The review of the Peruvian place will have to wait, because right now I want to talk about the awesome Chinese meal we had last night.
Washingtonian magazine does two big sets of restaurant listings every year: 100 Best and Cheap Eats. The 100 Best just came out, One of the places they mentioned was Sichuan Jin River (formerly called Sichuan Pavilion). Szechuan is not generally our favorite (neither the Mr. nor I care for really spicy food, and I simply can't eat bell peppers), but the review this time was so enticing (and we usually agree about 85% of the time with these writeups) that we decided to give it a try.
Really, the only problem that we had was that the review's recommendations weren't necessarily easy to match up with items on the menu once we got there. But with the things that did match up, the waitress' advice about the specials, and smillaraaq's suggestions, we did really well.
We started off with lotus root salad. I had been wanting to try lotus roots for a while. The salad was light, tangy, and slightly spicy; the slices of lotus root are crunchy and a bit crisper than water chestnuts. There were some bell peppers (red and green) in it, but they were easy for me to avoid. Then we had a scallion pancake, something we also get at A&J: this one was even better, a little lighter and with more scallions.
The first main dish was flounder with black bean sauce, one of the specials. It came in a huge, shallow dish, with scallions, some minced fresh hot peppers, and the black beans scattered on top. The fish was excellent, bits of fillet that were very fresh in flavor, with a great texture, and not at all overcooked. The sauce was spicy but not too hot for me and the Mr. As we started to work our way through it, we discovered a treasure trove of beautifully cooked vegetables underneath the fish: snow peas, fresh bamboo shoots, and carrots. Then we had a beef hotpot with young taro: tender, moist, lightly flavored with five-spice and soy. I didn't know what to expect from the young taro chunks, but they were like fluffy mashed potato balls. Our vegetable dish was snow pea leaves with garlic: one of my favorites anytime and very well made here. It was tender, flavorful, and a beautiful bright green.
We packed up most of it (we had overordered, of course, with all those tempting dishes on the menu), and then we had dessert! They actually have a range of desserts: eight choices. We had hot sweet tofu in rice wine and then eight-treasure rice: molded steamed sticky rice with red bean jam filling, jujube chunks scattered throughout, and hot rosewater-scented syrup with sesame seeds poured over it. This was a complete sugar overload, obviously, but we loved it (and took home more leftovers).
We're going to have to go back with more people sometime soon, and we may also try using Sichuan Jin River as the carryout for dinner at our next tabletop RPG session.