Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ai-Fusion - My Favorite Sushi

We've been looking for a favorite sushi place since Midori got sold. The biggest problem is that I'm not really jazzed by purist Japanese sushi. I don't really get excited by the subtle differences between one kind of fish or another. I like excitement in my sushi - hot, creamy, crunchy with highlights of this flavor and that flavor. Because of that I lean toward Korean sushi. Of course, fusion cuisine - that peculiar blend that came out of California - also tends toward more variety.

And now we've found Ai-Fusion. They are run by the same people who run Ukai, and if you order from their regular menu, you will find some similarities in flavors with their sauces and meat grills (I love the teriyaki and mustard sauces that come with their grilled meat dishes - try the teppanyaki filet mignon!)

But it's their sushi menu that I go for. No, they don't have quite the balance of medium rolls that Midori had. The rolls here are either simple or are extravagant, and it takes a little experimenting to find your favorite balance of flavors and textures. (And very often, you'll get it all in the same roll.)

The hard part is remembering exactly which roll was the one you really loved last time - each roll has so many elements, they all start to sound alike. I can say for certain one of our favorite rolls is the Spicy Baked Scallop Roll - a roll with shrimp tempura, avocado and cucumber in it, with piles of scallops, tempura flakes, masago and sauces. The other big roll depicted here was (I think) the Fusion Roll, which was filled with spicy tuna, avocado and crab, and then the whole roll was fried up in tempura breading.

But we really liked the Playboy roll, and the MSU roll, and the Peacock, and the Crunch roll. You can find your own favorites. And don't forget to order some little rolls - an Avocado roll, or an AAC, or a pickled radish roll - to clense the palate between the taste overload on the big rolls.

They also have a lot of small private rooms, including some tatami rooms, for moderate sized parties.

Ai-Fusion is at 2827 East Grand River (in the old "Pistachio's" location) in East Lansing. 517-853-700.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lamai Birday is TODAY!

I missed that it was Lamai's birthday!

She has her usual Thai Sukiyaki feast. This "cook it yourself" dish is tasty and spicy (although not for everyone's tastes, so go easy at first.) I just had a little shrimp and scallops version for take out lunch. She also has cake and her lovely garlic and carmelized ribs. Here's a post on Lamai's other dishes, which are also available today.

In other news, I see the little place a few blocks down where Tacqueria Del Rey (and many other restaurants) used to be seems to be setting up to be a little grocery store. If the rumor is correct it will probably be a middle eastern place, but we'll have to see if it will have a bakery or deli associated. (They just put an ice machine outside, so it will probably be a decent convenience store for the neighborhood too.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Drive bys - July 26, 2009

All news of Mexican restaurants this time:

*Ramon's is Back! For fans of the old Ramon's in north Lansing, there's a sign on a big red house on West Saginaw that says they are back (and you can see that they have a bbq outside too). The house is a block or two west of Pine St, or a couple of blocks east of the Lansing El Azteco. (Between Butler and Sycamore, but on the north side of the street.)

*Famous Taco has returned to the location right next to the South Precinct of the Lansing Police Department in South Cedar St. This was great location for us before, and I am looking forward to it.

*Sadly, one of our readers has confirmed that Tacqueria Del Rey closed its doors just yesterday. It was probably hard to compete with El Oasis so close by. We will miss this. (Same reader says there could be a middle eastern place moving in soon. The east side has the Jerusalem Bakery and the grocery/deli that moved into the old Lopez Bakery - but I think there is room for something more. We'll see if this location is really cursed or not.)

This is the time of year when our favorite little places suffer. The MSU audience is out of town. Many people go on vacation. Be sure to give some business your favorite small restaurant. Keep them in business!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Bad Economy Has Gone Too Far

I'm getting used to trying to make do with less. I'm getting used to the products we buy costing more, or having less in the package.

But today I decided to have S'mores. I expected the candy bar to be smaller (it wasn't). The marshmallows are just as usual....

But the brand name graham crackers are now smaller than the candy bar in all dimensions! (Yeah, yeah, I know, the candy bar always used to be a little long, but you could fix that with a quick nibble.)

