Choice Chinese: Whether tackling traditional or modern takes on Sichuan cuisine, Dashi excels | Restaurant Reviews | San Antonio

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Ron Bechtol

Dashi’s food is so good, you could almost close your eyes and point randomly at the menu.

At the end of our recent dinner at Dashi Sichuan Kitchen + Bar, the table was a train wreck of ravaged dishes and scattered chopsticks.

Make that two tables. The staff pulled up another to hold all the plates and platters after our party had ordered a total of 12 dishes. And it wasn’t the first time such a scenario had played out. My first visit to Dashi, a spinoff of popular Chinese restaurant Sichuan House, resulted in an only slightly smaller scene of culinary carnage.

Part of the issue is that my dining squad is always ready to do battle over the last lamb lollipop or the one remaining shard of pea shoot showered with garlic. But weighing more heavily is that the food was all too good. You could almost close your eyes and point randomly at the menu.

Of course you won’t. If that were the case, I could stop here.

Beginning with the menu’s Little Eats section, the Tangy Sesame Pork Ribs may be your first introduction to GGG, Dashi’s holy trinity of garlic, green onion and ginger. A slight sweetness is balanced by CK vinegar, made with glutinous rice, and there were bones that we elected to crunch right through in our enthusiasm.

Don’t attempt to eat the bones of the chopped Savory Duck, however. It won’t arrive rare-looking, but the meat is delicate, subtle and absolutely glorious with a dip in the provided honey followed by another in the “numbing” mala powder.

Sichuan Cold Noodles sport some of that same GGG and CK vinegar, along with huajiao, the classic and pungent Sichuan pepper, which isn’t related to Western peppercorns. The dish’s titular noodles also aren’t the glass noodles you might be familiar with in some cold Asian dishes. Instead, they’re egg-based and springy in texture. Scallions add fresh contrast, and there’s just enough vinegar to balance the heat.

Another cold dish, the Pick Three option is well worth consideration. Sadly — maybe — the kitchen was out of the pig tongue that’s the inspiration for the Spicy Talkers selection, and I was frankly leery of the texture of the pig ears that comprise the Spicy Listeners. Spicy Numbing Chicken got most of its spice from the drizzled sauce, so the huajiao-shy can avoid it and concentrate instead on the velvety texture.

Garlicky Pork Belly turned out to be the best rendition of the all-too-popular product I’ve had in many a moon. Thinly sliced ​​and smartly set off by cooling cucumber, it was a joy to behold and devour.

I probably wouldn’t have completed the triad with Mr. & Mrs. Spicy Beef if not for the fact that it unexpectedly pairs beef shank and tripe. Diaphanously thin, the tripe shamelessly flirted with the heartier shank to blind-date perfection, aided by co-conspirator peanuts. An Assorted Pickles add-on brought carrot and daikon — one salty, the other vinegary.

The menu’s Classic Stir-Frys category was loaded with potential — but also a setup for possible disappointment. On one visit, the kitchen was out of both Smoky Cauliflower and Spicy Garlic Eggplant and first signaled that Sautéed Snow Pea Shoots were missing in action. Somehow, the shoots made a miraculous reappearance, and all I’ll say is snag them when available.

Having tried both the eggplant and cauliflower previously, I was able to make the disappointment of others more acute by telling them that the lightly smoked, al dente cauliflower made beautiful music with what was termed Sichuanese “prosciutto” and that the eggplant may have been the most sophisticated version of a sweet-sour dish I’ve ever had. Spicy Smoky Corn also made use of the Sichuanese “pancetta.” Though the flavors were great, the corn itself was chewy — perhaps this evening’s only disappointment.

The Spicy Poached & Saucy Fish Fillet turned out to be a sleeper surprise of silky, mild fish with equally appealing bok choy, all in a lightly smoky sauce with fermented bean paste and fresh sprouts. Ya cai, a pickled mustard green, accents the restaurant’s crunchy Famous Green Beans, a dish deserving of its self-bestowed fame. Street Potatoes — long, crisp and seductively spiced — are equally click-worthy.

You might want to check out the Dashi Cocktails before ordering from the Modern section of the menu. At first glance, the drinks may bear signs of creativity run rampant, but the Purple Moon, the Jackie Chan and the Grandmaster all delivered — especially impressive at $12.

The Modern section’s exquisite Spicy Cumin Lamb Lollipops were just creative enough and enhanced with onion and bell peppers. A must-order. Coming in a close second in this free-wheeling category is the odd but immensely appealing combo that is Spicy Pork Ribs & Rice. The crisp rice recalls your mother’s marshmallow-bound Rice Krispies treats — except it provides a toasty, savory and fabulously crunchy counterpoint to the suave boneless ribs showered in an obscene amount of dried chilies.

And after all this, I lustfully eyed a huge, whole fish as it was born like an adorned potentate on a palanquin to an adjacent table. next time.

Dashi Sichuan Kitchen + Bar

2895 Thousand Oaks Drive | (210) 562-3343 | sichuandashi.com

Hours: Friday-Saturday noon-3 pm and 4-10 pm; Sunday noon to 8 pm; Monday, Wednesday and Thursday noon-3 pm and 4-9 pm

Larger plates: $14-$65

Best bets: Savory Duck, Tangy Sesame Pork Ribs, Garlicky Pork Belly, Mr. & Mrs. Spicy Beef, Spicy Cumin Lamb Lollipops, Spicy Poached & Saucy Fish, Spicy Garlic Eggplant, Spicy Savory Cauliflower.

The skinny: Dashi is a spinoff of the deservedly popular Sichuan House with a more contemporary take on Sichuanese cuisine. Must-trys include Spicy Cumin Lamb Lollipops and Spicy Pork Ribs and Crispy Rice, both of which showcase the menu’s more creative side.

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