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dr.com Sichuan Pavilion $20 Tuesday


Scott Johnston
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OK, recap

Scott +1 (not Claudia)

Dean +1

Legant

Elinw

DanielK

GennaroE

Porcupine +1

Xcanuck +2

RKDuggins +1

That puts us at 15 (2 tables) at 7:30 pm (the reservation is for 16, we still have room!). The resturant hopes we are all on time.

Dinner should be around 20 dollars but I would bring a little extra. For the new folks, we encourage people to bring cash (easiler that way). $20 dollars is before tax, tip and drinks. No one goes away hungry and the company is always great!

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The address might be on Hungerford Drive, but it's not visible from that road. The entrance is around the back; if you're looking on a map program, the parking lot entrance is on Beall Ave., near where Maryland Ave. intersects Beall.

By Google Maps, the front door is 39.087611,-77.151661.

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Hot damn, that was a fantastic meal! I echo Porcupine's thanks - Scott did a great job organizing the dinner. I know he wrote down the specifics of the meal and, barring a sneeze, should be able to post what we had. I think we ordered close to 15 dishes and the tab for the whole thing came out to under $16 each, incl tax and generous tip.

Personal favorites were the General Guan's Chicken, Sichuan Beef Jerky, Shredded Bean Curd Salad, Smoked/Breaded/Fried Duck, Cured Pork, and Crunchy Fungus with Pickled Peppers. The only dish that I didn't care for was the short ribs in lemon sauce. It was cloyingly sweet and tasted like it had been cooked inside a supermarket lemon pie. But to have only one dish among 15 disappoint is a remarkable success rate. And the service was really good time. Very prompt, polite, and accommodating. They certainly don't act condescending towards non-Asian diners. The "Authentic" menu is printed in English and the staff seems very eager for you to try the more unusual dishes (JNH - take note!).

A great meal with incredible company. I really had a wonderful time and it was good to see some old friends after quite awhile.

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My favorites included the stirfried peanuts, dried fish which have a hot edge, the hot & sour soup with pigs feet although by that time all I did was have the broth, the sizzling rice cakes with seafood, the duck and the General Guan's Chicken which was basically cumin lamb made with chicken instead. The cured pork belly with garlic sprouts was pretty intense and good as well. I think I am one of the few who liked the ribs but I think it should properly be described more as in a sauce that tastes like a Mc Donald's Lemon Popover Dessert would taste like if they made them and if McDonald's food was real food that was edible. The broad beans are a great cold plate.

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So, 9/15 was a $20 Tuesday at Sichuan Pavilion which, despite what some might label gluttony if they saw the parade of dishes headed for our two tables, only cost each of us $16. For two of us, including myself, this was a first DR event, so here I am writing up a report on the food. Hopefully I manage to capture all the dishes. Im going to organize them as theyre laid out on the menu, not in any rank order. I'm not sure if this belongs here or on the Sichuan Pavilion thread, so if this is the wrong location, feel free to set me straight.

Small Plates

13. Beef Tendon & Tripe w/ Spicy Sauce ($7.95) I cant speak for this dish, as I didnt try it, but the sauce did look deliciously spicy, and Im pretty sure the group polished off the whole order.

17. Sichuan Style Beef Jerkey (6.95) This was the very first thing tasted, and Id certainly take it over a Slim Jim any day. I was surprised by how dry and bland it tasted at first, only to develop as it was chewed, giving off lots of concentrated flavor and a good amount of heat.

20. Anchovies w/ Roasted Peanuts & Hot Peppers ($6.50) Perhaps my favorite dish of the night, the combination of salty from the tiny fish (fried crisp) and the peanuts, and the spicyness of the sauce blew me away.

21. Crispy Fungus and Pickled Pepper Salad ($3.50) Sadly, this dish didnt impress me, despite how often it is mentioned on this thread. The description crispy had me expecting…well, something crispy, but instead everything was gummy and chewy. Im pretty sure I was chewing a piece of mushroom about an hour and a half later. The flavor wasnt bad at all, just the lack of another texture to offset all the rubbery components left me unsatisfied.