The flavor and texture balance is all wrong! This is an outrage! (You'd think Hershey and Nabisco could get together and deal with the downsizing of America with some proper coordination. Heh! No respect at all for the gourmets of this universe!)

I'm now going to have to get out my cleaver and start hacking at candy bars to get it to come out right.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Drive-bys: Recent Summer Food

A couple of quick bits about various places for not-good-for-you but good for your soul treats:

Fried fish and shrimp and onion rings: my favorite is Olympic Broil, which is in the old drive-in on Seymour Street in northwest Lansing. (Technically it's at 1320 N Grand River Ave, just north of the intersection of Grand River and Grand River. Below that intersection, the street is called Seymour. For those of us on the East Side, it's on the way to the airport.) They have great batter dipped fish and onion rings, as well as the usual burgers and fries and shrimp baskets and some Greek specialties.

However, I also just tried the place called just "Fish and Chips" at 2418 E Michigan Ave, a few blocks west of Frandor. Their cod was pretty ordinary fast foodish, but the perch was great. The chip were greasy but big and thick, and though I didn't try the shrimp, I took a quick bit of their cocktail sauce and found that it wasn't just ketchup - there's real horseradish in there. I'll be checking out the whitefish and catfish later on, and give you a better review. Oh, and the hush puppies I had with my order were good too. (Which is not true of the last time I was there many years ago.)


The soft-serve ice cream place in Old Town formerly known as Tate's Freeze is open again under the name of Arctic Corner. It's at 314 E. Grand River Ave. - that's the southwest corner of East Grand River and Center St., kitty corner from the soul food restaurant that used to be Vernadine's (and the old Lamai's before that). Here is a rather sloppy but thoroughly enjoyable Turtle Sundae that I had during a recent rainstorm.

Of course, when it comes to old fashioned soft-serve, you can't beat the Tasty Twist at 1307 E. Grand River Ave. in East Lansing. We always stop for a small cone dipped in chocolate whenever we actually have room left in our stomachs. I don't have a picture because you can't set the cone down to take the picture as easily as a sundae. (Okay, that's an excuse, usually I'm too busy eating the cone to take the picture.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tacqueria Del Rey

Editor's Note: Alas, it appears that Tacqueria Del Rey has gone out of business. I think they were probably just too close to El Oasis. If you'll note in the comments below, a reader believes that a middle eastern place may move into the location.

Tacqueria Del Rey has opened up on Michigan Avenue, where Mexico To Go used to be. While they don't have a lot of variety yet, they have that real tacqueria taste.

They tell me that this is their first restaurant, and the menu is still evolving. This means they didn't have a take out menu for me the last two times I stopped in, so I can only tell you about what I remember.

Good juicy carne guisada, which sometimes can be had as "lonches" - or a Mexican sub sandwich. (You can have any filling on that that you can have in a taco, but I recommend the guisada, because the juiciness goes with bread best.) I enjoy the pulled chicken, and I usually get a tostada. It supposedly comes with ground beef, but the beef they've put on it for me is seared and chopped - yum.

Sometimes they have Pan Dulce in the bakery counter as well. These big, lightly sweetened rolls have a colorful outer layer of a sweeter topping - still bread but more sugary. Pan dulce come in different shapes, but here they are mainly snail shell shaped.

Also, to go with your meal, don't forget the Jarritos, Mexican pop. I particularly recommend the tamarindo flavor to relieve your mouth if you go too heavy on the hot sauce.

Tacqueria Del Rey, 1825 East Michigan Avenue. (517) 977-0148.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Thai Food from Lamai's Kitchen

I've spoken before about Lamai, but I haven't written a real review. (Well, I waxed poetic about Lamai's Pad Thai a long time ago.) One of the reasons is that I keep forgetting to get great pictures. Sorry about that. I'm too busy eating.

