It’s Monday night, and Cheng Du 23, a Sichuan Chinese restaurant in a strip mall in Wayne, is hopping. There are young couples on dates—a massive circle of relatives with grandparents and grandkids. There’s a collection of work colleagues. Most everybody is Asian, consisting of my dining companion, a Chinese-American food lover living in Wayne. He comes here approximately as soon as every week. After my current meals at Cheng Du 23, I, too, will be making common visits. I’ll be taking friends and circle of relatives with me to make sure that they, too, get to enjoy what may be the excellent Sichuan eating place in North Jersey, if no longer the nice Chinese eating place.
Make that the first-rate actual Chinese eating place. Sure, Cheng Du gives Americanized Chinese dishes, dishes that maximum Chinese human beings by no means eat — e.G., cream-cheese crammed crab rangoon (Chinese do not eat dairy; maximum is lactose-illiberal), thick-shelled egg rolls (the Chinese consume thin-shelled spring rolls), chook or beef with broccoli (broccoli is not an Eastern veggie). But if you’re here to eat the actual deal, forget about the one’s dishes and opt for the “real Sichuan” grub (you may discover the actual Chinese eats on the menu under “Authentic Sichuan Cuisine and Chef’s Specials”). And there are quite a lot to pick out from.
As far because the look of the restaurant, it’s standard of Chinese eating places right here: a huge mural depicting Chinese landscape, a massive fish tank (here stocked with brilliant orange koi), and a Buddhist altar (there are two tucked in a nook with clean oranges as symbolic offerings). There’s no bar. However, you could convey alongside a bottle of wine — or do what most Asians do, drink strong tea along with your meal.
Consider starting your meal with xiao lengthy bao ($8), aka soup dumplings or juice buns. “I come right here for this dish alone,” my eating companion says. I get it. These little pouches filled with broth and minced beef are exceptionally delicious. But beware: They have to be eaten carefully. Bite too aggressively, and you will be going home with a broth-splattered blouse. One more tip: after your first gentle bite, pour a bit of soy sauce into the pouch. It makes the little package of natural culinary joy even better
Pork is often the primary protein in Chinese dishes, although frequently, the proteins (chook and red meat are the opposite foremost meats) play a helping role to the vegetables and starches at the plate. Take the evocatively named dish Ants Climbing a Tree ($13), a delicious glass noodles dish with teeny specks of floor red meat (“ants”) that are given a nice boost by using chili oil and chili peppers. If you do not want it too spicy, ask.
Or take that famous dish, dan dan noodles ($7), wherein the sautéed green vegetable (common spinach) upstages in amount, if no longer always tastiness, the flavorful minced red meat. Want extra protein? Try the terrific, entire branzino smothered in bean paste and chili sauce. Perfectly cooked and wonderfully flaky, the fish, served on a massive platter, can effortlessly feed a family of 4 (it is marketplace priced) or be taken home and enjoyed the following day.
The most effective dish we had that overlooked the mark was sauteed snow pea leaves (marketplace priced). Yes, the leaves are suitable for eating (they may be discovered in Asian markets if you need to attempt stir-frying them yourself). When younger, the leaves are splendidly candy, with a mild snow pea flavor. When not so young, they can take on a bitter taste. Ours, unfortunately, was barely bitter.
One pass over in an, in any other case, high-quality Chinese dinner party?
“We count number our miseries cautiously and be given our advantages without an awful lot idea,” one Chinese proverb notes. When eating such correct Chinese food, focus on the delicious benefits.