It’s Monday night time and Cheng Du 23, a Sichuan Chinese eating place in a strip mall in Wayne, is hopping. There are young couples on dates—a huge family with grandparents and grandkids. There’s a set of work colleagues. Most everybody is Asian, consisting of my eating associate, a Chinese-American food lover living in Wayne. He comes here approximately once per week. After recent meals at Cheng Du 23, I, too, can be making common visits. I’ll be taking pals and a circle of relatives with me to make sure that they, too, get to enjoy what can be the excellent Sichuan eating place in North Jersey, if now not the best Chinese eating place.
Make that the first-rate real Chinese restaurant. Sure, Cheng Du gives Americanized Chinese dishes, dishes that maximum Chinese human beings by no means devour — e.G., cream-cheese filled crab rangoon (Chinese do not consume dairy; maximum are lactose-intolerant), thick-shelled egg rolls (the Chinese eat skinny-shelled spring rolls), fowl or beef with broccoli (broccoli is not an Eastern veggie). But if you’re here to eat the actual deal, forget about those dishes and opt for the “true Sichuan” grub (you’ll discover the real Chinese eats on the menu below “Authentic Sichuan Cuisine and Chef’s Specials”). And there’s quite plenty to select from.
As a long way as the appearance of the restaurant, it’s typical of Chinese restaurants right here: a huge mural depicting Chinese panorama, a large fish tank (right here stocked with vibrant orange koi), and a Buddhist altar (there are two tucked in a corner with fresh oranges as symbolic offerings). There’s no bar, but you can deliver alongside a bottle of wine — or do what most Asians do, drink sturdy tea with your meal.
Consider beginning your meal with xiao long bao ($8), aka soup dumplings or juice buns. “I come right here for this dish alone,” my dining accomplice says. I get it. These little pouches full of broth and minced pork are incredibly scrumptious. But pay attention: They ought to be eaten carefully. Bite too aggressively, and you will be going domestic with a broth-splattered shirt. One extra tip: after your first gentle chew, pour a bit of soy sauce into the pouch. It makes the little bundle of natural culinary pleasure even better.
Pork is regularly the main protein in Chinese dishes, although often the proteins (chook and pork are the opposite important meats) play a supporting role to the greens and starches on the plate. Take the evocatively named dish Ants Climbing a Tree ($thirteen), a scrumptious glass noodles dish with teeny specks of floor red meat (“ants”), which might be given a pleasing improvement by using chili oil and chili peppers. If you do not need it too highly spiced, ask.
Want greater protein? Try the splendid, whole branzino smothered in bean paste and chili sauce. Or take that famous dish, dan dan noodles ($7), in which the sautéed green vegetable (general spinach) upstages in quantity, if no longer necessarily tastiness, the flavorful minced beef. Perfectly cooked and wonderfully flaky, the fish, served on a huge platter, can effortlessly feed a circle of relatives of four (it’s market priced) or taken domestic and enjoyed day after today.
The simplest dish that overlooked the mark turned into sauteed snow pea leaves (marketplace priced). Yes, the leaves are fit to be eaten (they may be discovered in Asian markets if you need to try stir-frying them yourself). When younger, the leaves are wonderfully sweet, with a moderate snow pea flavor. When not so younger, they can take on a sour flavor. Ours, lamentably, had been barely sour.
One omits in an otherwise awesome Chinese feast?