Thai Food From Lamai's Kitchen is not the sort of place you go for the great atmosphere and the perfect service. But it's the sort of place that elicits passion in her customers. At her old place up in north Lansing, she often didn't have any employees, so the customers would wait on each other. One day, we even were given menus and water by the heath inspector! Everybody, I mean everybody, was eager to pitch in and keep Lamai in business.

It's just that Lamai is a great cook. And since the customers were always waiting eagerly to serve themselves, she opened her Michigan Avenue restaurant as a buffet.

Don't expect stereotypical Thai food here. It's authentic, but it's also one hundred percent Lamai. She's like a Thai grandmother, determined to feed you well, no matter what the ingredients. (And at times, if she's not too busy in the kitchen, she will come out and nag you about being too thin, or not trying the best stuff on the buffet.)

The first part of the buffet contains a selection of Thai salads, including her specialty Thai Fresh Eggrolls (pictured here). These are a little like the Vietnamese "spring roll", which is not fried, but wrapped in rice paper. Lamai's version, though, is filled with a lovely, light Thai salad, and are amazingly good with her special Fresh Eggroll Sauce. (Almost like a sour lemon syrup. It's yummy.)

She has a number of great salads, my favorite of which is made with browned Chinese Sausage and Cucumber. And then there is the ground turkey seasoned heavily with lime and herbs. Oh my. Or the Green Apple and Carmelized Onions with Cashews.

She usually has a rich and sour soup of some kind, either a spicy and sour Tom Yam, or a rich and spicy Tom Kha Gai. On Fridays, she has a seafood buffet, and seafood Tom Yam is really really really tasty. Watch out for the large chunks of lemon grass in any of her soups. Lemon grass tastes great, but it's woody.

On the buffet proper, she usually has a couple of kinds of noodles, including her famous Pad Thai. Some stir-fries (I recommend the Ginger Chicken - which is the dish with mushrooms, green peppers and peapods), and miscellaneous dishes that occur to her. She has taken to making her own version of the stuffed eggplant in garlic sauce that you see at dim sum places. Hers is heartier and except on friday, usually stuffed with pork rather than shrimp.

At the end of the buffet she usually has a couple of choices of rich and spicy Thai curries -- usually a red chicken curry with bamboo shoots, a Penang Beef which is stewed in sweet coconut milk and some third dish often with green beans.

She also has her own unique version of Crab Rangoon -- not a sweet and goey as you find other places. And without crab. She uses carrot and green onion, and it tastes even better than crab so don't complain.

On Thursdays, she replaces some of the dishes with Vegetarian versions, and on Fridays, she has a Seafood buffet that has the most amazing little rounds of fried shrimp that you will ever taste. (Have them with the fresh eggroll sauce - heavenly!)

Thai Food From Lamai's Kitchen is on Michigan Avenue at Fairview (right next to the Gone Wired Cafe). Yeah, it is sometimes hard to park around there. Suck it up. The weather is getting warmer. You can park on the neighborhood streets and walk a little. And she's now OPEN SUNDAYS. (Note, she closes between 3pm and 5pm every day.)

Thai Food From Lamai's Kitchen, 2033 E. Michigan Ave. (517) 267-3888.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Everyday Restaurant - Dim Sum Weekends

It seems like I've been hearing from lots of people about Everyday Buffet, a Chinese restaurant in Brookfield Plaza in East Lansing (located where the old Chinese Family Buffet used to be). I kept hearing the food is very good, and seems to cater to the Asian crowd. (And their non-buffet menu is full of great looking varieties of noodle dishes, which is a good sign.)

I finally decided to try it on the weekend, when they do a dim sum buffet. I definitely had a good meal out of it. (I don't know how their weekday lunch buffet is.)

The main problem here is the same as all dim sum buffets: not all dim sum is suitable for a buffet. The bao (steamed bbq pork buns) were a little tough and dried from sitting on the buffet. The squid/octopus was very tough for the same reason. The flavors for both were great, though. And there was the usual mislabeling of some dishes. (Like the sweet rice dumplings -- the meat-filled was labelled as sweet bean paste, and the sweet bean labeled as meat. Just remember that the triangle shape is almost always a dessert flavor, and the football shape is meat.)