23. Board [sp Broad?] Beans w/ Garlic & Scallion Sauce ($3.50) I only got a small bite of this dish. It seemed decent enough large beans with a light coating of the described sauce but compared to the more exciting plates we experienced, not worth ordering again.

24. Shredded Bean Curd Salad ($3.50) A worthwhile choice, the bean curd noodles had an interesting texture (Id never had them before), so I was glad to have tried it, and it offset the other selections well. If I remember correctly, it had a slow, creeping heat, more of which would have made it substantially better in my book.

31. Lotus Poot [sp Root] Salad (3.95) This was my second favorite small plate we ordered, and one of the highlights of the meal. The lotus root hadnt been turned to mush; it had a nice crispness, and that coupled with its dressing was a refreshing diversion from the spicier dishes.

Seafood

12. Seafood Combination w/ Crispy Rice Cake ($13.95) A truly awesome dish, so good that the second table collectively laid claim to it and forced the first to get their own. They bring out the rice cakes on a deep platter, then pour the combination of shrimp, scallops, and vegetables in a white sauce over top.I think it was Dean who pointed out that it ought to be eaten very quickly, before the crispy rice cakes were given time to grow soggy under the seafoods sauce, and he was totally right. When the rice cakes are crispy, the dish is extraordinary; once they sop up the sauce, it drops down a few notches and is simply good.

?. Whole Fish ? ($14.95) There are a few options of whole fish on the menu, and Im not quite sure which we got, so if anyone can fill me in, I'll edit this. The fish was in a pool of sauce and vegetables that I recall being slightly sweet, not spicy. It was alright, but didnt stand out from any whole fish preparation Ive had at average Asian restaurants.

Chicken and Duck

8. Basil Chicken with Ginger in Hot Pot ($9.95) This was a pretty tame dish, but I still enjoyed it. There wasnt any heat, just the same sort of chicken youd find in a typical chicken and broccoli, seasoned as described with basil and ginger, but it was good.

19. General Guans Chicken ($9.50) A cut above #8, this was a plate of the same sort of chicken, elevated by the choice of seasoning. I believe this was the dish that had cumin in it, which made it stand out nicely from the other flavors of the night. I think we were all impressed; I heard at least a few people saying that General Tso was being deposed by Guan. This was interspersed with discussion of whether the recipe had come from the dishwasher (a thought inspired by the pronunciation, General Juans).

21. Smoked Duck (Deep Fried and Breaded) ($12.95) This dish demands to be ordered on every visit to Sichuan Pavilion, and it was one of the few we ordered doubles of for the two tables. The crispy coating on the duck, matched with the moist, meat was delicious. When wrapped up in one of the pancakes/buns its served with, and drizzled with the accompanying sauce (hoisin?) it was fantastic. I could have easily eaten a whole entrée portion on my own, despite the fact that it was quite generous (as all the portions were), even though I would have felt terrible for doing so afterward.

Pork

12. Fried Short Ribs with Lemon Sauce ($11.95) I think the majority enjoyed these ribs, which were slathered with a thick, yellow lemon sauce. Some found the sauce to be too sweet and overpowering, and thats understandable, especially if you grabbed a rib that was really drenched. Mine had only a light coating, and I found the lemony sweetness of the sauce wasnt too garish, and actually matched the pork sort of well.

15. Double Cooked Pork with Crispy Bread ($9.95) Another dish I was looking forward to that didnt quite manage to blow me away. Id be willing to give it another shot, as I only tried a small piece of the pork with a square of crispy bread, but I didnt feel like the bread was crispy enough. This was probably a case of the dish sitting for too long before I got my hands on it.

?. Cured Pork Belly with Garlic Sprouts? ($?) Thats how Dean described it, so its the title Im using, since I cant find it on the menu. I havent eaten a whole lot of dishes highlighting pork belly yet, so I dont have a lot to compare this to, but I really liked it. It was an intense dish as Dean said, and although I liked the flavor of the pork, what really got me was the garlic sprouts.

Tofu

2. Fried Tofu with Vegetables ($8.95) This was the only dish of the night that I found to be utterly pointless. Thick triangles of tofu, fried and then steeped in a sauce that lacked flavor, along with some random vegetables; it was bland, and didnt get finished.

