handmade shui jiao. Has anyone ordered them who can tell us?
I'll take the smaller menu as a plus here, no random Peking Duck or XLB on the list. The menu reads pretty interesting, but the two of us ordered conservatively to see how a few standards fared. As a whole, I found the food spicy, but not tremendously so. The numbing stood out more: more ma than la.
A comparison of four dishes that all have chili oil shows the kitchen can create degrees of nuance with the same base.
The chili oil stands out much more than the wonton in that dish. A small order comes with four wontons. The chili oil is mixed with a strong dose of sesame oil. The sauce has a sweetness to it that I wonder if sugar was added to; very tasty. The sauce in the cold mung bean jelly was a mixture of chili oil, finely minced garlic, and black vinegar. The garlic is pungent, coming at you in clusters. After mixing it with the rest of the sauce, the sauce is delicious. Dan dan noodles was a disappointment. The sesame paste lacking in character mainly sits below the overcooked noodles, while the chili oil sits atop the noodles. It comes in a personal portion rice bowl, making it difficult to mix the sauces with the noodles. The portion of the chili oil also seems off, making this the least flavorful dish we had. Mapo tofu comes by default with ground beef--browned deeply and scattered on top of the dish--though there are interesting options to upgrade to shrimp or sea cucumber. Here the mixture of chili oil and dou ban jiang gives off the most savory taste of these dishes. To compare, I think it's less spicy than Z&Y's mapo tofu, but the numbing factor is similar. The dish could probably be cooked a bit more for the tofu to soak up more flavor, but a good rendition nonetheless.
Though I've always associated smoked/preserved pork belly and leeks more with Hunan than Sichuan cooking, my wife wanted to do a direct comparison with the dish at Wonderful in Millbrae, which she had fallen in love with. Wonderful wins this round, even though the dish at China Lounge is fine on its own. My main impression was that the smoked pork was better at Wonderful to begin with (which the owner told us was made in house). The China Lounge pork fat seemed fattier, and the meat parts drier.
Decor very nice. Huge open kitchen area with counter seating. Bar looked to have 8 or 9 beers on tap; wine list brought with menu. It's not often we're around the Dublin/Pleasanton, but we'd go back if in that area to try the many other interesting sounding dishes.