But there is a lot more on the good side. Because it's a buffet, you don't have to have a bunch of people there to try a variety of flavors. You can have a little taste or a big bowl of the congee as you please. (They had four flavors, plus fried crullers to go with it, and the lightly sweetened red bean dessert soup too.)

You can see in the picture that my plate was piled high. The dark gravy on upper left is from the stewed beef brisket, which I considered the start of the show. Tender and lots of flavor. The greens were Yu Cai, I think, which is a slightly bitter green, but it tasted great with the other ingredients. The water chestnut cake (hidden under the big bao on the top) was very tasty. The turnip cake was good (not as good as Little Panda, but better than Golden Wok). The shiu mai and pan fried dumplings were decent, but not exciting. I really liked the fried taro dumplings, filled with meat (not pictured). Taro looks kind of like a hairy football when fried. And the pie guo - or stewed bits of sparerib in garlic sauce, was very tasty.

They also had a few regular non-dimsum dishes, such a Singapore Noodles and a shredded pork and pressed tofu dish that I have liked at other places. They also had the now usual selection of sushi and fruits on the salad bar.

And... they have a scale, so it appears you can buy take out buffet by the pound. (Always a plus in my book.)

Everyday Restaurant, 1375 East Grand River Ave, East Lansing. (517) 337-1882.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Omi Sushi - Stylish and also Down to Earth

Omi Sushi is the Japanese restaurant right down town in East Lansing, tucked in between the alley and the creamery. The decor is ultra-modern, but not snooty, and that describes the overall style of the place. They have the usual fusion sushi and appetizers, as well as entrees that come more from the casual end of Japanese cuisine.

For our first foray into the place, we went for a selection of appetizers and sushi, just to get a variety.

The Ebi Shiu Mai (shrimp dumplings) are tender and fresh, and attractively presented.

This picture shows, from back to front, Avocado roll, Kampyo roll, Shrimp Tempura Roll, and what may or may not be Spicy California Roll. This turned out to be a great selection for variety of textures and flavors. The avocado and kampyo provide a refresher between heavier rolls. The avocado is silky and rich, the kampyo a lightly sweet and tangy crunch. The tempura shrimp had a nice crunch, with a touch of fried flavor.

But the hit of the night was the California roll, but I don't know if you can order it exactly as we got it. See, we ordered Spicy California Roll, and they started to give us ordinary California Roll. At the last minute the waitress realized the mistake, and the sushi chef squirted this creamy spicy sauce on it. I don't know if it was supposed to be served that way, but it turned out to be a perfect touch.

Finally we had the Vegetable Tempura Appetizer. It was very well prepared, not too oily, nor too much batter. It was also attractively presented (as everything at Omi is) as a little castle of yam, green pepper, onion, broccholi and asparagus, topped with a little tempura-ed sheet of nori (sushi seaweed). I love tempura, but usually I am burping up the batter all night. While I left with a pleasant taste in my mouth, there was no "revisiting" of the meal later. My digestive system really liked this.

We're definitely going back, and will likely try the regular entrees next time. Many of the dishes on the menu are known for being variations of Japanese home cooking (such as the kasuzuke -- a marinade of the flavorful dregs of saki), but they are still presented in lovely ways. And I'm told the noodles are great here too.

Omi Japanese Restaurant, 210 MAC Ave, East Lansing. (517) 337-2222.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

El Azteco - The Great Old Standby

This blog has gone far too long without a mention of El Azteco. "El Az" as it is often called, has been in East Lansing for almost as long as I can remember (and I won't give away my age by telling you how long that is). And although this restaurant has moved and expanded, it has not changed. The food is still messy and a little inconsistent, but tasty as all get out and very filling for a reasonable price.

The tortillas and chips are fresh, and salsa only comes in hot. If you want something a little milder (or even if you don't) order up a bowl of their cheese dip, which is a light, creamy combo of sour cream, cottage cheese, regular chees and green onions.

