For authentic Szechuanese food in the Seattle area, I’ve yet to find a place that is more so than Spiced (a previous review here) in the Crossroads area of Bellevue. The menu seems to have gotten more extensive if that’s possible; there were plenty of items on the older one. New to the menu are helpful photographs to help the uninitiated decide on what to get. Today, what struck my fancy was a spicy chicken dish whose menu name I failed to record. It arrived sizzling in a mini-wok served over an alcohol burner. The entire dish is a feast for the eyes and nuclear heat for the tongue. Chicken thigh pieces were mixed with sliced baby yellow bell peppers, green onions and celery in a savory sauce pungent with loads of fragrant Szechuan peppercorns, dried red chile pods and sliced jalapeño peppers, underlain with a generous amount of mung bean sprouts. Herein lies a problem with these kinds of spicy dishes—the blistering heat of the chiles and mouth-numbing qualities of the peppercorns mask any subtle differences there might be among dishes that use them. In other words, what the Chinese call má and là, the numbing and spicy sensations, hit you fast and hard before nuances of flavor are detected. Despite Spiced’s use of MSG and copious amount of oil, I would still rate the chicken dish highly (☆☆☆).
On a subsequent visit: Spicy Wujiang Fish Fillets is listed under Chef’s Specialties. It came in a large vessel. One look was all it took to know that this was going to be one helluva spicy dish. The broth was bright red from chiles, either paste or ground. Whole and crumbled dried red chile peppers sat menacingly on top. The intimidation didn’t stop there because pickled chiles were lurking in the broth. Add to that Szechuan peppercorns with their tingly, numbing properties, and you might be tempted to think nuclear accident. I sipped the broth and, through the hotness, there was quite a bit of savoriness. A generous portion of perfectly cooked fried fish fillets looked like they were occupying the whole tureen, but underneath was a bed of mung bean sprouts and a small amount of thin, flat starchy noodles (similar in texture to cellophane noodles). Adding to this complexity were pickled baby bok choy. Even if this was throat-searing and excessively oily, it was nevertheless an amazing dish (☆☆☆½).