Sichuanese Cuisine Restaurant
15005 N.E. 24th Street
Bellevue WA 98052
Large Portions, Tasty Food and Cheap Prices
By: Steve G
Planted in a Bellevue strip mall is a Chinese restaurant that is a favorite among the locals: Sichuanese Cuisine. It offers authentic Chinese cuisine with all of the grease, aroma, big tables and spices that one finds at a good Chinese restaurant.
The restaurant features large 12-seat tables meant for family and big group dining, as well as smaller tables. Be prepared for a loud atmosphere during lunch hours, as typically large volume of patrons, especially the Microsoft crowd, come in waves and take over the restaurant. At around $7-8 for a dish, rice, and choice of egg flower or hot and sour soup, it is a big draw for locals and offers a deal that is hard to pass up.
Once we came on the scene to try out the cuisine, we were pleasantly surprised that we caught the tail end of the lunch hour rush, with several tables empty. As we approached the cashier, he said "just take any seat." Sadly, we were hoping for a more personable host. However, we put that aside and set our minds to checking out all the good things that we had heard about Sichuanese Cuisine.
Grant ordered the Hot Chicken Sichuan Style, commenting that the pan fried chicken was crispy and tasty. On first taste, it seemed like it was going to be very spicy, but it ended up being at a tolerable heat level. The chicken was deep-fried, but surprisingly had no breading. Some cabbage was mixed in, which gave the dish a refreshing taste. Unfortunately, the fried rice did not live up to our expectations as it was made with a sad mix of a loose scattering of peas, eggs, long grain mushy rice and soy sauce.
I ordered the Almond Chicken. The dish came with a large portion of rice and thoroughly cooked chicken mixed with chopped almonds that had a smoky aftertaste. While nothing was terribly wrong with the dish, nothing was especially great. It was of adequate quality, but the one element that put it over the top was the great price for the size of the portion.
One of the only real complaints we had about Sichuanese Cuisine was the lack of service-in fact we found it to be close to non-existent. It might have been on account of our table being near the back of the restaurant, but it still bothered us a little. We weren't brought any water until we could get the attention of a waiter, so we ended up drinking nearly the entire pot of tea to quench our thirst. Finally, it took an extremely long time to get our bill paid. In terms of ambiance we found the restaurant was a little dirty, and while the restaurant had ample lighting, the dcor seemed a little drab.
If you're looking for a great bang for your buck as far as portions are concerned, this is a great place to try. For around $7 you can grab a full meal. Sadly for us, that's where the bang stops--the quality of food goes down to a whimper. As a side note, the restaurant offers great hot pot--serving a pot with two different types of broth, one plain and another spicy. If you're a big hot pot fan it's a great pick that we think you will love. Unfortunately we also did not have a chance to try the black bean cod, one of my personal favorites. A follow-up visit might be needed for that dish.
Follow-Up Visit (Grant):
Sensing some great potential to Sichuanese Cuisine, I decided to come back during the dinner time with a large party for a more extensive review. Mindful to experiment, I opened the menu straight to the back page, where all the specialty (read: authentic) dishes were listed. There, I met an array of bizzare sounding dishes like Knight Zhang's beef, Sa-Wok and all sorts of pork products.
Being of Chinese descent, I was pretty dumbstruck at my options; many of which even I had never encountered. I knew asking the waiter would be a near exercise in futility, given that Sichuan cooking is extremely subjective to the eater's personal tastes (FYI, Sichuan, Szechuan and Szechwan cuisine are the exact same -- they're just have different spelings). So, I decided to randomly select a few dishes: Ant on the Tree, Pork Rib Sa Wok, Twiced Cooked Pork and one popular Chinese dish I am familiar with MaPo Tofu.
The Ant on the Tree was a surprise hit and a fabulous texture of glass noodles, ground pork and spicy chili oil. The richness is almost on the level of a hearty Italian red sauce, but the texture and taste are distinctly unique. It literally left a pool of red oil once we devoured the plate however, so I can't imagine that this will be a choice among the health conscious.
Not as popular was the pork rib sa wok, which was a hot pot (Chinese styled soup and broth) of pork rib, cabbage and tofu. The hot pot came in a massive pot that could serve a family of four, though most of it was broth. For a cold winter day, I can imagine this dish being fairly popular, but there wasn't any aspect of the broth or meat that stood out particularly.
If you love pork belly, you'll love the twice cooked pork, which tastes literally like cooked pork fat. I can, on occasion, appreciate pork belly, like at Serafina in Seattle and Facing East in Bellevue. That said, the heaping mounds of twice cooked pork was too rich for my blood, though I seemed to be the only one at the table with such prejudices. Across the table, forks and fingers were skewered attempting to eviscerate the last remaining portions from the plate.
Lastly, the mapo tofu, a dish I grew up on, was a hit-or-miss at the table. The sauce of swimming red would seem to emanate enough heat to melt taste buds, which acted as a deterrent to some. However, the bark was far worse than the bite, as I considered it a smooth heat, much like the ant on a tree dish. Made with ground pork and tofu, the texture worked great over rice, like many Chinese foods.
Sichuanese Cuisine definitely made me a convert on my second visit and is not a restaurant I (as well as others I have introduced), go to regularly now. Service is still quite hit-or-miss however, though the restaurant has undergone a cosmetic face-lift to improve the ambiance.
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