My favorite meal is a la carte: a Guacamole Tostada, Chicken Taco and Rice. The Guac Tostada is a fried tortilla platter, slathered with hot beans and melted cheese, then covered with guacamole, lettuce and tomatoes. It's messy and difficult to eat, but OHHHH it's good. The chicken taco is made with pulled chicken meat, stewed in a medium colorado sauce. (Watch out, it's hand made, and sometimes you might find a bone in it.) Soft corn tortilla, lettuce and tomato.

The rice is really good, but vegetarians should watch out -- it's made with chicken broth. Otherwise, non-meat items are suitable for ovo-lacto vegetarians. (Vegans would be better off heading for Altus.)

El Azteco is also famous for its enchiladas, which come in many varieties. My favorite is the Enchiladas de Jocoque -- which are filled with a creamy cheese mixture much like the cheese dip, and soaked in spicy red sauce. Other's prefer the Blue Corn Enchiladas, which I think come with their Chili Verde. (A Chili Verde Burrito is also a special item here.)

Other special dishes are the Botana, which is something like a cross between nachos and a guacamole tostada - a plate of chips slathered with hot beans and cheese, then piled high with guacamole, lettuce and tomato. And then there is the Topopo Salad, which has all of the above plus chicken and peas and other things. This one tends to be piled so high, it's like a hay stack.

The East Lansing location has a rooftop patio which is open in good weather, and there is a second location downtown, which has more of a local working class bar atmosphere.

(And to all those who hit my blog from Google searches on "el az taco" or "elaz taco" those are local slang names for the place. This is the restauant you are looking for: The Aztec, El Azteco.)

El Azteco, 225 Ann Street, East Lansing. (517) 351-9111 El Azteco, 1016 W Saginaw St., Lansing. (517) 485-4589

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Fiesta Charra - Fresh Food, Fun Decor

When you enter Fiesta Charra on Grand River, east of East Lansing, the first thing you will notice is the colorfully painted chairs. The whole place is decorated with such colorful scenes. It promises a bright, flavorful experience, and Fiesta Charra delivers.

They have a full Mexican menu, but I have to admit I keep ordering the fajitas. They are too good to pass up. You can get beef, chicken or shrimp, or a combination of all three. You see the combo version here, which was good, but I have to say I liked the beef best -- thinly sliced shreds, seared on a fajita iron with onions, tomatoes, and peppers and a wedge of lime. The chicken is good, but a little plain for me, and the shrimp is great, but shrimp seared on the grill just doesn't highlight the flavors to best effect for me. (This is a personal preference, not a comment on Fiesta Charra.) There are more shrimp dishes on the menu that look good, if I ever get past the fajitas.

I can't remember the name of another dish we fully enjoyed -- I think it was something as simple as "Chili Verde". It was pulled pork served in a flavorful green chili sauce, and it made a nice counterpoint to the fajitas.

Both dishes are served with beans and rice, and your choice of homemade tortillas. (I prefer the corn, but if you can't make up your mind, they will serve them half and half.) Also, a platter of lettuce, sour cream, picante sauce and guacamole for you to dress your own meal.

The chips are fresh and tasty, and they come with not only the usual salsa, but a cool sour cream salsa -- maybe Ranchero style? It's a little sweet and very creamy, and it makes for an interesting break from the usual.

Fiesta Charra is in the same strip with Oriental Mart, just east of Coral Gables at 2800 E Grand River Ave, in East Lansing, MI 48823. (517) 333-6768.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Drive-by, January 30, 2009

Mexico To Go on Michigan Avenue closed a while ago, but there is a sign in the window that looks like it says "Coming Soon - Taqueria (something)".

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hong Kong Sichuan -- Even More Heavenly Dishes

Before I continue my tour of the menu at Hong Kong Sichuan Food, a note about the Lazi Chicken that we haven't tried yet. Fuschia Dunlop mentions this dish in her blog. I definitely want to try this soon.

Aside from the wontons I mentioned last time, you might start your meal with a noodle salad.

