Sampling Szechuan

One of the cool things about living in the bay area is how diverse the cuisine is, especially when it comes to Asian foods. When someone wants to go out for Chinese food, you start by asking, “What kind?”

We’ve found great Hunan and dim sum/Cantonese places in San Francisco, and some awesome noodle places in Berkeley and Oakland. Then this weekend we realized there is actually a pan-Asian mall (suburban Chinatown?) not too far from our house that has a big grocery store and a bunch of restaurants (Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.). We decided to try one that served Szechuan food, after spotting some yummy looking hot pots in the window.

I know Szechuan food is hot, but wow. We ordered a bowl of spicy fish and soft tofu, and it blew our faces off.

The fish was basically just floating in a pool of pure chili oil. It was really good though. The spice flavor is actually similar to pumpkin pie spice or something like that.

This weekend we also had dinner with a friend of Mike’s from high school. His wife tipped us of to a bakery in Chinatown that makes the tastiest sweet and savory buns. I am just totally overwhelmed by the options here, after spending my whole life in places with essentially the same menus (sweet and sour this, General Tso’s that). Which I love, don’t get me wrong. It’s just so cool to feel like I have a whole new world of food exploration.

When we got out to our car after dinner we found a paper menu stuck to the windshield for another restaurant.

It features the unfortunately named “cat ear like” dish.

And a host of other fascinating things.

I tend not to have an Andrew Zimmern-like palate, but maybe I’ll get there eventually.

After my mouth cooled off I decided that I deserved a little treat, both for surviving dinner and for putting in some tough hikes this week. We ended up trying Tara’s Organic Ice Cream, which I’d heard was really good.

Oh my, were they right.

All day long I’d been watching college basketball and seeing constant adds and sponsorship logos for Reese’s products, so I opted for a scoop of chocolate and peanut butter. Mike tried the garam masala and Mayan chocolate flavors. They were all out of salted caramel, which was what I really wanted. Next time…

It was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Plus, the scoops were tiny (and of course came in tiny compostable cups), so we didn’t even feel bad about indulging. It was the perfect little treat.

We only have about 50,000 restaurants left to try…

I am thinking about putting together a travel guide of my favorites here in case you want to know what to do/eat when you come visit!