Vegetables

12. Crispy Potato with Wild Peppers ($8.25) As I run through these dishes again, Im starting to think that whoever translated the menu threw the word Crispy into descriptions at random. Sometimes the dish is crispy, sometimes not. This was a plate of noodles and vegetables that was really good, but certainly not crispy. The wild peppers gave it some nice heat, though I could have used more, and if Im remembering right there was also a bit of pickled flavor mixed in as well.

?. ???? ($?) So, we had a dish of greens, but I havent a clue what it was or what it cost. I do know that simply seeing a plate of vibrant green was a nice diversion. They were cooked well, with nice, clean flavor, and allowed to remain crisp rather than turned to mush. I picked up on some bitterness that kind of reminded me of very toned down rapini.

Other

?. Hot & Sour Soup with Pigs Feet? ($?) The only dish other than the tofu that I simply didnt enjoy. The broth was alright, made interesting by the infusion of a pickled flavor, but the pigs feet were just unruly and not worth the time and effort of eating. There were noodles at the bottom of the bowl, under the mass of pigs feet, and these were decent as well, but I didnt feel the need to go hunting for them with so many other delicious options around. Im pretty sure both tables left at least half of each giant bowl we ordered.

Wow, I cant believe we got all that for just $16 a head. Furthermore, with almost every dish, I was impressed by just how big the portions were for the relatively cheap prices. In general, low quality Asian restaurants seem to get stingy with proteins, in particular seafood, but the Seafood Combination w/ Crispy Rice Cake (13.95) was well stocked with shrimp and scallops, and the chicken dishes were piled high for just $8 or $9.

I think the absolute must-order dishes from this list include the fish and peanut small plate, the lotus root salad, the seafood combination, and the duck. Others, like Guans chicken and the pork belly, were very good, but could be sacrificed in the name of trying new things. The tofu and the pigs feet soup would be better off avoided, I think, and a few of the more bland/less memorable plates are a toss-up.

As for the service, despite the inevitable language barrier, our order seemed to be placed easily enough and we got all our dishes without having to form any search parties. Since paying in cash yields a stamp for every $20 spent, and 10 of these stamps leads to a $20 credit (a nice offer) we got a decent discount.

I particularly liked what the guy who saw us off (the manager/owner?) said; he was essentially impressed by how we were so willing to try different things, and told us that if we kept doing so we were bound to find our favorite dishes, as opposed to the masses who come in and simply stick to one dish, foregoing exploration and boxing themselves in. Im definitely up for continuing the exploration, especially with another group like the one we had last night, since being able to have just a bite or two of some 20 dishes is clearly the best way to experience what Sichuan Pavilion has to offer.

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I forgot about the potatoes & the lotus root! They were awesome. The twice cooked pork with bread did not impress me either and I have had it int he past and really liked it. So either it was just a little off tonight or it was a dish that just isn't at its best in a large menu.

I have been to Sichuan Pavillion probably 8 or 10 times now. Each time I go I try to have half new dishes and half old favorites. Last night we had 10 new to me dishes and 8 of the 10 I would order again. It amazes me how many really good dishes come out of their kitchen. A much higer batting average than either Joe's or Hong Kong Palace although the best of each of these restaruants are all really great in their individual way!.

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As the other first-timer, here's my review:

When I got off the long metro ride, I found myself a bit overwhelmed in the middle of the huge Rockville pikeway. With only a little trouble, and checking my iphone map every few minutes, I made it to the restaurant. Boy was the journey worth it, and Sichuan Pavilion was an excellent entree into the Don Rockwell family. In fact, the deceptive address of the place -- it's on the other side of an office building and not visible from the street-- was probably proof that good things were hidden inside.

Along with Gennaro, the other first timer, I joined just the group of adventurous eaters I could only dream of in dinner companions. There were 14 of us, spread across two tables. When I arrived, we were just getting our tables sorted out, and ordering was underway. What a nice feeling to not have to worry about picking what to eat. But I had a quick look at the menu anyway, and suggested the lotus root salad (it says "poot salad" on the menu) because I enjoy lotus salads when I've had them in japanese food (often as a cold stew in a dish like nishime) or thai or vietnamese restaurants (where it seems to stand in as an alternative green papaya salad).

