At some of the Chinese places around me, the Chinese-American food is pretty mediocre, but they’ll also provide a “traditional” menu that’s often not very well translated, and that’s always your best bet. I’ve discovered amazing food at places that keep a separate menu.
The thing is, not every place hands those out, and I’m not sure how to tread those waters. Has anyone had luck asking for off-menu (but traditional and very popular) dishes? For example, there’s a szechwan place near me whose ‘szechuan’ foods are pretty bland, but I’ve had enough terrific food from them that I suspect they’re dumbing it down. How do I ask for dry-fried szechuan chicken? Is there a common Mandarin name for it I should try?