Z01Sichuan Noodle Salad
Spicy, tasty. The sharp and earthy flavors of many Sichuan dishes, red and black pepper, toasted garlic. The Spicy Chicken Salad (Z04) has similar flavors as the Sichuan Noodle salad, but with sliced chicken and more green onions.

Z07 Shredded Vegetables Salad
Tofu and veggies with cellophane noodles in a salty tangy sauce. I think overall I like this one a little better, but it depends on what else I'm ordering. If I plan on ordering a lot of spicy dishses, I go for this one. If I am ordering less spicy entrees, the Sichuan or Spicy Chicken is a good starter.

M26 Ziran Lamb (Muslim Lamb with Cumin)
There is a lot of middle-eastern influence in Muslim areas of China - kabobs, flat breads, lamb dishes. Sichuan does not have a large Muslim population, but neighboring Hunan does at least a little, and this is a common dish. It's lamb, stirfried with green peppers and onions and seasoned with a lot of cumin. Cumin is the spice that gives chili powder and taco seasoning that unique flavor. It's common in the middle east and India, and is quite strong in this dish.

M37 Crispy Eggplant with Hot and Sweet Sauce
This one is addictive. Thin sticks of eggplant are battered in a thick but fluffy batter and deep fried, then served with the "hot and sweet sauce". The batter is not at all dense, and this dish is just plain luxurious.

The "hot and sweet sauce" isn't actually hot at all. It's got garlic and maybe ginger in it. It's similar to another famous Sichuan sauce that you may already be familiar with under the name "garlic sauce." Odds are, if you order a broccholi in garlic sauce, the sauce will be yuxiang or "fish fragrant" sauce. (Which means it goes good with fish, the way steak sauce goes good with steak. It is not made of fish, nor does it have the fragrance of fish.) It's aromatic and a little sweet and sour, and very friendly to western tastes. The other eggplant dish comes with this sauce too, and there is a Yuxaing pork on the menu.

M04 Double-cooked Side Pork
If you've ever had Double-cooked Pork before, it probably was quite different than this. This is the authentic way to make the dish, and it is very very rich, and many Americans will find it too fatty.

It's made with side pork -- one of the cuts of pork from which you make bacon. This rich, melt-in-your-mouth cut is usually simmered to render out some of the fat, and then sliced and stir-fried. Hence the name "double-cooked".

M06 Steamed Side Pork in Soy Sauce (Button Pork)
This dish is also made with side pork, and it's a nice showy kind of dish you can nibble from. The Chinese characters for this dish are "button pork" and that probably refers to the way it is presented. A bowl is lined with slices of side pork, and then filled with salty preserved Sichuan vegetables. It's seasoned with soy sauce at some point, and then steamed. The bowl is then inverted and the dish is served like a "button" on a plate.

Button Pork a little salty and fatty for western tastes, especially as a main dish, but it's a great side dish, and surprisingly good for leftovers. It's so flavorful, you can just chop a little bit up and put it over rice to make a very tasty lunch.

I have not tried the Korean Noodle Soup, nor the main dish version of the Hot and Sour Soup -- but friends have and both are highly recommended. Both are spicy. The Korean soup is a seafood soup and friend noted that the squid was so perfectly cooked, it wasn't rubbery. That's noteworthy.

Hong Kong Sichuan Restaurant, 315 S. Homer St. (south of Frandor, near Kalamazoo St -- behind Bake n Cakes), Lansing Mi. (517) 332-5333.

Read previous reviews of heavenly dishes at Hong Kong Sichuan:

Heavenly Sichuan Food
Hong Kong Sichuan, More Heavenly Dishes

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lion Dance at Golden Wok

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year. It's the year of the earth cow! Golden Wok had a performance of a lion dance this weekend, and we were lucky enough to have made a reservation for other reasons. Here's some video.

See you tomorrow for more Sichuan dishes....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Posting Schedule

Watch for new posts on Tuesdays for the time being.

I've been doing some blog housekeeping. I have fixed a few things about the Google id that owns this blog. (Unfortunately I can't seem to fix the fact that it now claims that all the old posts were authored by "pitchlady" which is my script reading and synopsis service name. Sigh.)