Daniel took up hosting at our small table, and he did a great job: introducing Gennaro and I to everyone and inducting us into DR customs. The main thing, it seems, is to enjoy the food and talk about it! So, on to the food:

After a small beef jerker pre-meal appetizer, we started with some cold small plates -- the crispy fungus & pickled pepper salad, the lotus root salad, and the shredded bean curd salad, which was a type of tofu noodle. The mushroom dish and the lotus were stand-outs, and total contrasts -- the slightly slimy and vinegary-tasting mushroom; the crunchy and spicy lotus. Very nice textures. The beef tendon & tripe dish broke in around then for a nice start into the meat and serious sichuan spiciness. Nice thin and a bit tough cuts of meat, with a oily spicy sauce and shredded almonds all over. A little dish that kind of heats up the gut, it gives a new name to "starter." Very good.

Since we were sharing many dishes between two tables, other dishes filtered our way -- I only got to taste one broad bean, which was cold and tasty but nondescript. I really liked the baby smelt with roasted peanuts & hot peppers. It's served warm, and with its saltiness and mix of textures (fried little smelts, crunchy peanuts), it's a great warm snack that would go perfect with a beer.

Around this time, the pace of the dishes started quickening, and the plates were no longer small. Cured pork belly with garlic sprout was very satisfying-- salty with a nice crunch from the garlic sprouts (or were they leeks?), which were very good. Two chicken dishes came out early, and these were stand-outs. The basil "cup" chicken tasted as good as any chinese stir-fried chicken dish I've had: perfect softness of the chicken while also being salty and a bit sweet, with the oil-flavors perfectly coating the chicken without it seeming oily. But the real highlight was General Guan's chicken. Move over General Tso-- Guan has you beat! This cumin-spiced chicken was absolutely distinctive. Is this chinese food?! wow.

The rest could have been an afterthought after this, but it wasn't. Deep Fried Smoked Duck (served with a bun, hoisin sauce, and lettuce & cilantro if you want): excellent. Double cooked pork with crispy bread-- seemed very good but I only got a taste. When a whole fish with pickled vegetables came out, I was amazed that we were still just getting going. Great dish with a strong sauce and the pickled vegetables, which were featured in quite a few of the entrees, gave a nice touch. It did overpower the fish a little bit though -- I would be interested in trying their other whole fishes.

Here were my favorites of what remained:

* Crispy Potato noodles with Wild peppers-- this was another surprise. Potatoes at a chinese restaurant??? Kind of like still oily pre-cooked fries , this was a great starchy dish that packed a subtle wallop with the hidden peppers.

* Seafood combination w/ crispy rice cake: mmmnnnnnnnn... Gleaming pieces of shrimp, scallop, and fish (all perfectly cook and clinging to its oil-based flavors) with some crunchy vegetables, all atop the gooey sauce that infiltrates the crispy rice cake. Wow. Dean insisted we order another one rather than shares ours with the next table. Good Decision! The crispy rice, which traditionally was the slightly-burnt part that clings to the pan when a big batch is made, is most likely made separately just for the dish. Dean offered his version: throw an egg over some already cooked white rice, and then fry it up over high heat. Worth trying!

There was more. The fried short ribs were tasty, but I agree with some others that the lemon sauce was just too candied for my tastes. Not enough to ruin some perfectly fried ribs, but didn't quite work for me. From the specials board, we had the pig feet hot & sour soup with rice noodles. Had a very vinegary, pickled flavor, which I actually liked as a contrast to the other dishes, and very nice noodle threads. But there was too much other good stuff to focus on the soup, and it was the only left-over dish of the night. Probably would be hard to finish, and I would never have ordered it on my own, so glad to have tried it. A tofu w/ veggie dish, which wasn't so special got lost in the mix of intense and distinctive flavors. Lastly, some chinese-style greens, that I think were gai lan or something similar, were a nice healthy addition to everything else :rolleyes: .

I really enjoyed this meal, and the ability to try so much left me smiling and with a slight spicy/intense flavor buzz. The $16 bill didn't hurt either. Thanks to all for a great introduction to Don Rockwell eating. Lydia, Gennaro, Dean, Kay, and Daniel-- you were great tablemates. More chinese food soon?

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