Of Spice & Pain: a Trip to Chuan Ban, the Sichuan Provincial restaurant!
Sometime ago, I learned that every province in China had a representative office and restaurant in Beijing where one could go and sample authentic cuisine from the region. The most famous of these was Chuan Ban, the Sichuan Provincial restaurant(map). Having had my share of Sichuan food in various establishments, I was more curious about other cuisines so I decided to put Chuan Ban on the back of the list and search for the more obscure ones. I ended up being a Chuan Ban virgin for way too long!
I’m proud to say that I am a Chuan Ban virgin no more!
Along with 3 other Chuan Ban Virgins and a little assist from some veterans, I set out this past Monday to see what the fuss was all about!
Chuan Ban is conveniently located in the jianguomen area of Beijing but nevertheless hidden in some back streets. It’s around the corner from Yu Xin Sichuan that I wrote about a few weeks ago. The restaurant is pretty much standard Chinese style with no fuss or whatsoever, much like most other provincial restaurants i had been to in the past.
For this particular visit, we stuck with the main classics of sichuan cuisine :
麻婆豆腐 mápó dòufǔ
担担面 dàndàn miàn
水煮鱼 shuǐzhǔ yu
辣子鸡 làzǐ jī
魚香茄子鱼 yúxiāng qiézi
The food and conversations were so good I actually forgot to take pictures of the dishes so I’m borrowing some samples from dianping ‘s user submitted pics.
The gongbao jiding rocked and was my absolute favorite of the evening! It’s also the best one I’ve had since my last visit to Tangshan over 3 years where I used to stuff my face with a similarly made gongbao at a Sichuanese restaurant close to where i lived. Let me proclaim it once and for all: Gongbao Jiding should not have carrots or cucumbers in it!!! how hard is that to digest? Yes, this articular one was spicy but the not so subtle hints of ginger made it perfect. Absolutely recommended.
The Laziji was pretty good. I expected spicier but either my tolerance is higher or their offering was milder! “milder” has to be put in perspective as some of my dining companions were feeling the heat. Digging for pieces of chicken hidden deep within the capsicum sea was fun.
Mapo dofu delivered as usual. This was the non-meat variety as we had a semi-vegetarian at the table but it was nevertheless good.
The Spicy fish was not my personal favorite but fellow dinners were quite impressed by the taste and freshness! I had a bite or two but decided to skip on more since i have an aversion to fish bones. I’ve always had fun with this dish because it was first introduced to me as “tears of a lover” years and years ago! seeing it on a table brings a smile to my face and, depending on the amounts of pepper flavor in the air, tears to my eyes!
I’m not gonna details every dish here but the overall impression was that Chuan Ban makes some damn good grub! Nothing was spectacular or out of this world but it was all good and solid! The use of spice wasn’t gratuitous at all and the flavors pretty darn balanced in every dish. I could actually taste ginger, cumin, the difference in the mala and the yuxian… That in my book is the mark of cuisine done right!
Don’t be fooled if you read this and get the impression that their food was not spicy enough… it was spicy plenty and I’m sure that Johnny Cash had dinner at a Sichuan Restaurant the day before he wrote “The Ring of Fire”
As for yours truly, I did have to “atone for my capsicum sins” the next day but it was worth it… I’m ready for a second round to confirm initial impressions!
Dinner for 8 persons including copious amounts of Beer came out to about RMB400
Chuan Ban 川办餐厅(map)
Sichuan Representative Office
Dōngchéngqū Jiànguó Mén Nèi Dàjiē Gòngyuàn Tóutiáo 5 Hào
tel: 6512-2277 ext. 6101