Monday, April 14, 2008

Restaurant Review - Ba Shu Chinese Restaurant

Wanting to eat something while being out and about, we ended up choosing this Sichuan Chinese restaurant over our first choice, it's a fairly new restaurant and we didn't know it was there. Located in the mall at the southeast corner of Hurontario and Eglinton, stuck in the middle of Pizza Hut and KFC and Quizno's and Harvey's, we entered to find a fairly large restaurant with pretty decor. Having initially wanting takeout, we decided instead to eat in, and chose a booth over a table, which was a mistake, we found out, as it seemed we were forgotten about, or perhaps that's the norm in terms of service, it seemed a little slow, despite there not being many patrons when we arrived. The other big thing I noticed, is that I was the only Lao Wai, or Foreigner, there; as the customers arrived as the evening progressed, there were only Chinese waiting for tables at the door. A good sign, if one wants to eat authentic food.

In looking over the menu with its huge number of offerings, I first read the bit about Sichuan cuisine. One statement I kept in mind, it would serve us later, it told us that despite being know for spicy food, who doesn't know spicy Kung Pao Chicken or Mapo Tofu, many dishes have little or no spice added. Sichuan is a province in Western China, its capital is Chengdu. Know for its spiciness, Sichuan cooking uses chili, ginger, and most importantly, the Sichuan peppercorn, with its unique, the fragrant, hot, one could even say numbing, citrusy, flower-shaped spice.

Having finally caught the eye of the waitress, we were told to write down the selection numbers of the dishes we wanted, a point of note for the next time we go there. One of the dishes that I found intriguing was called, in English, Chicken Braised with Fresh Chilies and Beer in Hot Pot, it is medium-spicy, I ordered that. My beautiful Bride wanted the Braised Diced Tofu with Fish Fillet, Shrimp, Scallop, Squid and Mushrooms. She also ordered the Basa Fish Fillet and Vegetables with Rice; the waitress couldn't tell us what Basa was, I found most of the waitresses spoke mostly Chinese and a little English (Basa is a type of white-fleshed catfish, I found out later, though one that feeds on plants, rather than being the typical "garbage"-eater). To drink, I ordered a Strawberry Milkshake; my beautiful Bride ordered a Red Bean Freeze, though they apparently did not have any red beans that day. After a few moments, the head waitress came back to inform us, that they did not have the Chicken Chili Beer dish today, a trend I did not care for, she suggested a Sliced Chicken Fillet with Sweet Bean Sauce and Green Chilies, apparently a popular dish, but rather I decided on pork, and specifically Poached Pork in Pungent Sauce, a high-spiced dish.

The first to arrive was the Basa Fish and Vegetables, which we found belonged to the non-spicy Sichuan dishes, and it seem non-tasty as well, bland even. The Strawberry Milkshake arrived as well, though I was shocked to see this small thin glass with light pink likely Bubble-Tea powder mixed with ice and milk, lesson learned not to order this the next time, not worth the $4.50. The Tofu and Seafood dish arrived next, this was much tastier, we could enjoy this one more than the Basa fish one.

Finally, after about 20 minutes, came the saviour of the whole meal, the pungent sauce immediately apparent as the dish arrived at the table, the Poached Pork in Pungent Sauce was very tasty, very spicy and filled with the taste of sichuan peppercorns and lots of oil, with green onions and soya beansprouts. It was even better the next day, over rice.

There are many items that look intriguing, including the Chicken and Beer dish that I didn't get, lots of Sichuan Dim Sum, Congee, and various Meat and Seafood dishes, that I think we will go back to this restaurant again.

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