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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Three chilies for Café China!

Savoury tofu with celery shoots
Crispy and spicy whole baby croak fish with sesame, peppercorns and chilli
Crystal shrimp dumplings
Spicy Chengdu wonton in sichuan peppercorn and chilli vinaigrette
Mung bean jelly in garlic and roasted peppercorn chilli oil
Cold Sichuan noodles with peanot, sesame, scallion and chili oil
Jellyfish in scallion pesto
Mapo Tofu
Sauteed hredded potatoes with chili, green pepper, sichuan peppercorn
"Shui Zhu Yu" tilapia fish boiled in chilli soup with tofu, cabbage, beansprouts
Sauteed pea shoots with garlic
Coconut sorbet

LOCATION: Café China
CATEGORY: Chinese, sichuan chinese, shanghainese
DRINK: Tsingtao beer, jasmine tea
WE THINK: Although Café China is strictly speaking not a Sichuan restaurant as it also serves dishes from other Chinese regions, we had some of the best Sichuan food we've had in New York and probably the best in Manhattan. Inspired by 1930s Shanghai with kitsch relics and posters hanging on light-blue walls and not a fluorescent lamp in sight, the decor is unusually nice for a non-fancy Chinese restaurant. The service, albeit a little confused, was also above-average in that it was relatively friendly and "service"-minded (by Chinese restaurant standards). There was a bunch of us so we ordered a bunch of dishes. It's hard to pick favourites as everything was of a high quality and tasted fresh and light, though of the starters we chose to order seconds of the Chengdu wonton, cold sichuan noodles and tofu with celery--they were that good. The Shuizhu yu fish cooked in chilli broth was very succulent and full of spicy flavours and the mapo tofu, the ubiquitous dish that is so easy to ruin, was well prepared with lots of heat. As we usually do when these are on the menu, we ordered sliced potatoes fried with chilli and vinegar and stir-fried pea-shoots. They were both super fresh and delicious. Unusually for a Chinese restuarant, there were lots of different ice creams to choose from. We had a macha ice cream, a very refreshing ginger lychee sorbet and a coconut sorbet--served in a coconut shell like in the eighties. Yum.