Sichuan Chong Qing Restaurant (San Mateo)

It’s been over two years since I last ate here, and I was pleased to find some dishes I’d return to. Lots of dishes on their menu are flanked by the word “Chongqing style”, which seems to point to the specialties. How these dishes are spiced differently than Sichuan or Chengdu versions of the same dishes I don’t know yet, but I’ll return to explore. Has anyone dined here?

Spicy white and black fungus were good. The black fungus was the really irregular type, no umbrella shapes in the bunch.

The #24, Chongqing Mouth Watering Fish filet contained plump pieces of a mild white fish, and a thick sauce built around Sichuan chile bean paste (fava bean doubanjiang), and containing fresh green chilies, soy sauce, dried red chilies, green onions, bean sprouts, and whole star anise. It was great, but very different from “mouth watering chicken,” a cold chicken appetizer that’s coated in a less textured sauce. I’m curious how this differs from the #28, the Chongqing Spicy Fish Filet with red chile (la zi yu).

The chef did an excellent job on the seasonal vegetable, water spinach (ong choy), which I ordered spicy. The water spinach was crisp and kissed with the flavors of charred dried chile, without too much spice heat. It also retained a balance of dark and lighter green colors. This redeemed some water spinach I had at Banana Island in Daly City a few weeks back, which, was uniformly Kermit the Frog green.

The woman who works the front of the house is very nice, and gave me red sichuan peppercorns, some whole and some ground (not sifted). I’d run out of the reds at home, and this gave me an opportunity to do a taste test. They were fragrant and top quality. From memory, they’re as good as the red ones at Marina Foods in San Mateo manufactured by Sichuan Hein Food Co. Perhaps that’s where she sources them. The brown Hanyuan County peppercorns I had on hand from Sichuan Hein Food Co. have more numbing power, but the aroma is milder.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold