Bay Ridge is known for its Italians. Its Greeks. Increasingly, even its Arabs.
So it's somewhat of a shock that one of New York City's few authentic Sichuan Chinese restaurants is only five or six blocks from our apartment.
I like Chinese food, but I don't love it. It's like ethnic comfort food to me-- you can't go too far wrong no matter what you try.
Sichuan is a totally different story. It's spicy, to say the least. No comfort there. But it is good. Maybe even great.
The mildest of our two entrees, the ma po tofu, was covered in red pepper flakes. Every time I eat tofu I wonder why I don't have it more, and this was no exception. The large chunks of bean curd were doused in a thick and spicy sauce and surrounded with minced pork. I'd only ever had tofu as a meat substitute, so it was interesting to try a dish in which meat played a minor role to the tofu.
My tofu was spicy, but Paul's beef with cumin flavor was so hot that even he was sweating. The beef was dried and cut into pieces about the size of small cheese curds. I'd never tried anything like it before. My tongue was burning after two bites, but I couldn't help going back for more.
I also liked Paul's dish because of the garnish -- beet (?) slices arranged with toothpicks and a rubber band to look like a flower. I don't know if you were supposed to eat it, but I gave it a try anyway. I had to cool down my mouth somehow.
This was not only the first time I'd tried Sichuan food, but also the first time I'd successfully used chopsticks for (nearly) a whole meal.
I could never quite get the hang of holding chopsticks correctly. Paul had long told me that I just need to hold one like a pencil and move the other around to grab things. We finally figured out that I evidently don't hold a pencil like a normal person. Now that I've corrected my technique, I can finally swing a chopstick like the best of them ... at least until my dumpling falls into the soy sauce. Then it's out with the fork.