Feedburner is now a part of Google, which may affect RSS and Atom feeds, however I suspect it won't be a problem for this blog. What might be more of a problem is that I hope to update the template to the new Blogger formats sometime soon. This will allow things like an "older posts" button at the bottom of the page.

I will warn people before I do anything drastic that might affect your subscriptions.

In the meantime, I have created a new blog for folks who want to learn more about Reading Chinese Menus. That blog will be much less demanding than this one, in terms of the preparation I need to do for each post, so in some ways, that's a reward for posting here. I'll post to that blog on Fridays.

Hong Kong Sichuan -- More Heavenly Dishes

We've been eating at Hong Kong Sichuan Restaurant regularly since they reopened as an authentic Sichuan place in November. At first they had their real food on separate menus from their Americanized dishes. At one point they even had three menus, one entirely in Chinese. I went to the trouble of translating the whole darn thing, and found that Calvin Trillin's assumption is correct: the best dishes were on the Chinese menu.

But the owners noticed that non-Chinese people were interested in the good food, so they now have a unified menu in English and Chinese. (They didn't translate a few dishes that westerners are highly unlikely to like, like certain dishes with blood cubes and tripe.) They also have a lunch buffet again, but I don't know if it's the same dishes they had before or not. I expect it is probably their more westernized dishes, but their buffet was always good before and I have no reason to think they aren't now.

I already told you about the MaPo Tofu and Green Bean with Pork.

N01 Pork Wonton with Spicy Sauce
These luscious wontons in a spicy Sichuan flavored soup is my favoriate takeout dish. These are, ironically, not as hot as "sichuan wontons" are in other restaurants around town. However, other places seem to just drown them in hot oil and maybe a little garlic. Here they are in a soup of many nice seasonings, like the Mapo Tofu I mentioned in the previous review. (It's about as hot as an average hot and sour soup in town, not the hottest.)

M09 Dry Stir-fried Beef
Spicy, salty with toasted garlic. The chunks of celery really go well with the flavors here.

M18 Jumbo Shrimp wth Sichuan Sauce (aka Tasty Shrimp, or "Strange Flavor" Shrimp)
"Sichuan Sauce" here is a very special sauce that translates something like "strange flavor", but what it means is more like "intriguing flavor". The point of this sauce is to balance all flavors lightly and perfectly -- sweet, sour, salt, hot and rich aroma.

IMPORTANT NOTE: authentically prepared shrimp dishes include shells and heads... and all the flavor in a dish like this tends to be on the shell. Therefore, if you don't want to eat the shell, ask that it be prepared without shells. This is true of the other jumbo shrimp dishes on the Authentic Chinese Dishes menu.

M20 Gongbo Chicken with Peanuts
I don't have a picture of this, which is too bad. This is the classic Sichuan Dish on which Kung Pow Chicken is based. Diced chicken and celery, with aromatic seasonings, stirfried with chunks of dried hot peppers and peanuts. Like other dishes here, this is more subtle and aromatic than the Kung Pow you'll find in your average midwestern Chinese restaurant. Since the spice resides mostly in the hunks of red pepper, you can modify the heat or not by eating them or leaving them. (And they add a great flavor.)

(On another note: another famous Sichuan dish is Lazi Chicken -- or spicy little chicken. Chunks of chicken, with bones in, seasoned and deep-fried and served with piles of dried peppers on top. The peppers are there for aroma and add some spicy oils to the chicken, but again, you don't have to eat them. We have NOT tried this dish here. The only caution for westerners, aside from the potential heat, is the tiny bits of bone in each piece. You probably can't get this dish without bones, but you could always ask.)

More dishes next week....

Hong Kong Sichuan Restaurant, 315 S. Homer St. (south of Frandor, near Kalamazoo St -- behind Bake n Cakes), Lansing Mi. (517) 332-5333.

Read more about those heavenly dishes at Hong Kong Sichuan at:

Heavenly Sichuan Food (previous post)
Hong Kong Sichuan, Even More Heavenly Dishes (next post)