Monday, May 23, 2011

Sichuan Pavilion - K Street Corridor 3/27/2011

[Not related to the Sichuan Pavilion in Rockville]

On first glance, Sichuan Pavilion looks like your typical Americanized Chinese restaurant. However, closer examination of the menu belies this. Interspersed between the Chow Fun and various iteration of General Tso's entrees are some authentic Sichuan dishes. However, you have to know what to order.

If you are interested in something authentic, you can't go wrong with the Steamed Pork Bacon (with preserved vegetables). In reality, it is uncured pork belly marinated in a earthy sauce that isn't overwhelming spicy at all. If you see a group of Chinese people eating at this restaurant, you will see this dish on their table. It's basically this restaurant's signature.

Another good dish is the dan dan noodles, a noodle dish drenched in a spicy sauce seasoned with Sichuan peppercorn. Sichuan peppercorn isn't necessarily spicy, per se. What it does is creates a "ma la" (i.e., numbing) sensation, which is quite frankly an inimitable hallmark of Sichuan cuisine. Similarly, the mapo dofu (a tofu dish smothered in a similar Sichuan peppercorn sauce) is another classic Sichuan dish this restaurant makes a faithful rendition of.

The dry hot pepper chicken, which is basically small chunks of fried chicken sauteed with dried red peppers. The chicken is crispy with just a hint of spiciness to it. Really simple, but really good. I also like the tea smoke duck, but it basically just fried duck with hoisin and pancakes. It wasn't a crowd favorite with my group, so YMMV.

There are some landmines on the menu. For example, the lamb stew was watery and only had a few scraps of lamb in it. And, as mentioned earlier, the Americanized dishes are no better than what you can get at your neighborhood carryout, so don't bother ordering them. But, if you order carefully and conscientiously, you can get a fairly authentic meal without having to leave the borders of the District.

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