The cooks at China Town Restaurant carefully pick fresh ingredients to use in their traditional Chinese entrees, striving to create healthy yet flavorful cuisine. Hot pots of stewed meats emerge from the kitchen alongside steamed spareribs and entrees with incendiary doses of sichuan sauce. Throughout each meal, servers also ply guests with small dim sum plates—including barbecue pork pies, deep-fried lobster balls, and stuffed jalapeños—from carts that navigate the dining room's red vinyl booths and warp tunnels dug all the way to China.
Newly opened, the family-owned Asian Food Center has stocked all the necessities for whipping up Eastern-inspired meals. Everything from noodles and spices to wines and imported candies line the shelves. Familiar and exotic produce abounds in the veggie section, while elsewhere display cases sport succulent cuts of meat as well as live seafood. These run the gamut from herbal medicines to housewares such as rice cookers and chopsticks.
Restaurants often claim they have something for everyone. But with a selection of more than 80 dishes, Best of Szechuan Chinese Cuisine could make that claim without engaging in hyperbole. The eatery's menu specifically revolves around cuisine from southern and western China, including spicy, savory, and colorful dishes from the eponymous mountainous province of western China. The restaurant's chefs hail from Sichuan itself—with years of experience at kitchens in San Francisco and Seattle—and they impart authenticity to their meals as they whip up spicy stir-fried pork, sizzling fire pots of brisket, rabbit, or frog, and string beans and eggplant cooked in dry spices and garlic sauce. Though Best of Szechuan's owner, Lin, reserves a special place in his heart for the hot pots and chili-filled stir-fries of Sichuan, he peppers the menu with meals from his home city of Fuzhou, famous for its seafood delicacies and savory broths.
Best of Szechuan serves these dishes behind a traditional Chinese-style façade with a peaked roof. Inside, towering crimson columns and hanging red lanterns brighten the atmosphere as guests try to estimate the number of times chopsticks have ever been mentioned inside a Chinese restaurant.
In addition to awarding Lucky Strike a spot on its list of Best Restaurants in 2009, Portland Monthly praised the eatery for its ability to "revise everything you know about Chinese food." While the chefs source ingredients from local producers whenever possible, they also embrace the fiery flavors of Sichuan cuisine by incorporating such traditional spices as prickly ash and Sichuan peppercorn. These incendiary ingredients appear throughout the menu, which includes signatures such as twice-cooked pork belly, braised eggplant, and sweet-and-sour chicken.
To complement bites, the restaurant features a selection of locally brewed beers that rotates regularly. Bartenders mix cocktails with spirits infused in-house, including the signature vodka with lemongrass, ginger, and thai chili.
Wine-red and jet-black walls lend a lounge-like ambience to the dining room, which features dark wooden tables and traditional Chinese wall art. From the ceilings, red chandeliers light the space more effectively than a portrait of a supernova.
Finely chopped vegetables. Seared slivers of chicken. Sauces that balance sweet and savory notes. These ingredients have come crackling together in the kitchen of Chen's Dynasty since the eatery’s eponymous founder opened it in 1985. Jacob Echeverria took the reins two decades later, and as a longtime associate of the Chen family, Jacob adopted their culinary style.
The Sichuan- and Hunan-style recipes belong to past generations of the Chens, who have eschewed photo albums and immortal butlers to pass down specialties such as peking duck glazed with honey and served with steaming pancakes and hoisin sauce. Another dish, pan-fried oysters, drops onto tables accompanied by onions and ginger, or sizzling with black-bean sauce.