The Sichuan Cottage HOdown/Chowdown went very well--almost too well. We had planned for ten, but eleven showed up, and so we ended up at two tables. There was the "Ox Tongue and Tripe with Hot Sauce" (T&T) table (MarlboroMan, MarlboroWoman, MarlboroChild1, and MarlboroChild2, Mrs. Seal, Mark, and me), and there was the "No Ox Tongue and Tripe with Hot Sauce" (No-T&T) table (JoeBabbitt, Julia, Curlz, and Seal).
The T&T table was also divided into two groups. MW, MC1, and MC2 had Chicken Soup, Shrimp Lo Mein, Chicken with Broccoli, and Happy Family. The rest of us had West Lake Beef Chowder (#108), Wonton in Spicy Hot Oil (#209), Dan Dan Noodles (#712), Ox Tongue and Tripe with Hot Sauce (#901), Potatoes with Vinegar Sauce (#944), and Curry Fish Filets (T-3). The No-T&T table had West Lake Beef Chowder (#108), Three Pepper Chicken (#921), Lamb with Cumin Flavor (#929), Cellophane Noodle with Minced Pork (#945), and Salt & Pepper Pork Chop (#?).
West Lake Beef Chowder (#108): Everyone who had this loved it. Period.
Wonton in Spicy Hot Oil (#209): MM loves them, but the sauce did not seem to have much flavor.
Dan Dan Noodles (#712): Another MM favorite, but I find the sauce a bit too thin. One suggestion for next time was the Udon Noodles Shanghai Style.
Ox Tongue and Tripe with Hot Sauce (#901): If you like the Sichuan brown pepper, this is your dish! (Alas, Mark--my Mark, not EqualMark--does not.) Really spicy and mouth-numbing. The appearance and texture is not all that different from the Chinese bacon in many of the dishes. Clearly a dish over which there can be disagreement, this is just the sort of thing best tried in a large group.
Three Pepper Chicken (#921): Also heavy on brown pepper. Everyone at the No-T&T table seemed to like it. One of the classic dishes, it's even available as a lunch special.
Lamb with Cumin Flavor (#929): Everyone at the No-T&T table seemed to like it. This and the Three Pepper Chicken were my back-up suggestions if people had trouble making up their mind.
Potatoes with Vinegar Sauce (#944): Another dish for a large group, mostly because it's a large mound of "matchstick"potatoes in a vinegar sauce. The potatoes are apparently boiled, but not overly so and still have some crunch to them. One dish is probably the equivalent of two large potatoes, so a group (or take-out container) is called for. This had small pieces of red pepper on it, but was not spicy--someone say that when they had eaten it elsewhere, it was spicy.
Cellophane Noodle with Minced Pork (#945): "Ants Climbing a Tree". Always a good choice.
Curry Fish Filets (T-3): A dish from the (small) Thai section of the menu. A good counterpoint to the heavily spiced Sichuan dishes we ordered (though after enough brown pepper, everything tastes different).
Salt & Pepper Pork Chop (#?): Also well-liked at the No-T&T table. They weren't sure what the actual cut of pork was, but it did have a bone in it.
In spite of the restaurants' claim that we could have put all 11 or even 12 people at the round table, there is no way that would have worked. Even with only 8 people, there was not really enough room on the turntable for all the dishes we ordered. I have no idea where we could possibly put another three or four dishes.
Talk of future HOdowns at West Lake (which will include the Pan Fried Whole Fish) and Anemos Greek Restaurant in Manalapan.
Happy New Year, everyone!