“I wish you hadn’t told me that” B said, after I informed him that this dish we had just eaten was Dan Dan Mien. We order a perfectly good dish which shares the same name from one of our favorite restaurants at home. It’s a great dish, thick chewy noodles and a sauce that seems to be made from pork and peanut butter. These were different. These were crafted dishes, delicate sauce made with layers of flavor. A hint of vinegar here, Sichuan peppercorn there. A totally unrelated dish. Now that we’d had the true version, that serviceable bowl of noodles back home didn’t seem as interesting.
We ate the noodles at each of the three Sichuan restaurants we went to–in fact, we got two repeat dishes. We developed a pattern, a taste for this beautiful noodle dish accompanied by the traditional boiled fish dish.
The noodles and the fish on the right side are both from a place called Ba Guo Bu Yi, where we went for lunch on one of our final days. I think we might have liked it a lot better had we not been to the other place the previous night.
Fei Teng Yu Xiang had a bit of a, well, Vegas-y exterior, to say the least. But in reality, it was the best meal of the trip. While we knew with two people we couldn’t order one of the giant vats of beer that were front in center at larger tables, we did our best to order an impressive amount of food for the two of us. So much, in fact, that the waiter gifted us a Fei Teng Yu Xiang calendar when we left. Now I have twelve beautiful months of Sichuanese food and gaudy Vegas facades to look forward to.
We had started our Sichuanese food journey with Chuan Ban, the Sichuanese Government Building restaurant but were surprisingly underwhelmed–the interwebs seem to think the world of the place. Every thing was quite good, but when compared with either of our other two Sichuan restaurant meals, this was not going to cut it.
The food at Fei Teng, on the other hand, blew us away. We started with a series of appetizers, beautiful cubes of pickled vegetable which sat at our table, cutting through the oil-heavy tradition of Sichuan food. Below that in the same photo, you’ll see our preserved eggs, a delicacy that was new to me as of this trip, but which I immediately fell in love with–I’ve got them in my cabinet at home now. A wonderful surprise arrived with our spicy eggplant. It was beautifully presented in a mortar and pestle. It turned out to be one of our best choices, once we realized you had to mix the peppers on top into the eggplant to avoid a searing spice.
As we finished up our starters, our second course included the dan dan noodles shown above and the dumplings pictured below. These little pillows of meat were served with a bright orange spicy dipping sauce that is underneath and you can’t see, unfortunately. You’ll have to take my word on how good it was. The fish then came and we thought we might be done. But no, we would never have only ordered enough food to make us painfully full. No, we needed to have ordered enough food to make us look angrily at the final dish, to want to cry when faced with the prospect of attacking the gorgeous bowl filled to the brim with tender oxtail and savory taro, sprinkled with tiny, multi-colored peppers. Oh, hell, there we were, digging in again.
The final dish I leave you with was actually from Ba Guo, but since everything was just a little less good versions of what we had at Fei Teng, I’m not going to add more comparison pictures. That said, Ba Guo was delicious and had some really cool dishes that weren’t at Fei Teng. Like this awesome squid over hot rocks dish!