Around Town / China in Photos / Food

Molecular Gastronomy-Sichuan Style

So this big fancy dinner I promised I’d tell you about.

30 some courses. 200 kuai a person.  In a recently renovated touristy place across town.

Expensive, very.  Worth it?  I think so.

We started with a whole lot of cold dishes.  Our waitress was amazingly professional and interesting and between her impeccable Mandarin (something of a rarity here in Chengdu) and all of the Chinese-speakers at the table, we had no trouble with translating all of the dishes.

And dishes there were.  We started with some cold bites:

Braised Peanuts

Braised Lotus Root

Bamboo Shoot

Mustard (wasabi-style) celery shoots

Rabbit (a Sichuan staple)

Duck Tongue

Pigeon Breast (shredded and deep-fried but surprisingly not greasy)

Pumpkin, tomato, and a few other vegetable and squash bites.

Oh, and we had those amazing edible paintbrushes that I showed you last night.  Oddly enough they were served with a sauce that detracted rather than enhanced them.  Sans sauce they were a sweet and spicy meat bun-delicious!

After the first round of cold dishes, we proceeded to this:

Believe it or not that is a lightly sweet tomato pudding.  Yea, not something you would expect out here in Chengdu but there it is: something like molecular gastronomy.  It was also really, really delicious.

Then we had this:

Abalone and leng mian.  Abalone is big in China and this dish was super flavorful.  The leng mian (a noodle made from bean sprout starch) was chunky and delicious.

From here, we moved on to a whole series of small dishes including a rabbit and egg custard and truffle and egg pastry, a soy bean and squash soup like thing, pumpkin and tapioca, a lovely fish dish, a red-bean paste filled bun, an absolutely amazing Tibetan wild boar that just melted in your mouth, a clear cabbage soup (much trickier than it looks), some noodles, a glutinous, deep-fried corn starch dish that reminded us all of a peanut-dusted mochi, and this:

Beijing duck served Sichuan style.

The night was wonderful.  The company was great and a set menu is always a lot of fun, especially when you don’t know what was coming.

The wild boar was out of this world, as was the tomato-foam dish.  Most things were really tasty, and a few were extraordinary in taste, texture and presentation.  The sort of thing that wouldn’t look out of place on a nice tasting menu in New York City.

There were a few misses though.  A few dishes that were just really not all that great, and some that just didn’t seem appropriate.  I mean, everyone liked the Beijing Duck (it was cedar-smoked) but this is Sichuan.  Why serve such a Beijing dish?

I also missed the inclusion of Sichuan’s famous pickled vegetables: pao cai as well as eggplant.  Both are things that are done so amazingly in Sichuan and I would have loved to see an imaginative high-end version of those dishes that we love so much here.

Last miss?  The timing.  We were definitely rushed a bit throughout the meal.  Given the amount of food and the complexity of some of the dishes, we should have spent at least another hour over dinner.  Instead, we received several courses at the same time and plates were cleared just a touch too quickly.  It was obvious there was a second seating they were looking forward to.

I don’t think lingering long after dinner and making other people wait is ever really ok, but the amount of rushing was definitely a bit absurd. I think everyone felt like they had to hurry up and eat whatever was put in front of them before it was taken away-which is not something you want especially when you are eating interesting food and paying so much for it.

Other than those little misses, this place was a joy.  A really interesting break from our usual Sichuan fare.  I think they are trying to keep it a bit exclusive as I can’t find information on it anywhere in Chengdu but I don’t think the secrecy will last long-not with the excellent food they are putting out there.

If you want to find the place, its No. 43 in the new Wide and Narrow Streets touristy area in the downtown.  Mr. Yu’s Family Kitchen.  Pricey, but a great food experience in Chengdu nevertheless.

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