So, last night we tried Jinli for dinner. Now, before I start, I am a BIG fan of Sichuan Cottage and have enjoyed many, many meals there. I was curious about the offerings at Jinli because they had a few lamb dishes that I wanted to try, as well as soup dumplings.
We started out with our choice of a free appetizer, in this case cold sliced chicken with hot chili oil. My husband wanted to try it. I don’t like chicken very much, but he said it was tasty, the spices were correct and a good start to the rest of the meal. We also ordered soup dumplings. These were freshly made, they made them while we were waiting, so it took awhile. They were delicious. Filled with a savory broth, a good pork mix inside. Brought with a side of dipping sauce with sliced ginger.
We then had the mapo tofu with minced pork. The combination of the tofu and pork was delectable, it was a one chili dish, so not too spicy for our tastes. I only wish the dish had been made with extra firm tofu instead of soft tofu, as it was hard to pick up the tofu with chopsticks without it breaking apart.
Now, many, many years ago, there used to be a favorite Szechuan restaurant in NYC called Hunan Garden. They made a lamb dish that I loved and have never been able to find again. Until yesterday. It was the Lamb in Sichuan Style (3 chilis, denoting spice level). This dish was perfect. It was exactly like the one I had been tasting over and over in my mind all these years. The lamb was the star of the dish, there were sliced peppers and onions as well. This was one of the best dishes I have ever had. I just enjoyed the leftovers for breakfast, and it was just as good. Even though it was very spicy, we are accustomed to it, and enjoy it. If you are a lamb fan, this dish is not to be missed.
The final dish we enjoyed was the sliced whole fish in chili oil and peppercorns. The dish was beautifully presented, and again, it was a hit. The fish used was catfish. It was tender, there were glass noodles at the bottom of the dish that absorbed the sauce.
We were very impressed with our meal. The menu has at least three times the amount of Szechuan food offered at Sichuan Cottage. The spice levels on the dishes are authentic and have not been toned down. The head chef is from Chengdu, China, where I lived for a while. The balance of the hot chili oil and Szechuan peppercorns gave each dish an authentic Chengdu flavor. We ordered totally different dishes here than what we ever had at Sichuan Cottage, so I can’t compare the dishes side by side. From what we have tasted so far, though, and I hate saying this, I think that they are going to give Sichuan Cottage a run for their money. A few of the dishes we had blew Sichuan Cottage out of the water, mainly the fish dish, the lamb dish and the soup dumplings. We will most definitely return here.
P.S. If you are looking for shrimp in lobster sauce, egg rolls, etc. this is not the restaurant for you. This is authentic Szechuan cuisine.